Node Compatibility Mode

Starting with v1.15 Deno provides Node compatibility mode that makes it possible to run a subset of programs authored for Node directly in Deno. Compatibility mode can be activated by passing --compat flag in CLI.

⚠️ Using compatibility mode currently requires the --unstable flag. If you intend to use CJS modules, the --allow-read flag is needed as well.

⚠️ Package management is currently out of scope for Node compatibility mode. For the time being we suggest to keep using your current solution (npm, yarn, pnpm).


eslint is a very popular tool used by most of Node projects. Let’s run eslint using Deno in Node compatibility mode. Assuming that eslint is already installed locally (either using npm install eslint or yarn install eslint) we can do so like:

$ ls
$ cat test.js
function foo() {}

$ cat test.ts
function bar(): any {}

$ deno run \
  --compat --unstable \
  --allow-read --allow-write=./ --allow-env \
  node_modules/eslint/bin/eslint.js test.js test.ts

  1:10  warning  'foo' is defined but never used  @typescript-eslint/no-unused-vars
  1:16  error    Unexpected empty function 'foo'  @typescript-eslint/no-empty-function

  1:10  warning  'bar' is defined but never used           @typescript-eslint/no-unused-vars
  1:17  warning  Unexpected any. Specify a different type  @typescript-eslint/no-explicit-any
  1:21  error    Unexpected empty function 'bar'           @typescript-eslint/no-empty-function

✖ 5 problems (2 errors, 3 warnings)

⚠️ Notice that ESLint is run with limited set of permissions. We only give it access to the read from the file system, write to current directory and access environmental variables. Programs run in compatibility mode are subject to Deno’s permission model.

How does it work?

When using compatibility mode there Deno does a few things behind the scenes:

  • Node globals are set up and made available in the global scope. That means that APIs like process, global, Buffer, setImmediate or clearImmediate are available just like in Node. This is done by executing std/node/global.ts on startup.

  • Node built-in modules are set up and made available to import statements and require() calls. Following calls will return appropriate Node modules polyfilled using std/node:

    • import fs from "fs";
    • import os from "node:os";
    • const path = require("path");
    • const http = require("node:http");
  • Deno will support Node resolution algorithm so importing packages using “bare” specifiers will work. For details on how module resolution works check Node documentation on CJS and ES modules.

Module resolution

CommonJS resolution is implemented as in Node and there should be no observable differences.

ES module resolution is implemented on top of Deno’s regular ESM resolution, leading to a few additional properties compared to Node:

  • In addition to file: and data: URL schemes supported in Node; http:, https: and blob: URL schemes will work in the same way if you used Deno without compatibility mode.

  • Import maps are supported in the same way if you used Deno without compatibility mode. When resolving “bare” specifiers Deno will first try to resolve them using import map (if one is provided using --import-map flag). Bare specifiers starting with node: prefix are extempt from this rule.

  • Deno respects “Conditional exports” field in package.json; in addition to conditions recognized by Node, "deno" condition can be used. This property is useful to the package authors who want to provide separate entrypoint optimized for use with Deno. As an example, imagine that your package uses node-fetch. By providing a conditional "deno" export, you can add an entrypoint that doesn’t depend on node-fetch and instead uses built-in fetch API in Deno.

TypeScript support

Currently, the compatibility mode does not support TypeScript.

In the upcoming releases we plan to add support for a types field in package.json, to automatically lookup types and use them during type checking.

In the long term, we’d like to provide ability to consume TypeScript code authored for the Node runtime.