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    A surprising feature of JavaScript optional chaining

    In 2020 JavaScript gained a new feature – optional chaining. It solves a problem we've had ... forever. With many workarounds and standard solutions over the years.

    The problem optional chaining solves

    You get an object like this:

    const object = {
      greet: "hai",
      deepProp: {
        greet: "hello",
        deeperProp: {
          greet: "ohai",

    JSON response from an API or reading from a database. Perhaps a blob you've built up on the frontend.

    How do you access the 3rd level greet, if object, deepProp, and deeperProp might be undefined?

    You could rely on JavaScript's evaluation semantics. Last value from expression is returned.

    const greeting =
      object &&
      object.deepProp &&
      object.deepProp.deeperProp &&

    Confusing for newbies, annoying to write, easy to get wrong. Exploding complexity to boot.

    A clearer way to write that are conditionals:

    let greeting = undefined
    if (object) {
      if (object.deepProp) {
        if (object.deepProp.deeperProp) {
          greeting = object.deepProp.deeperProp

    Clearer, more verbose, nobody writes this in production code. Feels weird to use conditionals for assignment. 🀷

    Another common approach is to use a library like Lodash:

    const greeting = _.get(object, "deepProp.deeperProp.greet")

    Personally not a fan. Feels unnecessary.

    Use optional chaining

    With optional chaining you can do this natively:

    const greeting = object?.deepProp?.deeperProp?.greet


    You've probably seen that before. Everyone's been very excited after wishing this existed for 10+ years.

    But you might've missed that the operator is ?., not ?. This is important because you can optionally chain anything 🀯

    Function calls:


    Array access:


    And even expressions:

    object?.deepProp?.[console.log("runs if deepProp defined")]

    Please don't use that last one πŸ˜…


    Published on June 24th, 2021 in JavaScript, Technical

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