Abstract References Proposal for ECMAScript
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README.md

README.md

Abstract References for ECMAScript

This proposal has been superseded by the following two proposals:

Overview and Motivation

Despite its functional programming facilities, ECMAScript exhibits a strong preference for object-oriented "left-to-right" composition using instance methods. Unfortunately, composition by means of instance methods requires that extensibility be achieved by adding function-valued properties to the object or a prototype ancestor of the object. This leads to the following difficulties:

  • The API burden for an abstraction is placed upon the abstraction itself, either directly or by the introduction of inheritance hierarchies. This leads to an undesirable centralization of API surface.

  • Adding API surface to an existing abstraction introduces the possibility of breakage which can be difficult to predict.

  • By adding API surface directly to the object or one of its prototype ancestors, it is impossible to treat the object and the API as different capabilities. If a user has access to the object, then the user necessarily has access to the full API (part of which we might want to hide).

This proposal adds support for "left-to-right" syntactic composition using a new binary operator, which does not require adding properties and methods to the object itself. It accomplishes this by introducing the concept of "abstract references". Abstract references are an extension of the Reference specification type whose referenced name component may be an arbitrary object.

This proposal also provides a solution to the "private fields" problem.

This work was inspired by relationships and is intended to supersede it.

A prototype implementation of this feature is available in esdown and in the esdown online REPL.

Specification

We introduce three new built-in symbols:

  • @@referenceGet (Symbol.referenceGet)
  • @@referenceSet (Symbol.referenceSet)
  • @@referenceDelete (Symbol.referenceDelete)

We introduce a new abstract operation:

  • IsAbstractReference(V). Returns true if the referenced name component of the reference V is neither a primitive String nor a Symbol.

The abstract operation GetValue becomes:

  • ReturnIfAbrupt(V).
  • If Type(V) is not Reference, return V.
  • Let base be GetBase(V).
  • If IsUnresolvableReference(V), throw a ReferenceError exception.
  • If IsPropertyReference(V), then
    • If HasPrimitiveBase(V) is true, then
      • Assert: In this case, base will never be null or undefined.
      • Let base be ToObject(base).
    • If IsAbstractReference(V) is true, then
      • Let nameObject be GetReferencedName(V)
      • Return the result of Invoke(nameObject, @@referenceGet, (base))
    • Else
      • Return the result of calling the [[Get]] internal method of base passing GetReferencedName(V) and GetThisValue(V) as the arguments.
  • Else base must be an environment record,
    • Return the result of calling the GetBindingValue concrete method of base passing GetReferencedName(V) and IsStrictReference(V) as arguments.

The abstract operation PutValue becomes:

  • ReturnIfAbrupt(V).
  • ReturnIfAbrupt(W).
  • If Type(V) is not Reference, throw a ReferenceError exception.
  • Let base be GetBase(V).
  • If IsUnresolvableReference(V), then
    • If IsStrictReference(V) is true, then
      • Throw ReferenceError exception.
    • Let globalObj be the result of the abstract operation GetGlobalObject.
    • Return Put(globalObj, GetReferencedName(V), W, false).
  • Else if IsPropertyReference(V), then
    • If HasPrimitiveBase(V) is true, then
      • Assert: In this case, base will never be null or undefined.
      • Set base to ToObject(base).
    • If IsAbstractReference(V), then
      • Let nameObject be GetReferencedName(V)
      • Let result be Invoke(nameObject, @@referenceSet, (base, W))
      • ReturnIfAbrupt(result)
    • Else
      • Let succeeded be the result of calling the [[Set]] internal method of base passing GetReferencedName(V), W, and GetThisValue(V) as arguments.
      • ReturnIfAbrupt(succeeded).
      • If succeeded is false and IsStrictReference(V) is true, then throw a TypeError exception.
    • Return.
  • Else base must be a Reference whose base is an environment record.
    • Return the result of calling the SetMutableBinding concrete method of base, passing GetReferencedName(V), W, and IsStrictReference(V) as arguments.

