ES6 added fat-arrow functions (=>), which have two major differences from normal functions:

  • shorter syntax (including implicit return if you use a single-expression body)
  • inherit this from surrounding scope

These are both very useful features, but seem to me completely separate in their value and application – sometimes I want one, or the other, or both, or neither. It seems odd that if I want to use a short-syntax function, I have to also use the this-modifying behaviour. And vice versa. I don't see why these two capabilities are implemented as a single addition to the language.

What if I want to use a short syntax function for its implicit return and brevity (in some context where a full function (..) { return ...} would be slightly less readable), but I want to use this in my function to refer to the calling context? There's no way to do this.

CoffeeScript has both -> and => style functions, and apparently ES6 borrowed the => style from there. So my question is, why didn't ES6 also borrow the -> style?

  • fat-arrow functions have other differences, like they can't bind arguments either.
    – DeadMG
    Dec 29, 2015 at 12:36
  • If at times all you want is the surrounding scope, you can always bind this to the closure in a full function declaration. This might not be the part you are concerned about though.
    – Ben
    Jan 11, 2018 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


See the proposal to add arrow functions: http://wiki.ecmascript.org/doku.php?id=harmony:arrow_function_syntax1

What it says is:

However, we don’t want CoffeeScript’s ->, it’s confusing to have two arrows and dynamic this binding is an oft-fired footgun.

You can also see some discussion of a previous version of the proposal which did have the -> syntax as well: https://esdiscuss.org/topic/arrow-function-syntax-simplified

It appears to come down to the following:

  1. Having two arrow syntaxes with subtly different semantics would increase complication and confusion.
  2. The dynamic this binding of function() and -> was deemed rarely useful, and a foot-gun.
  3. If you really need dynamic this binding, you can still use function(), having a shortcut syntax wasn't very helpful.
  • 1
    +1. Note specifically that ES6 is the second attempt at introducing these features, which were originally planned for inclusion in ES4, but the spec was abandoned when it became clear that major stakeholders thought it was too complex and likely to break backwards compatibility. Keeping everything as simple as possible must have been an important goal for the committee this time.
    – Jules
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:05
  • 1
    Thanks for your answer but I don't think it covers it. Less doesn't mean simpler; I'd argue it's more complex having to switch between two very different function syntaxes just to get different this-binding logic (compared to switching a single character). Having "multiple types of functions with varying semantics" is not a terrible idea; it's exactly what we do have in fact. And I don't see what backwards compatibility has to do with anything we're talking about. I'm not suggesting they should have removed support for the classic function syntax, if that's what you mean
    – callum
    Dec 29, 2015 at 21:38
  • 3
    @callum, the consensus (at least among the people making this decision) is that function() style this binding was a mistake and is a wart on the language. If they could, they'd change function() to have => semantics, but they can't because that would break backwards compatibility. Dec 29, 2015 at 21:50
  • 2
    @WinstonEwert hang on, are you saying the people making the decision would have preferred if they could change function() to inherit this from surrounding scope like => does? In that case, wouldn't this just refer to the global object everywhere? Sounds weird. Where did you hear that?
    – callum
    Jan 4, 2016 at 17:43
  • 4
    This may have an accepted answer, but it seems like poor language design. If you have a language that requires a fat arrow, then a thin arrow should be available as well. The former forces everyone to begin thinking in terms of objects, whereas the latter acknowledges javascripts history of functional design first, and deferred context.
    – Core
    Apr 13, 2016 at 18:18

Because they didn't invent it. They took CoffeeScript/LiveScript idea and modified it, they thought it would be better (which is not, imo, because basic always win technically).

When I say "they" I mean that there is no author, no one is responsible and you won't have any complains about the idea itself.

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