Type Regression Testing to Detect Breaking Changes in Node.js Libraries

Gianluca Mezzetti, Anders Møller, and Martin Toldam Torp

The npm repository contains JavaScript libraries that are used by millions of software developers. Its semantic versioning system relies on the ability to distinguish between breaking and non-breaking changes when libraries are updated. However, the dynamic nature of JavaScript often causes unintended breaking changes to be detected too late, which undermines the robustness of the applications.

We present a novel technique, type regression testing, to automatically determine whether an update of a library implementation affects the types of its public interface, according to how the library is being used by other npm packages. By leveraging available test suites of clients, type regression testing uses a dynamic analysis to learn models of the library interface. Comparing the models before and after an update effectively amplifies the existing tests by revealing changes that may affect the clients.

Experimental results on 12 widely used libraries show that the technique can identify type-related breaking changes with high accuracy. It fully automatically classifies at least 90% of the updates correctly as either major or as minor or patch, and it detects 26 breaking changes among the minor and patch updates.

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