JavaScript Fat City

It’s official! We’re getting a new function syntax! The TC39 group (the panel charged with delivering ES 6) has reached consensus on an abbreviated syntax for JavaScript function expressions. Its popularly known as the fat arrow syntax, and is based on a similar construct found in CoffeeScript.

Make no mistake, I’m delighted that we will finally have an alternative to the unnecessary clunkiness and verbosity of the present grammar, but I can’t shake a nagging feeling that this proposal (in its current form) is flawed to the extent that it might actually make new developers more confused than they already were. I’ll run through the key features of this new construct, then explain my concerns and how they might be mitigated.

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Extending JavaScript Natives

Most built-in JavaScript types are constructors whose prototypes contain the methods and other properties that define their default behavior:

//(results will vary by browser)

Object.getOwnPropertyNames(Function.prototype)
//["bind", "arguments", "toString", "length", "call", "name", "apply", "caller", "constructor"]

You can’t delete or replace a native prototype, but you can edit the values of its properties, or create new ones:

//create a new array method that removes a member
Array.prototype.remove = function(member) {
  var index = this.indexOf(member);
  if (index > -1) {
    this.splice(index, 1);
  }
  return this;
}

['poppy', 'sesame', 'plain'].remove('poppy'); //["sesame", "plain"]
['ant', 'bee', 'fly'].remove('spider'); //["ant", "bee", "fly"]

Et voila! Our code gets a useful array extension for free. However if you brag about doing this in production code, expect to get pummeled by a wave of fierce disapproval. Some of it carries weight. Let’s sift the danger from the dogma and try to reach an honest conclusion:

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