Extending built-in classes

Built-in classes like Array, Map and others are extendable also.

For instance, here PowerArray inherits from the native Array:

// add one more method to it (can do more)
class PowerArray extends Array {
  isEmpty() {
    return this.length === 0;
  }
}

let arr = new PowerArray(1, 2, 5, 10, 50);
alert(arr.isEmpty()); // false

let filteredArr = arr.filter(item => item >= 10);
alert(filteredArr); // 10, 50
alert(filteredArr.isEmpty()); // false

Please note a very interesting thing. Built-in methods like filter, map and others – return new objects of exactly the inherited type PowerArray. Their internal implementation uses object constructor property for that.

In the example above,

arr.constructor === PowerArray

When arr.filter() is called, it internally creates the new array of results using exactly arr.constructor, not basic Array. That’s actually very cool, because we can keep using PowerArray methods further on the result.

Even more, we can customize that behavior.

We can add a special static getter Symbol.species to the class. If exists, it should return the constructor that JavaScript will use internally to create new entities in map, filter and so on.

If we’d like built-in methods like map or filter to return regular arrays, we can return Array in Symbol.species, like here:

class PowerArray extends Array {
  isEmpty() {
    return this.length === 0;
  }

  // built-in methods will use this as the constructor
  static get [Symbol.species]() {
    return Array;
  }
}

let arr = new PowerArray(1, 2, 5, 10, 50);
alert(arr.isEmpty()); // false

// filter creates new array using arr.constructor[Symbol.species] as constructor
let filteredArr = arr.filter(item => item >= 10);

// filteredArr is not PowerArray, but Array
alert(filteredArr.isEmpty()); // Error: filteredArr.isEmpty is not a function

As you can see, now .filter returns Array. So the extended functionality is not passed any further.

Other collections work similarly

Other collections, such as Map and Set, work alike. They also use Symbol.species.

No static inheritance in built-ins

Built-in objects have their own static methods, for instance Object.keys, Array.isArray etc.

As we already know, native classes extend each other. For instance, Array extends Object.

Normally, when one class extends another, both static and non-static methods are inherited. That was thoroughly explained in the chapter Static properties and methods.

But built-in classes are an exception. They don’t inherit statics from each other.

For example, both Array and Date inherit from Object, so their instances have methods from Object.prototype. But Array.[[Prototype]] does not reference Object, so there’s no Array.keys() and Date.keys() static methods.

Here’s the picture structure for Date and Object:

As you can see, there’s no link between Date and Object. They are independent, only Date.prototype inherits from Object.prototype.

That’s an important difference of inheritance between built-in objects compared to what we get with extends.

Tutorial map

Comments

read this before commenting…
  • If you have suggestions what to improve - please submit a GitHub issue or a pull request instead of commenting.
  • If you can't understand something in the article – please elaborate.
  • To insert a few words of code, use the <code> tag, for several lines – use <pre>, for more than 10 lines – use a sandbox (plnkr, JSBin, codepen…)