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Storm in a teapot: Anger brews over npm's jokey proxy error messages
404: Sense of humor – or professionalism? – not found
npm, the widely used and defiantly lower-case Node.js package manager, on Monday briefly returned an error to users connecting to the registry via proxy who attempted the
npm install command.
The error message declared "npm ERR! 418 I'm a teapot…", in reference to a RFC 2324, a tongue-in-cheek coffee pot communications protocol created as an April Fool's joke in 1998.
Last year, Mark Nottingham, who chairs the IETF HTTP and QUIC Working Groups, urged the removal of the
418 I'm a Teapot status code from Node since 418 isn't a recognized HTTP status code.
"I know it's amusing, I know that a few people have knocked up implementations for fun, but it shouldn't pollute the core protocol; folks can extend Node easily enough if they want to play with non-standard semantics," he wrote in a bug report in August.
But other developers opposed the effort to purge the humorous status code message, which is also supported in Go, Python's Requests library, and ASP.NET's HttpAbstractions library. And James M. Snell, a member of the Node.js Project’s Technical Steering Committee, ultimately put a halt to the recall effort.
Complaints about the buggy npm behavior surfaced in two GitHub issues: #335 and #20971. The problem on Monday appears to have lasted between three and four hours, but the concern isn't so much the outage time for those using proxies. Rather, it's the lack of any clear statement by npm's management that has developers grumbling.
There's been criticism that npm should have published something about the issue because the company's status page don't have any details about what happened. However, the status page typically presents server-side information, and the proxy problem had to do with the way npm clients were appending the port to the Host header.
In an email to The Register, CJ Silverio, CTO at npm, explained what happened:
On Monday, npm's registry API began responding to requests with host headers it did not recognize with
htcpcp status 418.
Unfortunately, our host header parsing had a bug. It failed to account for port numbers appended to the host name. Users who were accessing npm through certain proxies were therefore greeted with a refusal to brew coffee via the message "I'm a teapot". This bug was filed on the npm cli issue tracker. We fixed it Monday morning.