DOM: NodeList vs HTMLCollection

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Difference Between NodeList, HTMLCollection

NodeList is a collection of nodes. Node includes any HTM/XML element, and also text content of a element, such as inner text of <p>…</p>.

HTMLCollection is a collection of HTM/XML elements.

Has ForEach or Iterable?

As of 2019-05-30, on Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox:

HTMLCollection vs NodeList, as of 2019-05-30
Interfacetrue arrayhas forEachiterable
NodeList noyesyes
HTMLCollection vs NodeList 2019-05-30 943mt
HTMLCollection vs NodeList, as of 2019-05-30. Both not true array. But one inherit forEach. Both inherit Symbol.iterator (so is iterable)
// print info of a object, see if they are true array, or iterable.
// version 2019-05-30
const ff = ((x) => {
console.log("Type is:", Reflect.apply ( Object.prototype.toString , x, [] ) );
console.log("is true array:", Array.isArray ( x ) );
console.log("has forEach:", Reflect.has ( x , "forEach") );
console.log("is iterable:", Reflect.has ( x , Symbol.iterator ) );

ff (document.getElementsByTagName("p"));
ff (document.getElementsByClassName("x"));
ff (document.getElementsByName("x"));

Iterable Object

• NodeList and HTMLCollection are iterable objects.

You can use for-of loop on them.

[see JS: for-of Loop]

Array-Like Object

• NodeList and HTMLCollection are array-like objects.

[see JS: Array-Like Object]

To use array methods on array-like object, call the method like this:, f)

[see JS: Function Call, Apply, Bind]

you can convert it to array by:

Array.from ( array_like_obj )

[see JS: Array-Like Object to Array]

Live Object or No?

• NodeList and HTMLCollection are NOT ALWAYS live objects. For example: document.querySelectorAll return a non-live object. [see DOM: Get Elements by ID, Tag, Name, Class, CSS Selector]

• There's no builtin way to find out whether NodeList or HTMLCollection is live object.

• When working with live objects, you must be careful, not to insert or remove element within a loop. [see DOM: What Does Live Object Mean?]

NEVER use for (var x in object) {…}, because that loops thru all enumerable properties and goes into prototype chain. [see JS: Access Property]

The most supported and safe and fast way to loop thru array-like object is a normal loop, like this:

for (let i = 0; i < myNodeList.length; ++i) {… myNodeList[i] …}

What Does getElementsByClassName Return?

As of 2019-05-30, on Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox:

HTMLCollection vs NodeList 2019-05-30 g4dt4
HTMLCollection vs NodeList 2019-05-30 g4dt4
// print if the DOM get element functions return node list or hmtl collection
].forEach (((x) => {
let y = document[x] ("p");
console.log( `${x} → ${Reflect.apply ( Object.prototype.toString , y, [] )}`);

As of 2013-04-26, getElementsByClassName in {Firefox, Internet Explorer} return HTMLCollection. {Chrome, Safari, Opera} return NodeList. Older versions of Firefox returns NodeList.

[see DOM: Get Elements by ID, Tag, Name, Class, CSS Selector]

As of 2016-07-02, getElementsByClassName in {Google Chrome, Firefox} returns HTMLCollection.

As of 2019-05-30, getElementsByClassName in {Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox} returns HTMLCollection.

How to Determine NodeList or HTMLCollection

You can find out the type by: (document .getElementsByClassName("xyz") )

It'll return a string like "[object HTMLCollection]" or "[object NodeList]".

[see JS: Determine Type of Object]

Even Browsers and W3C Are Confused

Here's what Mozilla says:

Note: While the W3C DOM 3 Core specification says elements is a NodeList that was simply because of a an attempt to have the “core” specification not depend on the “html” specification at that time. The DOM 4 draft says that elements is an HTMLCollection.

Gecko/Firefox currently returns a NodeList (Bug 162927) but starting with Gecko/Firefox 19, this method will return HTMLCollection (Bug 799464). Internet Explorer returns a HTMLCollection. WebKit returns a NodeList. Opera also returns a NodeList, but with a namedItem method implemented, which makes it similar to a HTMLCollection.

, from

Here's WHATWG says as of 2016-07-02:

Elements is the better solution for representing a collection of elements. HTMLCollection is an historical artifact we cannot rid the web of.

Web Scripting Overview

  1. Browser Window Object, DOM
  2. Intro to Event-Based Programing
  3. JavaScript Load Order

DOM How-To

  1. Basic DOM Methods
  2. Get Element by ID, Tag, Name, Class, CSS
  3. Change CSS
  4. Change Node Content
  5. Create/Insert Node
  6. Remove Node
  7. Get Attribute Value
  8. Set Attribute Value
  9. Remove Attribute
  10. List/Add/Remove Class Attribute
  11. Add/Remove Event Handler
  12. Navigate DOM Tree
  13. Node Type, Name, Value

HTML Input

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Web Scripting Examples

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  9. Falling Snow Effect
  10. Box Following Scroll

Web Scripting Misc

  1. Web Cookies
  2. Web Storage
  3. DOM: Open URL
  4. Encode URL, Escape String
  5. Browser Info, Navigator Object
  6. Get URL (window.location)
  7. Find Window Width
  8. Find Element Width
  9. WebSocket
  10. Value of “this” in Event Handler
  11. Event Delegation
  12. Get Current Script Tag
  13. insertAfter Element
  14. Randomize List
  15. create Document Fragment
  16. innerHTML, nodeValue, textContent, innerText?
  17. What is Live Object
  18. NodeList vs HTMLCollection
  19. Whitespace Nodes


  1. jQuery Basics
  2. jQuery() vs querySelectorAll()
  3. Write JQuery Plugin


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