What’s the meaning of “=>” (an arrow formed from equals & greater than) in JavaScript?

What It Is

This is an arrow function. Arrow functions are a short syntax, introduced by ECMAscript 6, that can be used similarly to the way you would use function expressions. In other words, you can often use them in place of expressions like function (foo) {...}. But they have some important differences. For example, they do not bind their own values of this (see below for discussion).

Arrow functions are part of the ECMAscript 6 specification. They are not yet supported in all browsers, but they are partially or fully supported in Node v. 4.0+ and in most modern browsers in use as of 2018. (I’ve included a partial list of supporting browsers below).

You can read more in the Mozilla documentation on arrow functions.

From the Mozilla documentation:

An arrow function expression (also known as fat arrow function) has a shorter syntax compared to function expressions and lexically binds the this value (does not bind its own thisargumentssuper, or new.target). Arrow functions are always anonymous. These function expressions are best suited for non-method functions and they can not be used as constructors.

A Note on How this Works in Arrow Functions

One of the most handy features of an arrow function is buried in the text above:

An arrow function… lexically binds the this value (does not bind its own this…)

What this means in simpler terms is that the arrow function retains the this value from its context and does not have its own this. A traditional function may bind its own this value, depending on how it is defined and called. This can require lots of gymnastics like self = this;, etc., to access or manipulate this from one function inside another function. For more info on this topic, see the explanation and examples in the Mozilla documentation.

Example Code

Example (also from the docs):

var a = [
  "We're up all night 'til the sun",
  "We're up all night to get some",
  "We're up all night for good fun",
  "We're up all night to get lucky"
];

// These two assignments are equivalent:

// Old-school:
var a2 = a.map(function(s){ return s.length });

// ECMAscript 6 using arrow functions
var a3 = a.map( s => s.length );

// both a2 and a3 will be equal to [31, 30, 31, 31]


Notes on Compatibility

You can use arrow functions in Node, but browser support is spotty.

Browser support for this functionality has improved quite a bit, but it still is not widespread enough for most browser-based usages. As of December 12, 2017, it is supported in current versions of:

  • Chrome (v. 45+)
  • Firefox (v. 22+)
  • Edge (v. 12+)
  • Opera (v. 32+)
  • Android Browser (v. 47+)
  • Opera Mobile (v. 33+)
  • Chrome for Android (v. 47+)
  • Firefox for Android (v. 44+)
  • Safari (v. 10+)
  • iOS Safari (v. 10.2+)
  • Samsung Internet (v. 5+)
  • Baidu Browser (v. 7.12+)

Not supported in:

  • IE (through v. 11)
  • Opera Mini (through v. 8.0)
  • Blackberry Browser (through v. 10)
  • IE Mobile (through v. 11)
  • UC Browser for Android (through v. 11.4)
  • QQ (through v. 1.2)

You can find more (and more current) information at CanIUse.com (no affiliation).

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