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. They rely on the constructor property to do so.

In the example above,

arr.constructor === PowerArray

So when arr.filter() is called, it internally creates the new array of results using exactly new PowerArray, 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, filter will 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.

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.

So, if Rabbit extends Animal, then:

  1. Rabbit.methods are callable for Animal.methods, because Rabbit.[[Prototype]] = Animal.
  2. new Rabbit().methods are also available, because Rabbit.prototype.[[Prototype]] = Animal.prototype.

That’s thoroughly explained in the chapter Static properties and methods.

But built-in classes are an exception. They don’t inherit statics (1) 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 point to Object. So there’s Object.keys(), but not Array.keys() and Date.keys().

Here’s the picture structure for Date and Object:

Note, there’s no link between Date and Object. Both Object and Date exist independently. Date.prototype inherits from Object.prototype, but that’s all.

Tutorial map

Comments

read this before commenting…
  • You're welcome to post additions, questions to the articles and answers to them.
  • 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…)
  • If you can't understand something in the article – please elaborate.