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operators Multicasting conclusion
Draft as of December 7, 2016

Part 3: Multicasting

This walkthrough has introduced you to most of the important concepts to understand about Observables and how they work:

  • Observables connect listeners to event sources, providing a consistent API for any kind of asynchronous messaging.

  • Observables can be chained together with operators, allowing you to define which functions data should flow through before it reaches a listener.

  • Observables are lazy - until you call subscribe, they won’t do anything. This means you can describe a whole pipeline with as many operators as you like, but until someone subscribes to the tail, none of them will do any work.

There’s an important nuance here: Observables just connect listeners to sources

  • they don’t store values themselves. This means that if you subscribe to the same source 3 times:
const point$ = pointerEvent$.map(
  pointerEvent => ({
    x: pointerEvent.pageX,
    y: pointerEvent.pageY
  () => console.log('called')


connect, map, and tap will each be called 3 times. If you’re doing expensive calculations in any of those functions, you’ll want to only do that work once.

So, let’s add another operator to our CustomObservable that remembers the last value its source dispatched, and passes that value on to any observers further down the chain.

class CustomObservable extends IndefiniteObservable {
  memoize() {
    // Keep track of all the observers who have subscribed,
    // so we can notify them when we get new values.
    const observers = new Set();
    let subscription;
    let lastValue;
    let hasStarted = false;

    return new CustomObservable(
      observer => {
        // If we already know about this observer, we don't
        // have to do anything else.
        if (observers.has(observer)) {
            'observer is already subscribed; ignoring', 

        // Whenever we have at least one subscription, we
        // should be subscribed to the parent stream (this).
        if (!observers.size) {
          subscription = this.subscribe({
            next(value) {
              // The parent stream has dispatched a value, so
              // pass it along to all the children, and cache
              // it for any observers that subscribe before
              // the next dispatch.
                observer =>

              hasStarted = true;
              lastValue = value;


        if (hasStarted) {

        return () => {

          if (!observers.size) {
            subscription = null;

Now, if we do a bunch of expensive work in an operator, we can cache the value and pass it to as many observers as we like for free:

const transformedValue$ = originalValue$.map(
  () => console.log('called')


Now, map, tap, and any other computation in originalValue$ will only run once.