Subset relation (was: RE: ES3.1 Draft: 11 June 2008 version available)

Pratap Lakshman (VJ#SDK) pratapl at
Fri Jun 27 06:36:49 PDT 2008

Since we are discussing 'with' in particular - it may be difficult to tighten spec language to fix 'with', but I do believe that if there is some way in which we can deprecate/ban 'with' we should consider it.

For e.g. 'with' interacts with other language features in surprising ways. Consider the following (contrived) case:

var a = 1;
function foo() {
    var o = {a : 2};

    with (o) {
        var a = 3;

    print (a);

While it would look like the variable declaration from within 'with' should create a variable at foo scope and set its value to 3, that's not what's supposed to happen. Rules for variable instantiation (§10.1.3), variable declaration grammar (§12.2), identifier reference (§11.1.2), and scope chain and identifier resolution (§10.1.4) result in the above code being evaluated as if it were the following:

var a = 1;
function foo() {
    var o = {a : 2};
    var a = undefined;

    with (o) {
        a = 3;


Notice that "var a = 3" ends up creating the variable in one scope and setting the value on an element in another scope. How can that be intentional?
It may be difficult to tighten spec language to fix this, but we should consider deprecating/banning 'with' in an opt-in 'strict' mode (or 'subset' mode).


From: es4-discuss-bounces at [mailto:es4-discuss-bounces at] On Behalf Of Brendan Eich
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 12:20 PM
To: Mark S. Miller
Cc: es3.x-discuss at; es4-discuss at; Douglas Crockford
Subject: Re: Subset relation (was: RE: ES3.1 Draft: 11 June 2008 version available)

On Jun 16, 2008, at 10:48 PM, Mark S. Miller wrote:

On Mon, Jun 16, 2008 at 10:19 PM, Brendan Eich <brendan at<mailto:brendan at>> wrote:
I am not going to repeat what I wrote at an earlier point in this thread (13
June at 10:24) -- you didn't reply to what I wrote then. Did that message
not reach you?

Are you referring to


It was the closest match I could find. I responded to this message.
What remaining point in this message do you feel still needs to be
addressed? I'm not being difficult. I just reread this message and
couldn't spot it.

You replied<> only to the bit about reformed with, where I wrote:

"Reformed with" was an attempt to restore lexical scope by exact type annotation. That's what people voted down, not the ES1-3 "with" statement.

but that was not the main point (since reformed with was withdrawn), it was just setting the record straight ("reformed with", not "strict with" -- and the fact that it was voted down with red on the spreadsheet does not argue against plain old "with" being allowed in strict mode).

The main point was that (a) 'with' is widespread and popular; therefore (b) strict mode that bans 'with' could fail to be used.

The question isn't whether an existing statement is "good enough", it's
whether a strict mode that bans it is "usable enough".

A strict mode which doesn't ban is clearly not.

Why "clearly"? Usability depends on users and "ergonomics". Something about 'with' is usable enough that users persist in writing programs using it. These users say (when they speak up coherently at all) that 'with' makes the language more convenient. Well-known JS hackers say this, to me even, and get annoyed by nagging such as was found in older Firefoxes (console warnings about "deprecated with").

If you get rid of "with", then the static analysis rule in ES4 becomes
very simple: all free variables in a program (script, compilation
unit, whatever) are global references, to be looked up as properties
of that program's global object, whether or not those properties are

That allows lexical-reference typos through to run-time, where they become errors -- that is not something the old, withdrawn strict mode in ES4 allowed.

It's true that 'with' prevents analysis from deciding where a free name will be found, but with the old strict mode, that's actually a useful escape hatch. Otherwise (no 'with') the name would have to resolve to a compiler-visible global definition, or you would have to reach for eval.

This old notion of strict mode was to be an optional feature, at the
implementation's discretion. We dropped it in favor of 'use strict' a la
Perl -- "use good taste and sanity".

And is "with" either in good taste or sane?

I avoid 'with', but I try not to confuse my taste with others' tastes (plural), or with necessity. Why is it necessary for strict mode to ban 'with'?

The global object makes the contents of the global scope unknown. But
it does not ambiguate which variable name occurences are to be
interpreted as references into this global scope. Without "with", ES4
strict scopes would be statically analyzable. I'm surprised you're
willing to give that up.

As I wrote previously, all browser implementations have to support 'with' and deoptimize code in its body. There's no savings to be had in rejecting it from strict mode, and doing so takes a tiny bit of extra code. On the other hand, such a strict mode may be less used than 'with', because of 'with' perduring.

Is 'with' any worse than eval, for the purposes of the analysis you have in mind, if you already allow the "operator" form of eval in strict mode?

so is kicking 'with' out of
strict mode worth it, especially if it impairs adoption of "use strict"?

Yes. Otherwise I don't see the point of "use strict".

Can you define the point of "use strict" other than by appealing to taste?

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the Es4-discuss mailing list