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    Understanding Prototype Delegation within JavaScript's Class Keyword

    Tyler ClarkTyler Clark
    javascriptJavaScript

    The ES6 class keyword is syntactical sugar for working with functions and prototypes. It is not to be confused with classes in classical languages like Java or C#. It's functionality seems to replicate classical behavior but still has significant differences. Let’s explore these and create some of our own JavaScript classes which use the extends keyword.

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    Transcript

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    Instructor: 00:00 The class keyword was introduced with ES6. It's important to understand that it's just syntactic sugar over a regular JavaScript function. It's easy to see the class keyword and compare it to classical languages like Java and C#.

    00:15 However, behind the scenes, classes still use the prototype delegation model. Because it's just syntactic sugar over our function, it's going to have a prototype. That prototype's going to be in an object.

    00:28 Let's add a method on our class Vehicle called isLegal that returns true. Then we'll create a new class called Car. It'll have a method called canBeUsed, which will return the return value of this.isLegal.

    00:41 Now if we were to execute this, this would throw an error. We want to use the isLegal method that lives on the class Vehicle. To get this to work, we'll write, "extends Vehicle" on our class.

    00:53 Now if we console.log a new Car and call canBeUsed, we'll see that we get true back. This is because the this keyword is referencing the newly created object we get by using the new keyword on our Car class.

    01:07 This newly created object is prototype-linked to the Vehicle's prototype object through the use of the extends keyword. The extends keywords creates what looks and acts similar to a classical parent-to-child relationship.

    01:20 However, instead of properties being copied from one class to another, which is done in classical languages, methods and properties that are written inside of a class are actually created on the prototype object of that class.

    01:35 If we did const myCar = new Car, then we changed our console.log to be Object.getPrototypeOf(myCar) = Car.prototype, you can see that this is true.

    01:48 The getPrototypeOf method returns the object that is next in line on the prototype chain. This is the same result that you'd get if you wrote this as a function instead of a class.

    01:59 Now that we know that the next in line prototype of myCar is Car.prototype, if we did console.log Object.getPrototypeOf Car's prototype and compared it Vehicle's prototype, this will return true as well.

    02:16 Which is saying that because of the use of the extends keyword, the Car's prototype object, not the class itself, is prototype-linked to the Vehicle's prototype object. We're only able to have access to the isLegal function because isLegal actually lives on the Vehicle's prototype object, not on the class itself.

    02:40 If we wanted to invoke isLegal on the prototype object, all we'd have to do is Vehicle.prototype.isLegal. We see that we get true back.

    Discuss

    Discuss