Regexp capturing groups.

liorean liorean at
Thu Sep 4 11:10:00 PDT 2008

2008/9/4 Markus Jarderot <marjar-4 at>:
> When I first noticed this in Firefox I thought it was a bug. After some
> investigation it turns out that the problem was in the specification.
> What I am talking about is that ES discards the capturing groups on
> repetition. I don't know of any Regexp engine which is not based on the
> ECMA-262 standard that behaves like this.

Neither do I, which I pointed out a few times in the prior discussions
on the topic.

> I don't know if any web application depends on this behavior, but I
> wouldn't write any code that did.

Well, I'm sure you will find some code out there if you were to spider
for it. However, changing the behaviour would:
+ Make the behaviour match that of regex in other languages, and
realign the ECMAScript regex with the Perl regex they are based on.
+ Make the behaviour more intuitive even for developers without prior
experience of regex in other languages or who read regex tutorials
that are not language specific.
+ Increase the overall usefulness of ECMAScript regex by increasing
the problem space they can provide solutions within.
- Probably break a very small amount of live code.

> This problem, and that of back-references to non-participating groups,
> have been discussed on this list before, but nothing seems to have come
> out of it.

I also made my argument in
and Steven Levithan had already made an argument like it in

I've not seen anything come out of it, which I blame myself for
because I raised the issue but didn't enter a ticket on it in trac. Of
course, the reason I didn't enter it was that Steven Levithan says in
this blog entry
<url:> he
had planned to submit it but wanted to see where his other regex
tickets went first. So it ended up just a mailing list discussion and
not much else.
David "liorean" Andersson

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