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ECMAScript 2015 on io.js

WORK IN PROGRESS, we plan to update this description as ECMAScript 2015 support in io.js evolves.


ECMAScript 2015, also known as ECMAScript 6 or ES6 for short, is the upcoming version of the ECMAScript standard. io.js already supports a significant number of features of this standard natively, that is without any kind of transpiling.

Inspired by style and content of this really nice overview of ES6 features by Luke Hoban, here you can find an overview of what is supported in io.js already. MDN was used as a normative reference.

All of the examples below can also be found in the features folder as individual runnable applications. You can run an example using the prepared script which expects the path to an example as its first parameter. When you are in the base directory, running the first example from the command line would look this this:

./ features/1-let-const.js

Note: automatically switches on all ES6 features of io.js even when they are not mature, yet. Note that the examples need at least version 2.0 of io.js.

In the workshop folder you can try the new features on a complete example.


When using ES6 feaures with or without transpiling to ES5 or even ES3 you should consider the potential performance penalty. There is this great overview that reveals dramatic slow downs when using ES6 features, but sometimes also some speed ups. So be careful. This blogpost on ES6 Feature Performance gives a little bit more context, but is not as nicely formatted.


io.js as of release 2.0 (partially) supports the following new features:

Feature Command line switch needed to enable
let + const enabled when using 'use strict'
for..of already enabled
template strings already enabled
arrow functions --harmony_arrow_functions
enhanced object literal already enabled (--harmony-computed-property-names for computed property names)
keyed collections already enabled
classes enabled when using 'use strict' (--harmony-computed-property-names for computed property names)
rest parameters --harmony-rest-parameters
Promise already enabled
Symbol already enabled
iterators and generators already enabled
Modules not supported
Destructuring not supported
Default values not supported
Spread operator not supported
Proxy and Reflect not supported
tail call optimisation not supported

Let + Const

Blocks now create scopes for let and const. Semantics of var remain unchanged.

// a simple block, not a function or IIFE
    // error: there is no hoisting, you can not use x before definition
    let x = "outer";
        // okay, block scoped name
        const x = "sneaky";
        // error: you can not re-assign a const variable
        x = "foo";
        // error: you can assign a value to a const variable only on initialization
        const y;
        y = 10;
    // error: already declared in block
    let x = "inner";


// error: x is only defined inside block


Instead of iterating of the index using, you can now directly iterate over the elements in an array using for..of. for..of not only works for arrays, but for every object that is iterable. We will explain later what being iterable means.

const programmers = ['Granny', 'Olli'];

// this iterates over the indices ...
// outputs 0, 1
for (let i in programmers) {

// ... while this ES6 features iterates over the elements (what you probably desire)
// outputs Granny, Olli
for (let p of programmers) {

Template strings

Using template strings you can embed expressions into strings and let them span multiple lines. They are enclosed by back tics (``) instead of quotation marks.

const a = 5;
const b = 10;

// ES5
console.log("Fifteen is " + (a + b) + " and\nnot " + (2 * a + b) + ".");

// ES6
console.log(`Fifteen is ${a + b} and
not ${2 * a + b}.`);

Arrow functions

Arrow functions offer both a shorter function syntax and a lexical this. The latter means that this inside the arrow function is bound to the value this had in the scope, the function was defined in.

Unfortunately, only the shorter syntax works in io.js so far. And even therefore you have to enable it using the --harmony_arrow_functions flag.

// ES5
var es5 = function () {
    return 10;
console.log(es5()); // 10

// the same thing in ES6 arrow function notation
const es6 = () => {
    return 10;
console.log(es6()); // 10

// the same thing using a shorter syntax if the function only is a single expression
const es6_short = () => 10;
console.log(es6_short()) // 10

// basic syntax works in io.js, but no automatic binding to this
const obj = {
    methodOfObj: function () {
        ['1', '2', '3'].forEach( (e) => {
           console.log(obj === this); // true in firefox, false in io.js


Enhanced Object Literal

ES6 introduces some enhancements and simplifications to the Object Literal. You now can leave out a value for a property name, if there is already an object defined with the same name as your property, i.e. it's enough to write name instead of name:name. For functions declared on an object you can leave out the :function() notation and instead simply write the function name. Using the special property name __proto__ you can directly set the prototype of an object. Inside a function you can call super() to invoke functions from it's prototype.

