Here are some of the important changes between 0.6 and 0.8:

* replaced the node-waf build system with gyp. This greatly simplifies the
  process of building multiplatform extensions and is the currently supported
  mechanism for publishing modules with architecture-specific binary components.
  waf has been strongly deprecated upstream
* added much better support for localized error handling in the form of domains
* included numerous fixes to TLS and SSL support that have not been backported
  to the (now de facto end-of-life) 0.6.21
* added access to a significant number of new JavaScript language features
  (exposed via the --harmony comand-line flag) due to being built against a 
  version of V8
* made significant improvements to the cluster and child_process core modules
  (involving how data is passed between processes and how file descriptors are
  handled) that make working with subsidiary processes more straightforward and
  less error-prone
* perhaps least significantly (but something I use all over the place in the
  code I support), there is a new timer function in process.hrtime() that has
  nanosecond precision (if not accuracy)

There are also many, many minor bug fixes and tweaks between the two at an
operational level, and given that npm allows modules to specify what version of
core they'll run against, there are many modules on npm (sorry, don't have an
exact number for you, but I can get it if it's important) that will simply not
work with the version of Node packaged for Debian.

Taking a step back, upstream is getting very close to releasing 0.10, and given
that it includes a newer, rationalized version of Node's support for streams,
is going to result in a tremendously large delta between 0.6 and 0.10.

As it stands, the version of Node distributed with Debian is unusable for me,
and I regularly help confused Debian users on #node.js on Freenet either get up
and running with Chris Lea's PPA (which is for a different distribution)
because the version included with Node is too old for them as well.

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