The runtime semantics of the delete operator is modified as follows:

UnaryExpression : delete UnaryExpression
  • Let ref be the result of evaluating UnaryExpression.
  • ReturnIfAbrupt(ref).
  • If Type(ref) is not Reference, return true.
  • If IsUnresolvableReference(ref) is true, then
    • Assert: IsStrictReference(ref) is false.
    • Return true.
  • If IsPropertyReference(ref) is true, then
    • If IsSuperReference(ref), then throw a ReferenceError exception.
    • Let base be ToObject(GetBase(ref))
    • If IsAbstractReference(ref) is true, then
      • Let nameObject be GetReferencedName(V)
      • Let result be Invoke(nameObject, @@referenceDelete, (base))
      • Return true.
    • Else
      • Let deleteStatus be the result of calling the [[Delete]] internal method on base, providing GetReferencedName(ref) as the argument.
      • ReturnIfAbrupt(deleteStatus).
      • If deleteStatus is false and IsStrictReference(ref) is true, then throw a TypeError exception.
      • Return deleteStatus.
  • Else ref is a Reference to an Environment Record binding,
    • Let bindings be GetBase(ref).
    • Return the result of calling the DeleteBinding concrete method of bindings, providing GetReferencedName(ref) as the argument.

The only way to create a reference whose referenced name is neither a String nor a Symbol is by using the "abstract reference" operator:

MemberExpression[Yield] :
    MemberExpression[?Yield] :: IdentifierReference[?Yield]
  • Let baseReference be the result of evaluating MemberExpression.
  • Let baseValue be GetValue(baseReference).
  • ReturnIfAbrupt(baseValue).
  • Let nameValue be the result of evaluating IdentifierReference.
  • ReturnIfAbrupt(nameValue).
  • Let bv be RequireObjectCoercible(baseValue).
  • ReturnIfAbrupt(bv).
  • If the code matched by the syntactic production that is being evaluated is strict mode code, let strict be true, else let strict be false.
  • Return a value of type Reference whose base value is bv and whose referenced name is nameValue, and whose strict reference flag is strict.

Extensions to Built-In Types

The built-in types are extended as follows:

Function.prototype[Symbol.referenceGet] = function(base) { return this };

Map.prototype[Symbol.referenceGet] = Map.prototype.get;
Map.prototype[Symbol.referenceSet] = Map.prototype.set;
Map.prototype[Symbol.referenceDelete] = Map.prototype.delete;

WeakMap.prototype[Symbol.referenceGet] = WeakMap.prototype.get;
WeakMap.prototype[Symbol.referenceSet] = WeakMap.prototype.set;
WeakMap.prototype[Symbol.referenceDelete] = WeakMap.prototype.delete;

In addition, a new constructor named PrivateMap is added to the global object. The behavior of PrivateMap objects are identical to WeakMap objects, with the exception that PrivateMap.prototype does not contain a clear method.

The primary motivation for introducing the PrivateMap constructor is to allow the user to provide alternate garbage collection semantics. It is expected that the reachability of a value within a PrivateMap key/value pair is independent of the lifetime of the PrivateMap object.

Examples

Using an iterator library implemented as a module:

import { map, takeWhile, forEach } from "iterlib";

getPlayers()
::map(x => x.character())
::takeWhile(x => x.strength > 100)
::forEach(x => console.log(x));

Using PrivateMap objects to implement private object state:

const _x = new PrivateMap,
      _y = new PrivateMap;

class Point {

    constructor(x, y) {

        this::_x = x;
        this::_y = y;
    }

    toString() {

        return `[${ this::_x },${ this::_y }]`;
    }
}

Private Declaration Syntax

The above implementation of private object state suggests the following syntactic sugar:

private _x, _y; // => const _x = new PrivateMap, _y = new PrivateMap;

class Point {

    // ...
}