I am delighted to share with folks the results of a project I have been helping out on for the last few months: implementation of "BigInt" in Firefox, which is finally shipping in Firefox 68 (beta).
what's a bigint?
BigInts are written like "normal" integers, but with an n suffix:
var a = 1n; var b = a + 42n; b << 64n // result: 793209995169510719488n
With the bigint proposal, the usual mathematical operations (+, -, *, /, %, <<, >>, **, and the comparison operators) are extended to operate on bigint values. As a new kind of primitive value, bigint values have their own typeof:
typeof 1n // result: 'bigint'
Besides allowing for more kinds of math to be easily and efficiently expressed, BigInt also allows for better interoperability with systems that use 64-bit numbers, such as "inodes" in file systems, WebAssembly i64 values, high-precision timers, and so on.
You can read more about the BigInt feature over on MDN, as usual. You might also like this short article on BigInt basics that V8 engineer Mathias Bynens wrote when Chrome shipped support for BigInt last year. There is an accompanying language implementation article as well, for those of y'all that enjoy the nitties and the gritties.
can i ship it?
To try out BigInt in Firefox, simply download a copy of Firefox Beta. This version of Firefox will be fully released to the public in a few weeks, on July 9th. If you're reading this in the future, I'm talking about Firefox 68.
I must mention that my role in the BigInt work was relatively small; my Igalia colleague Robin Templeton did the bulk of the BigInt implementation work in Firefox, so large ups to them. Hearty thanks also to Mozilla's Jan de Mooij and Jeff Walden for their patient and detailed code reviews.
Thanks as well to the V8 engineers for their open source implementation of BigInt fundamental algorithms, as we used many of them in Firefox.
Finally, I need to make one big thank-you, and I hope that you will join me in expressing it. The road to ship anything in a web browser is long; besides the "simple matter of programming" that it is to implement a feature, you need a specification with buy-in from implementors and web standards people, you need a good working relationship with a browser vendor, you need willing technical reviewers, you need to follow up on the inevitable security bugs that any browser change causes, and all of this takes time. It's all predicated on having the backing of an organization that's foresighted enough to invest in this kind of long-term, high-reward platform engineering.
In that regard I think all people that work on the web platform should send a big shout-out to Tech at Bloomberg for making BigInt possible by underwriting all of Igalia's work in this area. Thank you, Bloomberg, and happy hacking!