Async iterators will enable JavaScript engineers to read steams like lines of text from a web service or a file. It will be worth reading my previous post understanding sync iterators first before carrying on.

It may seem plausible for a for-of loop to iterate through lines in a file but ultimately it can’t execute until it has received the whole contents.

for (const line of fetchFile(fileName)) { console.log(line); 
}

Girl walking away
Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

On an iterable object the next() method returns an object of { value, done } and these values need to be known when it returns. This means that if we did use an iterator on a async data source, the iteration would finish before the data is resolved.

const syncIterator = { [Symbol.iterator]: function () { const asyncData = [Promise.resolve('A'), Promise.resolve('B')]; while (asyncData.length) { yield asyncData.shift(); } } 
} for (const item of syncIterator) { console.log("iterate"); item.then(console.log);
}
console.log("done");
// iterate
// iterate
// done
// A
// B

A new protocol has been added [Symbol.asyncIterator] to enable asynchronous iteration. On the face of it a iterator looks similar to a async iterator except a promise is returned when calling the next(). Resolving the promise will give access to iterator state object. See the example below:

asyncIterator.next().then((data) => { console.log(data); // {value: 'a' done: false} return asyncIterator.next(); 
}).then((data) => { console.log(data); // {value: 'b' done: false} return asyncIterator.next();
}).then((data) => { console.log(data); // {value: undefined done: true}
});

You can, of course, use async/await to read the data from the stream to make it cleaner, see below:

async function readData(asyncIterator){ console.log(await asyncIterator.next()); // {value: 'a' done: false} console.log(await asyncIterator.next()); // {value: 'b' done: false} console.log(await asyncIterator.next()); // {value: undefined done: true} 
}

A new for loop called for-await-of is also being introduced which is similar to the sync iterator for-of loop. This can only be used within async functions as defined by the ECMAScript specification. See example below:

async function printFile() { for await (const lineX of readFile('x.file')) { console.log(lineX); } 
}

If you’re a bit confused I’ve written a post about async/await and promises.

Async generator around Fetch API

Async iterators enable you to read streams in the browser. For example using fetch the response.body is a ReadableStream which can be iterated over. To read the chunked responses the next().then is called directly. See below for getting React contributors from GitHub.

async function streamContributors(repoPath) { let response = await fetch(https://api.github.com/repos/</span><span class="p">${</span><span class="nx">repoPath</span><span class="p">}</span><span class="s2">/stats/contributors); const reader = response.body.getReader(); try { while (true) { const {done, value} = await reader.read(); if (done) return; yield value; } } finally { reader.releaseLock(); } 
} const reactContributors = streamContributors('facebook/react'); reactContributors.next().then((data) => { console.log('output1: ', new TextDecoder("utf-8").decode(data.value));
}); reactContributors.next().then((data) => { console.log('output2: ', new TextDecoder("utf-8").decode(data.value));
});

Defining an async generator is similar to a generator except it has async at the start, async function* streamContributors. We await on the fetch to resolve the response. Then the body is accessible and a reader is created and locked by calling body.getReader(). In a try/catch an infinite loop is used to continually read data, however, yield will pause the loop until the next method is called.

When reading the chunked data in the resolved promise it is in a Uint8Array which needs to be decoded using TextDecoder.

Once done reading the steam, the loop is exited and the finally block is hit to release the stream. This must be done because once a reader is locked another one cannot be created until the current one is released.

Search for contributor

I’ve modified the above code which you can see below. It now searches the stream for a React contributor on GitHub. The Uint8Array is converted to text in the streamContributors function, as we are now interested in searching the text. A new async search function takes the parameters, stream and username. In there the for-await-of loop is used to iterate through each chunk. If the user is found it will return the avatar URL. The final part is calling the search function which returns a promise and when it resolves it will log out the avatar url.

async function streamContributors(repoPath) { let response = await fetch(https://api.github.com/repos/</span><span class="p">${</span><span class="nx">repoPath</span><span class="p">}</span><span class="s2">/stats/contributors); const reader = response.body.getReader(); const decoder = new TextDecoder("utf-8"); try { while (true) { const {done, value} = await reader.read(); if (done) return; yield decoder.decode(value); } } finally { reader.releaseLock(); } 
} async function search(stream, username){ for await (const author of stream){ const authorPosition = author.indexOf(&quot;login&quot;: &quot;</span><span class="p">${</span><span class="nx">username</span><span class="p">}</span><span class="s2">&quot;); if(authorPosition > -1){ const authorAvatarRegExp = /"avatar_url":\s"(.
)",/gmi; const avatarUrl = authorAvatarRegExp.exec(author.slice(authorPosition))[1]; return { avatarUrl }; } }
} search(streamContributors('facebook/react'), 'acdlite').then((data) => { console.log(data); // { avatarUrl : "https://avatars0.githubusercontent.com/u/3624098?v=4"}
});

Hope you found these code snippets useful for learning about async iterators. Play around with the code above and see my Codepen on async iterators to search GitHub contributors.

References: