ES2016 Features & ECMAScript as a Living Standard

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As it turns out, ES2016 – also known colloquially as ES7 – will be comprised of a very small feature set. This article explains the new features in ES2016.

ECMAScript editor @bterlson reported last week that features in stage 4 were going to make it into ES2016, and there were just two features in that state. You can check out the current state of all ECMAScript proposals on GitHub.

The features in question are Array.prototype.includes and the exponentiation operator. We’ll go over both of them explaining what they do and looking at a couple of examples – note that these are very simple features, so we’ll keep it short!

Lastly, we’ll talk a little bit about where ES6 is going in the future. Shall we?


Originally, this method was going to be named Array.prototype.contains, but that would’ve proven problematic as it would’ve clashed with popular library MooTools – whose implementation was incompatible with ECMA’s, potentially resulting in many broken websites once the feature was implemented according to the standard.

This proposal was formerly for Array.prototype.contains, but that name is not web-compatible. Per the November 2014 TC39 meeting, the name of both String.prototype.contains and Array.prototype.contains was changed to includes to dodge that bullet.

The .includes method returns whether the provided reference value is included in the array or not.

['a', 'b', 'c'].includes('c');
// <- true
[{}, {}].includes({}); // strictly a reference comparison
// <- false
var a = {};
[{}, a].includes(a);
// <- true

You can also specify a fromIndex as the second parameter, and the search will start at that position in the array. When this value isn’t provided, 0 is assumed and the whole array is searched.

['a', 'b', 'c', 'd'].includes('b', 2);
// <- false

Even though NaN !== NaN, .includes uses the SameValueZero comparison algorithm where NaN is equivalent to itself.

// <- true

There isn’t much else to say about this method.

Exponentiation operator – **

The exponentiation operator – or a ** b – is the syntactic equivalent to doing Math.pow(a, b). It’ll work similarly to the exponentiation operator in Python.

1 ** 2 === Math.pow(1, 2)
// <- true

Just like with any other operators, it’s possible to mix exponentiation with assignment, as show below.

var a = 2;
a **= 3; // equivalent to a = Math.pow(a, 3)
// <- 8

ECMAScript as a Living Standard

In an article shared this weekend, Axel Rauschmayer has detailed how the ECMAScript release process will work from now on. In this sense, the ECMAScript standarization process will behave more like HTML and CSS ones, where new features are standarized as consensus is reached, rather than clean-cut – or “limited by” – by version numbers.

This standarization style is what we’ve come to know as a living standard. It’s something that I think was long overdue when it comes to JavaScript, even though in practice, implementation was already behaving this way: browsers already implement much of ES6 and there never was a waiting period until 100% of ES6 is implemented.

Firefox, Chrome, and Edge all offer over 90% compliancy of the ES6 specification, and we’ve been able to use the features they implemented as they came out rather than having to wait until the flip of a switch when their implementation of ES6 was 100% finalized. This can also be connected with what Chris Heilmann frequently brings up when he mentions browser vendors need developers to try out features in order to improve them, but developers need to be able to play with those features in order to try them out.

Personally, I’m pretty excited about JavaScript becoming a living standard, and so should you! We’ve seen how much CSS improved as a result, so this is another step in the right direction by the ECMAScript council. Yay, JavaScript!

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