const name = 'Lemmy';

const person = {
	name, // ES5: name: name

	toString() { // ES5: toString: function()
		return `This is ${}`;

const musician = {
	// change prototype
	__proto__: person,

	toString() {
		// call to super
		return `${super.toString()}, let's get loud`;

console.log(; // Lemmy
console.log(person.toString()); // This is Lemmy
console.log(; // Lemmy (note 'name' comes from person)
console.log(musician.toString()); // This is Lemmy, let's get loud

And it is even possible to use property names that are defined dynamically using a function call. Note that this feature requires the --harmony-computed-property-names switch to be set:

function secretKey() {
	return 666;

const obj = {
	[ 'prop_' + secretKey() ]: 'Number of the beast'
console.log(obj.prop_666); // Number of the beast


Beside the enhancements to the object literal ES6 also provide a new simplified way to write object-oriented code: classes. Instead of using an object literal to define and inherit classes you can now use the dedicated class keyword. Within classes you can specify a constructor and instance and static members and You can define getters and setters for your properties. Inheritance is supported using the extends keyword.

Let's have a first look at a fairly simple class:

class Person {
	constructor(name) { = name;

	toString() {
		return `I'm ${}`;

// create new instance of that class
const lemmy = new Person('Lemmy');

// access it's members
console.log(lemmy.toString()); // I'm Lemmy
console.log(; // 'Lemmy'

Now lets add getter and setter functions:

class Person {
	constructor(name) { = name;
		this._id = name.toLowerCase();

	// read only property, note that the setter is missing
	get id() {
		return this._id;

	// Example: getter and setters
	set password(password) {
		// store 'encrypted' password
		this.encryptedPassword = password.split('').reverse().join('');

	get password() {
		// return 'decrypted' password
		return this.encryptedPassword.split('').reverse().join('');

	toString() {
		return `I'm ${}`;

const lemmy = new Person('Lemmy');

// get the read-only property 'id'
console.log(; // 'lemmy'

// Try setting a read-only property
try {
	// Won't work, as id is a read-only property = 'kilmister';
} catch (e) {
	// ERROR: TypeError: Cannot set property id of [object Object] which has only a getter

lemmy.password = 'aceOfSpades';
console.log(lemmy.password); // aceOfSpades
console.log(lemmy.encryptedPassword); //sedapSfOeca

And finally let's introduce class inheritance using the extends keyword:

class Musician extends Person {
	constructor(name, instrument) {
		// invoke super constructor first
		this.instrument = instrument;

	toString() {
		return `${super.toString()} and I'm playing ${this.instrument}`;

	// You can define static methods
	static newGuitarPlayer(name) {
		return new Musician(name, 'Guitar');

const mikkey = new Musician('Mikkey', 'Drums');
console.log(mikkey.toString()); // I'm Mikkey and I'm playing Drums
console.log((mikkey instanceof Person)); // true
console.log((mikkey instanceof Musician)); // true
console.log(Musician.newGuitarPlayer('Phil').toString()); // I'm Phil and I'm playing Guitar

And as with the object literal you can even use computed property names in your class. Note that you have to enable this feature with the --harmony-computed-property-names flag when running iojs:

function secretKey() {
	return 667;

class NeighbourHood {
	[ 'no_' + secretKey() ]() {
		return 'Neighbour of the beast';

const hood = new NeighbourHood();
console.log(hood.no_667()); // Neighbour of the beast

Keyed Collections

ES6 offers two new data structures and two variations of them: Map, Set, and WeakMap and WeakSet as their weak variants. A Map can store a references from a key to value, much like an object, but more flexible. E.g. it can use any value as a key, not only a string.

const map = new Map();

// keys are not restricted to strings
const KEY1 = {name: 'KEY1'};
const KEY2 = 'KEY2';

map.set(KEY1, 1);
console.log(map.get(KEY1)); // 1
console.log(map.has(KEY1)); // true

map.set(KEY2, 2);
console.log(map.size); // 2

// maps are iterable objects
for (let e of map) {
    console.log(e); // array consisting of key and value, e.g. [ { name: 'KEY1' }, 1 ]

for (let e of map.keys()) {
    console.log(e); // keys only

for (let e of map.values()) {
    console.log(e); // values only

console.log(map.has(KEY1)); // false

Sets only store values, disallowing doubles, but still keeping order. In some usecases they might be a replacement for arrays.

