The class operator: a bridge between object and function exemplers

David Flanagan dflanagan at
Mon Nov 14 16:50:52 PST 2011

On 11/14/11 4:16 PM, Allen Wirfs-Brock wrote:
> On Nov 14, 2011, at 3:15 PM, David Flanagan wrote:
>> I have a bad feeling about making 'new' work with both functions and object exemplars.  If we can have two different types of classes, we're going to end up using typeof on our class objects to figure out what kind of class they are.  If I've got a value C from a library and I think it is an object exemplar, but it is in fact a constructor function, then 'class C' is going to return Function rather than C itself...
> Well, new'ing object exemplars has always been the central concept of our discussions about them.  Essentially it is the self style of object creation and arguably the way the prototypal instantiation is supposed to work.  It seems to be what people who really like prototypal inheritance really want to do.
Apparently I wasn't paying attention to the early discussions about 
object exemplars.  I've heard the term used, but missed the point about 
changing the behavior of new.  It seems to me people who want to use 
self-style object creation can use Object.create() and people who want 
to use JavaScript-style object creation can use new like we've been 
doing for 15 years.  (Just today I wrote a blog post explaining why I'm 
hoping for classes in, and included, as part of my argument, the 
assertion that all the proposals on the table are just syntax sugar 
without new language semantics.  I was wrong about that, I guess!)

> The "magic" of what I'm proposing is that you will rarely have to worry about whether a named object abstraction (call it Foo) you get from a library is an object exemplar or a function/class exemplar.  Without knowing you can say:
>      new Foo(args)
Maybe I'm overreacting, and new semantics can make this all just work.  
But it seems like a major, major change to the language.

> and it will work.  Without knowing you can do either :
>      let subfoo = Foo<| {constructor() {}};
> or
>     let subfoo =  class Foo<| {constructor() {}} //note this parses as: class (Foo<| {... })
> and things will work.  You can even say:
>     let subfoo = Foo<| function() {}
> and the right thinks happen.
> To me, this seems like the essence of object-oreinted implementation encapsulation.  All a client of Foo needs to know is that Foo is an "exemplar" and hence it can be instantiated (via new) or specialized (via<|).  It is up to the implementor of Foo to decide how to best express its implementation.  They can even change their mind and clients shouldn't care.
Do JavaScript programmers want exemplars or do they want classes?

> Finally, if you really need to know whether an exemplar is an object exemplar or a function exemplar then typeof Foo is Function seems like a fine way to test it.  (I'm really growing to like the is operator...)
>> Object exemplars does not pave the cowpaths for classes: it creates a new path and just smears out the concept of a class into something more broad.  I fear it will create confusion rather than " provide a terse and declarative surface for those semantics so that programmer intent is expressed instead of the underlying imperative machinery."
> I look at it from the perspective that we already have at least two cowpaths that meander across each other in ways that  make it hard to stay on either one. I'm optimistic that we pave them in such a way that we are really dealing so parallel lanes on the freeway (and this analogy just got totally out of hand).
If I may continue the out-of-hand metaphor, I worry that we'll end up 
with a two lane freeway that is being repaved and has "Warning: abrupt 
edge!" signs because one lane is bumpy and 2 inches lower than the other 

> Allen

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