Is a Redux Store Observable?

Redux stores and RxJS Observables both have a subscribe method with a similar signature – but are they really the same thing?

If you’ve been using JavaScript for a while, then you’ve probably heard of observables. They’re at the core of Apollo Client, Angular JS, and there’s even a proposal to add them to JavaScript itself.

Of course, for many people, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word observables is the enormous RxJS library. And because of this, it can seem like observables are big, complicated things. But in truth, they can be as simple as a plain object with a subscribe method.

interface Observable<T> {
  subscribe(onNext: (value: T) => void): () => void

While slightly different to the RxJS Observable, the above interface accomplishes exactly the same thing. It says: an Observable is an object with a subscribe() method, that takes an onNext(value) callback, and returns a function (which can be used to cancel the subscription). Simple, right? In fact, if you’ve ever used a Redux store, you might have seen something similar.

#Redux’s Store

When you create a store using Redux’s createStore() function, you’ll get an object with a subscribe() method. In fact, this looks a lot like an Observable’s subscribe() method — but there’s an important difference.

interface ReduxStore {
  subscribe(onChange: () => void): () => void

Can you see what the difference is? Check your answer by clicking the spoiler below.

The callback that you pass to a Redux store’s subscribe() method does not receive any arguments!

Where an observable’s subscribe() function notifies you of each value as it occurs, Redux’s subscribe function only tells you that something changed… probably. To find out what changed, you’ll need to call another method on the store object: getState().

interface ReduxStore<T> {
  getState(): T

#A trick question

Say that you have an observable, and you want to log every value that it produces to the console. Here’s how you’d do it:

observable.subscribe((value) => {

Makes sense, right? So the next question is: how would you log every state of a Redux store to the console? Let’s do this as an exercise!

Your task is is to log every state of the below store to the console.

Remember: you can get the current state with store.getState().

You may think that this exercise looks far too simple, but give it a try anyway — you’ll see why when you’re done.

import { store } from './store'

console.log('Your task: log each new store state to the console.')

store.subscribe(() => {
  // TODO

for (let i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
  store.dispatch({ type: 'next' })

    How’d you go? Did you find something odd, where the console displayed every even number between 2 and 10 — twice? Let me explain why.

    While index.js only dispatches 5 actions, store.js also has a subscribe() handler — and this one dispatches a second next action whenever the current state is an odd number.

    store.subscribe(() => { 
      if (store.getState() % 2 === 1) {
          type: 'next',


    There’s an important difference between Observables and Redux-like stores — which I’m going to start calling Sources, and which I’m going to define as having a getCurrentValue() function in place of getState().

    interface Source<T> {
      subscribe(onChange: () => void): () => void
      getCurrentValue(): T

    While an Observable passes every value to every subscribe callback, a Source makes no such guarantee; it can skip values. This makes Sources less capable than Observables in some ways; for example, you can’t reduce over a Source’s values. Interestingly though, this limitation actually makes Sources a much better fit for building UIs with React, because it allows for an interesting possibility.

    What if there is no current value?

    What if getCurrentValue() throws an Error? What if it throws a Promise? What if you pass a source that throws an Error or Promise to React’s useSubscription hook? You’ll get Suspense and Error Boundaries support without writing a single line of component or hook-based code.

    Okay James, but what’s your point?

    Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting you throw out Apollo Client and switch back to Redux — after all, Redux’s getState() can’t throw promises. But it is food for thought.

    About James

    Hi! I've been playing with JavaScript for over half my life, and am building Frontend Armory to help share what I've learned along the way!

    Tokyo, Japan