Classes: suggestions for improvement

Bob Nystrom rnystrom at
Mon Jun 13 11:51:47 PDT 2011

On Sun, Jun 12, 2011 at 2:38 PM, Brendan Eich <brendan at> wrote:

> Something about classes in JS makes me sad, an emotional effect I can't
> explain fully.


I'm one of the biggest fans of this class proposal, and I feel a twinge of
that sadness too. I look at it as JS taking a step away from Scheme and
towards Common Lisp.

I think one of the big reasons people love Javascript is that it has the
same appeal of old school LEGOs: it gives you just a few kinds of
pieces<>but you can combine
them in a huge variety of fashions to make all sorts of
novel things. Adding class syntax feels a bit like how LEGO pieces started
to get more specialized<>

As a creative-at-play, specialization like that sucks. You're taking away *
my* ability to invent something new and replacing it with some ready-made
thing that I can't modify. However, as a pragmatic person trying to get work
done, this a win. If it's my job to make LEGO cars, a prebuilt chassis makes
my job easier and faster.

Since JS *is* used by working programmers who just want to ship solid code,
I think it's helpful to have features like this that encode common patterns
and make them easier to express. I look at class syntax as a pre-built kit
for the kinds of things we find ourselves having to make from scratch over
and over again. That's great because, honestly, I'm *not* innovating on "how
to define reusable kinds of entities" in JS everyday. I mostly follow the
same constructor+prototype pattern that many of us do. So if I can have an
ready-to-use syntax for *that*, it means less time typing that boilerplate
over and over, and more of my time spent on the things I *am* innovating on:
user experience, libraries, etc.

At the same time, it's worth remembering that class syntax doesn't take any
toys away from you. You still have all of the JS primitives you know and
love to play with, and if classes aren't a good fit for you, you're always
free to go your own path. In that sense, they're more like classes in C++
than Java: they enshrine a common pattern but don't rebuild the entire
language around them. Like C++, you can use them where they make sense and
not where they don't.


In part I think class is the wrong word, as cowboyd tweeted (see below).

Agreed. "class" isn't ideal, but it's probably the best we have. It carries
a lot of baggage, some of which is helpful and some of which isn't. I think
most of the pragmatic baggage *is* helpful (things you make with this class
proposal behave pretty similarly to classes in other languages) but the
conceptual baggage isn't: people hear "class" and think we're trying to turn
JS into Java, which for many is a short hop away from COBOL and having to
wear a suit to work. No one wants that to happen to JS.

- bob
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