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The State of babel-eslint

· 5 min read

babel-eslint is moved to @babel/eslint-parser!

The Past​

Existing as a compatibility layer between Babel and ESLint – two projects maintained by two separate teams – babel-eslint has been a difficult package to maintain since the beginning. Some of the challenges the team has faced while maintaining babel-eslint:

  • babel-eslint has historically been maintained by the Babel team, and ensuring that ESLint's core rules (which are released every two weeks) work with experimental syntax is a monumental task.
  • Babel's internal AST representation differs from ESTree, the AST specification used by ESLint. As a result, ESLint-compatibility requires that Babel's parser has a plugin that outputs ASTs that are ESTree-compatible.
  • While Babel enables the use of experimental syntax, ESLint core only supports syntax once it reaches Stage 4 and is finalized in the spec. This means that ESLint's core rules aren't designed to work with syntax that is Stage 3 and below. Additionally, ESLint has been blocked by the finalizing of the ESTree spec, leading to an even larger discrepancy in the syntax the two projects support.
  • The version of Babel's parser that babel-eslint relies on is a direct dependency in its package.json and the plugins it enables are hardcoded, leading to a potential mismatch in versions and enabled language features between compiling and linting. This has historically led to a lot of confusion and hard-to-debug issues, and we believe solving this issue is a big win for both maintainers and end users.
  • babel-eslint has to be updated to handle changes in both upstream projects, and has often been out of sync with one or the other.

The challenges above have added up to babel-eslint requiring more resources than the team has at its disposal, resulting in babel-eslint not getting the attention a widely used project (6M downloads a week at the time of this writing) requires to stay up-to-date.

The Present​

With the next iteration of babel-eslint, we have decided to publish the package under a new name: @babel/eslint-parser. To alleviate some of the challenges discussed above, we are doing the following:

  • @babel/eslint-parser will require @babel/core as a peer dependency and will now use Babel core's APIs to read and apply your Babel configuration. This means that the same version of Babel with the same settings will be used for both compiling and linting. This is consistent with what we recommend and do with other packages in the Babel ecosystem.
  • @babel/eslint-parser will live in the main babel/babel monorepo with other Babel packages. We hope this will help to mitigate some of the syncing issues babel-eslint has seen in the past and allow us to lint the repo with the latest source code in GitHub, shortening the feedback loop of how changes in Babel affect linting.
  • ESTree - the AST specification that ESLint follows - has recently become active again, and the Babel team is now actively involved in the project. This will hopefully allow us to share what we learn about the AST representation of experimental syntax and help make the integration between tools easier.
  • Kai Cataldo has been helping out with babel-eslint for a number of years now, and as a result of being a maintainer of both Babel and ESLint, is uniquely positioned to focus on the interoperability of these two tools. Over the past few months, he has been working on the code changes discussed above and will continue to support the new packages once they are released.

The Future​

We believe that these packages are ready to be released. Because of all the integrations and projects involved (Babel, ESLint, Prettier, frameworks, various plugins, text editor integrations, command-line tools, etc.), we're sure there will be things that need to be fixed, and we plan to iterate quickly.

Please note that @babel/eslint-parser will rely on @babel/core as a peer dependency and this package must be in your project's node_modules.

Once you have ensured that @babel/core has been installed, you can run the following commands to upgrade from babel-eslint and babel-eslint-plugin to the new packages:

npm uninstall babel-eslint babel-eslint-plugin
npm install --save-dev @babel/eslint-parser @babel/eslint-plugin
.eslintrc.js
module.exports = {
--- parser: "babel-eslint",
+++ parser: "@babel/eslint-parser"
plugins: [
--- "babel"
+++ "@babel
]
};

@babel/eslint-parser expects a standard Babel configuration file (.babelrc or babel.config.js). For cases where users might not want to use a Babel configuration file or are running Babel through another tool (such as Webpack with babel-loader), @babel/eslint-parser also supports applying Babel configuration through your ESLint configuration. Please see the babelOptions configuration option for more details.

Moving Forward Together​

Our short-term goal in making the changes outlined above is to make it easier for @babel/eslint-parser to maintain and to make linting Babel-compiled code with ESLint easier and more reliable. We would love your help in this endeavor! Contributions on GitHub and financial donations go a long way in helping us make this integration the best it can be for the community.