simple push-based streams
Last updated a year ago by dominictarr .
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$ cnpm install push-stream 
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This is a reimagining of what a push-style stream could be.

push-stream harkens back to the original node.js classic streams but without several of the unrealized-at-the-time blunders of classic streams.

  • don't use event emitters. emitters magnify the needed number of objects, and it's not necessary to assign event listeners to properly working streams. when that is needed, pipe to a stream that supports inspection or wrap the stream to be monitored.
  • don't support multiple destinations - most streams are piped only to one destination. to use a plumbing metaphore, when you want to connect split one pipe into two, you use a special T or Y shaped connector.
  • have a paused property instead of write() returning paused, this means you can know whether your destination is paused before you call write.
  • call a resume method on the source stream (that stays the same) instead of assigning and reassigned "drain" listeners. the only property that changes while streaming is the paused boolean. No closures are necessary (which are related to memory leaks and not optimized by js engines) possibly a stream has a buffer (array) but otherwise no memory should be allocated on most simple streams.

push-streams also incorporates the lessons learned over several years working with pull-streams. For additional context learn about the history of node streams and the simplicity of pull-streams


I wrote this because I wanted muxrpc to have back pressure. muxrpc@<=6 wrapped a simple streaming model called "packet-stream", which internally used a stream model called "weird streams" (yes, that is a sign I didn't really know what to do there) but it was much easier to write a multiplexer with a push model (I tried writing a pull based muxer and got stuck in many deadlocks)

push-mux was relatively straightforward once I figured out what the push-stream api looked like.

I'm not planning on rewriting everything that uses pull-streams to use this! So I also made push-stream-to-pull-stream


Sink (aka writable)


write one chunk of data to a stream. this must not be called if sink.paused == true.


end the stream. if err is an Error, that means the stream has aborted with a fatal error, throw away any buffered data and stop immediately.

when sink.end is called with an error, it does not need to respect pause because the stream is discarded at that point.

if it's an ordinary end, then the caller should wait until the stream is unpaused.


boolean of the current pause state. when writing to a stream, check the value of paused both before and after. If the sink is paused, a transform stream will usually also pause.

Source (aka readable)


attach this stream to sink stream (or pipeline starting with a sink) if source has pipe should call source.resume() and while sink is not paused it should write any available data to it.


If a sink sets paused = true then the source should stop writing. when the sink decides it is realy for data again, it must call the source - via the resume method. If there is data available the source should write it to the sink. If the source is a transform stream (i.e. has it's own source) then it would call resume on that source (pass the resume signal along)


There are 2 basic types of streams, source and sink. and these two types can be combined in two ways: transform and duplex.


a stream that pipes data to a sink.


a stream that receives data from a source

transform : sink -> source

A stream that receive data from a source, possibly transforms it in some way, and then pipes it to another sink. When the transform's sink pauses, the transform should also pause.

duplex : {source + sink}

A stream that is both a source and a sink, but source/sink are not internally connected like they are in a transform stream. Duplex streams are used for communication - two processes are connected via a "wire" (serialized bytes transmitted, then parsed by the receiver). On a duplex stream, the pause state of the input is not connected to the pause state of the output, instead it's probably connected to the internal state of the system the duplex stream connects to.

This is a subtle distinction and probably only advanced use cases require writing duplex streams (you are doing protocol design if you are writing a duplex stream)

how data flows through a push stream pipe

In node.js streams, there is a complicated "pipe" method that defines how data flows between the streams. In push-stream the pipe method just connects the streams together, and instead of emitting events, the streams just call write and end on the next stream in the pipeline directly.

simplest push-streams examples

Source: read an array into a stream

A push-stream source is a simple object with a pipe resume and abort method.

A push-stream pipeline is just a doubly-linked list. the sink property is a reference to the next stream in the pipeline, and source is a reference to the previous stream. The words Source and Sink are also used to refer to the first and last streams in a pipeline. The pipe method just sets up these references, and the resume method starts the data flowing. The data should flow until the sink stream is paused, as indicated by it setting the paused property to true.

//a stream that reads an array
function Values (ary) {
  var i = 0
  return {
    resume: function () {
      if(!this.sink || this.ended) return

      while(!this.sink.paused && i < ary.length)

      //note: end does not check pause state.
      //pause does not block end.
      if(i === ary.length) this.sink.end()
    //pipe() can be as simple as connecting streams together!
    pipe: function (sink) {
      this.sink = sink
      sink.source = this
      return sink
    //abort ends the stream immediately.
    abort: function (err) {
      this.ended = err
      //if the stream has ended, abort immediately.
      if(!this.sink.ended) this.sink.end(err)


(See a pull-stream version.)

sink: write a stream to console

A sink stream has write and end methods and a paused property. In pull-streams, the sink is responsible for calling the source but in push-streams it's the reverse - so the push-stream sink doesn't need very much at all.

return Log (name) {
  return {
    paused: false,
    write: function (data) { 
      //if you set paused=true here, the source should stop writing.
    end: function (err) {
      this.ended = err || true

(See a pull-stream version.)

through: map a stream by a function

the through stream is more complicated in push-streams because it needs to have the apis of both source and sink. This is a very simple example through stream that does not have it's own internal buffer. It just writes to the sink immediately. This may mean writing when the sink is paused in some situations, if this is a problem drop in a buffering stream

Note: push-stream throughs must start out with paused=true, sinks start out paused=false. If a through stream is piped to a destination that is unpaused, it should resume, which will propagate the resume signal back up the pipeline and data will start flowing.

function Map(fn) {
  return {
    paused: true,
    write: function (data) {
      this.paused = this.sink.paused
    end: function (err) {
      this.ended = err || true
    resume: function () {
    pipe: function (sink) {
      this.sink = sink
      sink.source = this
      this.paused = this.sink.paused
      return sink
    abort: function (err) {


Thanks to @ahdinosaur for giving me the push-stream npm repo! His push-stream module (essentially a simple observable) is still available at push-stream@2



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