Node.js v9.2.0 Documentation

ECMAScript Modules#

Stability: 1 - Experimental

Node.js contains support for ES Modules based upon the Node.js EP for ES Modules.

Not all features of the EP are complete and will be landing as both VM support and implementation is ready. Error messages are still being polished.


The --experimental-modules flag can be used to enable features for loading ESM modules.

Once this has been set, files ending with .mjs will be able to be loaded as ES Modules.

node --experimental-modules my-app.mjs



Only the CLI argument for the main entry point to the program can be an entry point into an ESM graph. In the future import() can be used to create entry points into ESM graphs at run time.


Feature Reason
require('./foo.mjs') ES Modules have differing resolution and timing, use language standard import()
import() pending newer V8 release used in Node.js
import.meta pending V8 implementation

Notable differences between import and require#


NODE_PATH is not part of resolving import specifiers. Please use symlinks if this behavior is desired.

No require.extensions#

require.extensions is not used by import. The expectation is that loader hooks can provide this workflow in the future.

No require.cache#

require.cache is not used by import. It has a separate cache.

URL based paths#

ESM are resolved and cached based upon URL semantics. This means that files containing special characters such as # and ? need to be escaped.

Modules will be loaded multiple times if the import specifier used to resolve them have a different query or fragment.

import './foo?query=1'; // loads ./foo with query of "?query=1"
import './foo?query=2'; // loads ./foo with query of "?query=2"

For now, only modules using the file: protocol can be loaded.

Interop with existing modules#

All CommonJS, JSON, and C++ modules can be used with import.

Modules loaded this way will only be loaded once, even if their query or fragment string differs between import statements.

When loaded via import these modules will provide a single default export representing the value of module.exports at the time they finished evaluating.

import fs from 'fs';
fs.readFile('./foo.txt', (err, body) => {
  if (err) {
  } else {

Loader hooks#

To customize the default module resolution, loader hooks can optionally be provided via a --loader ./loader-name.mjs argument to Node.

When hooks are used they only apply to ES module loading and not to any CommonJS modules loaded.

Resolve hook#

The resolve hook returns the resolved file URL and module format for a given module specifier and parent file URL:

import url from 'url';

export async function resolve(specifier, parentModuleURL, defaultResolver) {
  return {
    url: new URL(specifier, parentModuleURL).href,
    format: 'esm'

The default NodeJS ES module resolution function is provided as a third argument to the resolver for easy compatibility workflows.

In addition to returning the resolved file URL value, the resolve hook also returns a format property specifying the module format of the resolved module. This can be one of "esm", "cjs", "json", "builtin" or "addon".

For example a dummy loader to load JavaScript restricted to browser resolution rules with only JS file extension and Node builtin modules support could be written:

import url from 'url';
import path from 'path';
import process from 'process';

const builtins = new Set(
  Object.keys(process.binding('natives')).filter((str) =>
const JS_EXTENSIONS = new Set(['.js', '.mjs']);

export function resolve(specifier, parentModuleURL/*, defaultResolve */) {
  if (builtins.has(specifier)) {
    return {
      url: specifier,
      format: 'builtin'
  if (/^\.{0,2}[/]/.test(specifier) !== true && !specifier.startsWith('file:')) {
    // For node_modules support:
    // return defaultResolve(specifier, parentModuleURL);
    throw new Error(
      `imports must begin with '/', './', or '../'; '${specifier}' does not`);
  const resolved = new url.URL(specifier, parentModuleURL);
  const ext = path.extname(resolved.pathname);
  if (!JS_EXTENSIONS.has(ext)) {
    throw new Error(
      `Cannot load file with non-JavaScript file extension ${ext}.`);
  return {
    url: resolved.href,
    format: 'esm'

With this loader, running:

NODE_OPTIONS='--experimental-modules --loader ./custom-loader.mjs' node x.js

would load the module x.js as an ES module with relative resolution support (with node_modules loading skipped in this example).

Dynamic instantiate hook#

To create a custom dynamic module that doesn't correspond to one of the existing format interpretations, the dynamicInstantiate hook can be used. This hook is called only for modules that return format: "dynamic" from the resolve hook.

export async function dynamicInstantiate(url) {
  return {
    exports: ['customExportName'],
    execute: (exports) => {
      // get and set functions provided for pre-allocated export names

With the list of module exports provided upfront, the execute function will then be called at the exact point of module evalutation order for that module in the import tree.