jul 09 2007
Server-side JavaScript under Apache

Ash Berlin and I recently hacked together an Apache module that embeds the SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine and lets you run JavaScript code on the server as CGI scripts. We called it mod_js.

It was written as a proof-of-concept module at the last Fotango hack-day - Ash and I used my ancient mod_tt as a starting point and had a module capable of printing to the client in about 4 hours of work. Not bad. See the mod_js project page for the source code, examples and build instructions, if you want to have a look yourself.

Right now in mod_js you can print output to the client, and access CGI parameters in the incoming request. There’s no filesystem access or database access. This leads me to a dilemma. I feel there’s use in a stand-alone server-side JavaScript programming environment, but heavier ones than this exist already. Faced with having to re-implement the entirety of the Perl DBI layer, TCP/IP networking, disk access, etc, etc, with all the associated security problems that will happen, I’m forced to consider mod_js somewhat of a dead-end. It would probably be much more useful implemented as a mod_perl module using the Perl SpiderMonkey bindings to embed JavaScript, so I could use all the existing Perl infrastructure to support my scripts. It would be heavier, but there will be more hosting companies offering mod_perl than are willing to compile new Apache modules, or it could be run as a stand-alone daemon more easily than something written in C.

Given all of this, mod_js is still a nice proof-of-concept, though, and could be turned into a real server-side programming language. I also quite enjoy working in C every so often. It reminds me why I don't do itmore.

Update: Ash gave it a real web page. Crazy.