const set = new Set();

const VALUE1 = {name: 'VALUE1'};
const VALUE2 = 'VALUE2';

console.log(set.has(VALUE1)); // true

console.log(set.size); // 2

// sets are iterable objects
for (let e of set) {

console.log(set.has(VALUE1)); // false

WeakMap and WeakSet are weak variants of Map and Set. Entries in WeakMap and WeakSet are only valid as long as their keys (for maps) or values (for sets) still live, that is they are not collected by garbage collection.
As a result of that they come with a limited API that only allows to get, set, test, and delete. They are not iterable. Keys (for maps) or values (for sets) can only be objects.

A usecase would be to store additional information for a DOM node and as soon as this node is garbage collection, the additional information disappears from the WeakMap.

const weakMap = new WeakMap();
let domNode = {}; // this is not a real dom node, of course
weakMap.set(domNode, 'additional information');
domNode = null;
// it is impossible to use `has` to find out if the entry is still in the `WeakMap`,
// because we no longer have a reference
// to the key. But once the garbage collection has run, it will be gone

Rest parameters

In ECMAScript 5 you can access all parameters that have been passed to a function using the special Array-like arguments object. In ES6 you can specify the last parameter of your function to be a rest parameter (using triple dot notation). This parameter collects all ("the rest") parameters that have been passed to the method but have not been explicitly specified as arguments. In contrast to the arguments object the rest parameter is a real JavaScript Array, so it's much easier to use. Please make sure, that you enable the rest parameter with the switch --harmony-rest-parameters.

function sendMessage(message, ...recipients) {
	// Note that recipients is a standard Array, you can immediately use all Array functions  
	// The first argument ('message') is not part of that array, as it is declared as this functions' argument
	recipients.sort().forEach((recipient) => {
		console.log(`${recipient}, ${message}`)

sendMessage('Keep on rocking!', 'Lemmy', 'Ozzy', 'Angus');


  • Unfortunately, rest parameters do not work in combination with arrow functions in io.js, yet.
  • ES6 also introduces the spread operator that also starts with .... This operator is currently not supported by iojs


Promises are a general concept to chain together operations in asynchronous or deferred scenarios. A typical example would be a call to a server or a timed execution or a background calculation.

As an example, we first create such a promise that carries out a deferred operation after one second.

const promise = new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    const resolvedValue = 'Result from promise';
    console.log('Promise initialized');
    setTimeout(() => {
        console.log('Promise resolved')
    }, 1000);
// Output:
//Promise initialized
//Promise resolved

To create such a promise we call the constructor and pass in a function that takes two callbacks - one to successfully resolve the promise and another to make it fail. In this case we call the resolve callback to make it succeed after one second. We have thus created a promise that simply returns the string Result from promise after a second.

This only makes sense if we chain another operation to the promise to make use of the returned value. Just imagine the value has been calculated using a complex background calculation to make it more realistic. We chain together operations using the then method. It takes a callback function as an argument that will be called once the value of the promise is resolved.

const promise2 = promise.then(value => {
    console.log(`Value passed into then: ${value}`); // Value passed into then: Result from promise
    return `${value} plus stuff`;

In this case we return a new value based on the first one and the then method will create a new promise based on that. This means we can chain another operation to this, that might just log out the new value:

promise2.then(console.log); // Result from promise plus stuff

This is a little bit like a programmable semicolon, as we chain together statements using the special semantics of a promise.

You can catch errors using the catch method. Once an explicit rejection or an error occurs, the cause will be passed into the function provided.

// Fail with reject:
const promise = new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    console.log('Promise initialized');
    setTimeout(() => {
        reject("Something really bad happened");
    }, 1000);
.catch( (e) => console.log("ERROR: ", e)); // ERROR: Something really bad happened

// Fail with an Exception:
const promise = new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    const resolvedValue = 'Result from promise';
    console.log('Promise initialized');
    setTimeout(() => {
        console.log('Promise resolved')
    }, 1000);
}).then((x) => {
    throw Error('Something went wrong');
.then(() => {
    console.log('This will not be printed when rejected or an error occurred before');
.catch(e => console.log('error: ', e));

Additionally, io.js allows you to catch all unhandled errors from promises

You can also create a Promise for a value that already exists and resolve or reject it immediately by using the reject or resolve methods:

    .resolve('Hello') // creates and directly resolves promise
    //.reject('kaputt') // would create and directly reject promise
    .then(value => {
        return `${value}, World`;
    .catch(e => console.log('error: ', e))

Note for people with a background in functional programming: A JavaScript Promise is a bit like a monad. then would be the bind operation. And the return operation would be the Promise constructor in combination with the resolve method or Promise.resolve as a shortcut of this.


