Bathroom Reading Material

Moving Away From Noir

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UPDATE: See the end of this post for a quote from Noir’s original author, Chris Granger. Also, here are the commits where I moved to Compojure in refheap: https://github.com/Raynes/refheap/compare/b943338cc23ff63559fa6190e74f0f39f85badb0…6ab25a24e7e669c7d6482c111bc4a44d5de1997a

This might be a bit of a sad post for some people, but most will find that it was simply long overdue and necessary. This post is a formal announcement of Noir being more or less deprecated.

First, let’s talk about what Noir is. Noir is not really a web framework. What Noir is is a collection of libraries that most people use when developing a web application. It was originally designed to make it extremely easy to get new and potential Clojure developers a website they can look at and use. It served that purpose really well.

Noir provided things like stateful session, flash, and cookie management, as well as simple things like a little validation library and a utility for hashing passwords and such using jcrypt. This what made Noir so popular. People wanted a batteries included ‘framework’ and Noir served that purpose for them.

Under the hood, Noir uses Compojure for routing. On top of it, Noir has an abstraction called ‘defpage’ that allows you to create routes statefully and then call a ‘start’ function and have it Just Work. At the time, Compojure generally required directly calling the jetty adapter and such to get a server running. You never needed to do that yourself in Noir.

With defpage came some agony as people realized that while Noir’s abstraction looks fantastic, you have no control at all over how the routes are defined and wrapped by middleware. Because of that, Noir was much less flexible than Compojure. If you’ve ever tried to have a complex middleware setup on your routes in Noir (or used Friend with it for that matter), you already know what I’m talking about. It is generally impossible to do so much as wrap a specific set of routes in middleware. This could have been added to Noir, but why bother? For the longest time, even Chris himself said that Compojure was better for these situations.

Given all of these realizations, I stopped using Noir quite a while ago. I recently even moved refheap to Compojure.

A big problem that everybody has noticed recently is that Noir is no longer moving. My buddy Chris has moved on to a bigger part of his life now, working on Light Table, and does not have time for a lot of his old projects. Noir is used by quite a few people, so I took on the role of maintainer of the project to the best of my ability, but I do not know much about Noir’s internals nor do I have the time or motivation to work on it. Neither does anyone else.

Chris and I discussed this last night, and we decided that it’s time to deprecate Noir and ask that people focus on Compojure instead. The good news is that you don’t have to give much of anything up if you move to Compojure! A while back when I started moving my own sites to Compojure, I took most of the useful libraries that were embedded in Noir and I split them out into a new library that you can use from Compojure! lib-noir is the legacy of Noir. The best thing that came out of it. It has all the useful stateful sessions, flashes, cookies, as well as the other useful libraries. In fact, the latest release of Noir depends on this library so if you’re using it, you’re already secretly using lib-noir!

For new websites, please use Compojure and lib-noir. This is pretty much just as batteries included as Noir itself ever was! You just have to learn how to write routes with Compojure. It’s easy and just as concise as it was in Noir. You don’t have to use ring-jetty-adapter and stuff, just use the lein-ring plugin to start your server. Also, if you took advantage of Noir including hiccup by default, you’ll have to have an explicit dependency on it now. No biggy, right? Right!

At this point, I imagine the biggest concern most of you have is what happens to your existing Noir website. Well, does it work? If so, you should be fine. If you plan on doing extensive work on Noir websites in the future, I recommend moving to Compojure as soon as possible.

I will not be maintaining Noir. If there is a serious bug or something that you would like to fix, open a pull request and ping me on IRC or email or something and I’ll merge and release a new version. I won’t be updating documentation or anything like that anymore, and I won’t be adding new features. Beyond that, you’re welcome to continue using Noir for the indefinite future, but keep in mind that as your application ages, it’ll be much harder to update and eventually you’ll end up having to fork Noir to update the versions of libraries it uses. Better to avoid it altogether.

Understand that there is nothing wrong with Noir, really. We just don’t think there is a good reason to keep it around anymore. Compojure and lib-noir are in such a state that they are a great and potentially better solution. We are simply moving on.

I will absolutely continue maintaining lib-noir, so if there is anything you’d like to add to it, run it by me!

Three cheers for Compojure (and lib-noir)!

Just to tack on here: If you’re using Noir now, don’t worry, everything is fine - 1.3.0 has been officially released and it’s not going anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with what’s out there now, it’s just that 1.3.0 will likely be the last release unless someone wanted to keep moving it forward. As time goes on, it likely makes sense to transition, but fortunately transitioning is pretty straightforward and Raynes can point to the commits he used to do that for Refheap. Ultimately, lib-noir + compojure gives a lot more flexibility when it comes to things like middleware at a relatively slight cost to ease of starting. Noir has always used compojure under the covers and so you’ll find that most everything you’ve learned so far will map over pretty cleanly.

When I started the project about two years ago, the Clojure web landscape looked quite a bit different and getting started was an incredibly painful process. Compojure had just split into a bunch of different pieces, there was this new “ring” thing, and trying to cobble everything together was a pretty daunting task. Since then, the Clojure web ecosystem has matured quite a bit and lib-noir fits very nicely into the direction the community is ultimately heading in. Noir still serves its purpose as a solid starting point for people who just want to get up and go with Clojure on the web, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that what we have now is just a baby step toward what we *could* be doing on the web. There are far better solutions waiting out there for Clojure, ones that don’t just look like a standard http wrapper, and that’s what we should be ultimately moving toward. We have the fundamental building blocks to build websites, it’s time we start pushing the state of the art.

I’m excited to see what we, the community, come up with.

Cheers,
Chris.

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