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userland implementation of

Local Context

Stability: 1 - Experimental

Local contexts provide a mechanism similar to thread-local storage in threaded programming. Contexts are created on namespaces and can be be nested.

Every namespace is created with a default context. The currently active context on a namespace is available via

var context = require('context');
var writer = context.createNamespace('writer');
writer.set('value', 0);
function requestHandler() {
  var outer = writer.createContext();
  // writer.get('value') returns 0 
  writer.set('value', 1);
  // outer.get('value') returns 1 
  // writer.get('value') returns 1 
  process.nextTick(function () { () {
      var inner = writer.createContext();
      // writer.get('value') returns 1 
      writer.set('value', 2);
      // outer.get('value') returns 1 
      // inner.get('value') returns 2 
      // writer.get('value') returns 2 
  setTimeout(function () {
    // runs with the default context, because nested contexts have ended 
    console.log(writer.get('value')); // prints 0 
  }, 1000);
  • return: {Namespace}

Returns a new namespace for context-sensitive values.

  • return: {Namespace}

Look up an existing namespace.

  • return: array of {Namespace} objects

List of available namespaces.

The Namespace groups local contexts, and encapsulates their nesting behavior, as well as containing the associated keys and values set on that namespace.

Returns the currently active context on a namespace.

Create a new local context.

Set a value on the current local context. Shorthand for, value).

Look up a value on the current local context. Recursively searches from the innermost to outermost nested local context for a value associated with a given key.

A Context encapsulates the current nesting level and its associated values. Contexts are derived from [EventEmitter][], and have a life cycle (which, for now, consists of the end event when they're about to go out of scope). Contexts are created exclusively via Namespaces.

Run a function within the specified local context. Shortcut for context.bind(callback)().

Bind a function to the specified local context. Works analagously to Function.bind() or domain.bind().

Set a value on the specified local context.

Look up a value on only the specified local context -- doesn't fall through to containing scopes.

The domains mechanism is a useful tool for adding context to errors raised in asynchronous call chains (or, if you like living dangerously / tempting the wrath of @isaacs, to recover from errors without restarting your services). It also almost serves the purposes of developers who want to annotate async call chains with metadata or extra state (examples: logging, tracing / profiling, generic instrumentation), but due to the needs of error-handling, it doesn't quite generalize enough to be truly useful in this regard. There are modules that allow developers to do similar things when they have full control over their stacks (CrabDude/trycatch and Gozala/reducers, among many others), but none of these modules are a good fit for developers writing tooling meant to be dropped transparently into user code.

See also joyent/node#3733.

Here is a sketch at what the user-visible API might look like. My original attempt at this used a slightly modified version of the domains API with some special-purpose logic for dealing with nested contexts, but allowing multiple distinct namespaces is actually simpler and trades memory for execution time. It also makes it possible to special-case behavior for specific namespaces (i.e. my hope would be that domains would just become a specialized namespace, and _tickDomainCallback and _nextDomainTick would be all that would be required to deal with namespaces), although that isn't included here.

Here's an example of how the API might be used:

var context = require('context');
// multiple contexts in use 
var tracer = context.createNamespace('tracer');
function Trace(harvester) {
  this.harvester = harvester;
Trace.prototype.runHandler = function (callback) {
  var trace = tracer.createContext();
  trace.on('end', function () {
    var transaction = trace.get('transaction');
    this.harvester.emit('finished', transaction);
Trace.prototype.annotateState = function (name, value) {
  var active =;
  active.set(name, value);