ES6 introduces a new primitive data type symbol. Using symbols you can create unique "identifiers" as each symbol is unique and immutable:

const one = Symbol();
const two = Symbol();
console.log(one !== two); // true

For debugging purposes you can add a description to a symbol:

const one = Symbol('My symbol');
const two = Symbol('Another symbol');

// Even two symbols with the same description are unique:
const good = Symbol('mood');
const bad = Symbol('mood');
console.log(good !== bad); // true

Its main use case is to serve as an identifier for object properties. Using symbols instead of strings allows you to implement private properties:

const Person = () => { // IIFE using arrow function
    // private
    const nameSymbol = Symbol('name'); // name is optional
    console.log(typeof nameSymbol); // symbol

    class Person {

        constructor(name) {
            this[nameSymbol] = name;

        get name() {
            return this[nameSymbol];

    return Person;

const olli = new Person("Olli");

console.log(; // Olli

// error as nameSymbol is out of scope

In this example we made it impossible to change the name property of objects of class Person. To be more precise, it is not really impossible, as you can still access all symbols of an object using the new introduced method Object.getOwnPropertySymbols if you really want to:

const ownPropertySymbols = Object.getOwnPropertySymbols(olli);
console.log(ownPropertySymbols); // [ Symbol(name) ]

// still possible to access private property if you really want
olli[ownPropertySymbols[0]] = 'Granny';
console.log(;  // Granny

Note: There are a couple of well-known symbols that are defined as static values on Symbol. In the specification they are referred to using @@name. One example is Symbol.iterator (referred to as @@iterator in the spec) which is described in the next section.

Iterators and Generators

for..of as described above can iterate over every object that is iterable. An object is iterable if it has a method that returns an iterator. This iterator-method does not have a name, but is accessed using the well-known symbol Symbol.iterator. The returned iterator is an object that has a method called next. The return value of the next function is another object that has a value property (representing the actual value of this element), plus a boolean property done that indicates if there are still more values to iterate over.

Ok, this gets a little involved, let us see some code to create such an iterable. This example iterable generates unique names by using name as prefix and a count as suffix. The count is increased with each iteration (i.e. invocation of the next function). Our next function always returns done: false making it an "endless" iterator:

const uniqueNamesIterable = {

    // The name of the iterator-function is derived from a computed property value - it is NOT 'iterator':
    [Symbol.iterator]() {
        let count = 0;
        const prefix = 'name';
        const iterator = {
            next() {
                const value = prefix + count++;
                return {done: false, value};
        return iterator;

for..of will initially create an iterator by calling the method behind Symbol.iterator and will then call next on that iterator with every iteration:

for (let name of uniqueNamesIterable) {
    // we just want three names
    if (name.endsWith('3')) break;
// outputs:
// name0
// name1
// name2

For transparency, we can simulate this behavior by doing the same thing manually using the next function of the iterator:

const iterator = uniqueNamesIterable[Symbol.iterator]();
// outputs:
// { done: false, value: 'name0' }
// { done: false, value: 'name1' }

As long as 'done' is false, for..of will keep on going.

Note: The spread operator ... - which has not been implemented in io.js, yet - uses the same protocol to enumerate all values of an iterable.

Generators can help to simplify this by reducing a bit of boiler plate code. A generator both creates the iterator and supplies its implementation. To indicate that a function is a generator, you use the function* declaration (note the star after the function keyword).

This code does the same thing as the example before:

const uniqueNamesIterable = {
    [Symbol.iterator]: function* () {
        let count = 0;
        const prefix = 'name';
        while (true) {
            const value = prefix + count++;
            yield value;

You no longer have to provide a next-method, but rather implement the generator in a sequential style. Instead of using return you use yield to provide values for iteration. The generator can also determine if we are done, yet, so you do not have to provide that information yourself.


Sandbox for ECMAScript 2015 features available in io.js




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