import.meta and TC39 process as a whole

Dmitrii Dimandt dmitrii at
Sat Aug 5 18:41:28 UTC 2017

The problem with “metaproperties” is that they make the language more complex, chaotic and make it difficult to reason about the language.

See my previous post about the multitude of keyword and keyword-like types that the language has. It’s so bad that even “metaproperty” concept itself isn’t defined in the standard except as a hardcoded `` [1]

If you read, for example, through the import.meta draft, you see things ripe for inclusion in a proper API object.

It gets even worse. Because “metaproperties” are not just attached to keywords. They are attached to keywords which have *fundamentally different semantics* in the language: `new` is an operator[2], it gets ``. A function is a callable object [3], and it gets a `function.sent`. Import is … I don’t know what import is [4]. It gets transformed into a separate, made-just-for-import  CallExpression[5] and then it gets an `import.meta` on top of that [6] (as a hardcoded “metaproperty").

Don’t forget that `super` gets its own properties. Since there’s no specification of what “metaproperties” are, they are just called superproperties[7] in the grammar. Because reasons.

All this is chaos from the perspective of developer experience. And truly looks like random ad-hoc solutions to immediate problems with no long-term goals. Imagine how much better *and* future-proof it would be if all this was in the form of a unified centralised API? There is a reason people laugh at PHP for its API and language design. 








On Sat, 05 Aug 2017 at 18:59 Matthew Robb

mailto:Matthew Robb <matthewwrobb at>
> wrote:

a, pre, code, a:link, body { word-wrap: break-word !important; }

I really can't find a good resource on direct vs indirect evaluation but my understanding is it's one of the main considerations for using a keyword over an identifier for contextual information. One example which is already in the language would be 'eval' which you can read a little about here:

Now you might be able to have an API that gets you the same result as the context sensitive keywords but it would be less ergonomic among other things: Reflect.getModuleMetaProperty(someModuleNs, 'propName') but this becomes much more difficult to do FROM WITHIN THE MODULE ITSELF. Anything that is, let's call it tangible, cannot receive implicit contextual information it must have something passed to it that it would use to look up said information. 

Sure there could be arguments made about introducing new environment type records to the top level module scope of all modules but this is potentially much more error prone and likely to lead to more and bigger questions down the road. 'module' in particular is a really bad choice imo as node/commonjs have already introduced a 'module' identifier into all of their module scopes hence `module.exports = ...`. There may be solutions to working around that in one form or another BUT the 'trend' in TC39 to use keyword meta properties for context sensitive information is to avoid solving ever edge case of conflict that would impact existing code and users. It really is a fairly ripe space for powerful and ergonomic features like `super` which feel like "magic". The same is true for import.meta but it may be harder to identify right off as the uses haven't all been fully introduced such as environment specific properties and potentialy other loader hooks.

NOW as I was writing this it came to mind that we DO have a new syntactic form for private data coming in the form of private fields which use a hash prefix. It would be interesting to explore using the same syntax for module scoped private fields:




- Matthew Robb

On Sat, Aug 5, 2017 at 12:35 PM, Dmitrii Dimandt

mailto:dmitrii at


Too bad emails don’t have "thumbs up" and “+1”s :) So here’s my "+1” to you

On Sat, 05 Aug 2017 at 18:28 "T.J. Crowder"


">"T.J. Crowder"

> wrote:

On Sat, Aug 5, 2017 at 5:05 PM, Dmitrii Dimandt

mailto:dmitrii at
> wrote:

> So, in my opinion, the argument for not adding new global entities

> such as System, or Module, or Loader (or heck, even all three of

> them) being “these are not keywords, we can’t introduce them” is

> really really weak.

Is anyone making that argument? I certainly am not. Not only is it possible to add more global entities, as you point out, it's been done repeatedly: `Symbol`, `Reflect`, etc. They just can't be *keywords* without breaking things. They have to be identifiers. Which means they have bindings with values. Which means those values can be copied. Which has implications.

On Sat, Aug 5, 2017 at 5:08 PM, Dmitrii Dimandt

mailto:dmitrii at
> wrote:


> That’s not what I was really aiming at :)


> The original concern was “to get ‘module’ : 1. It's a

> context-sensitive keyword, and code that's using it needs to 

> be updated when migrated to a module. “


> I was just pointing out that ‘import’ is already a context-

> sensitive keyword (as are a bunch of others, like super.

> Is super a keyword BTW?)

My point was that this would be the only case I know of where it would be a keyword in one context but an identifier in another in the *exact same production*. `super`, `import`, etc., are **always** keywords. You just can't use them except in certain contexts. So I shouldn't have said "context-sensitive keyword" so much as "keyword or identifier depending on context." (But then...I did, earlier; I figured the shorthand was okay after spelling it out longhand. :-) )

But again: Maybe that's feasible. Or maybe it's not a problem passing the value around, in which case a predefined `module` identifier only in module code isn't a problem anyway.

-- T.J. Crowder
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