Good Example of JavaScript's Prototype-Based Inheritance

I have been programming with OOP languages for over 10 years but I'm learning JavaScript now and it's the first time I've encountered prototype-based inheritance. I tend to learn fastest by studying good code. What's a well-written example of a JavaScript application (or library) that properly uses prototypal inheritance? And can you describe (briefly) how/where prototypal inheritance is used, so I know where to start reading?

Answers


Douglas Crockford has a nice page on JavaScript Prototypal Inheritance:

Five years ago I wrote Classical Inheritance in JavaScript. It showed that JavaScript is a class-free, prototypal language, and that it has sufficient expressive power to simulate a classical system. My programming style has evolved since then, as any good programmer's should. I have learned to fully embrace prototypalism, and have liberated myself from the confines of the classical model.

Dean Edward's Base.js, Mootools's Class or John Resig's Simple Inheritance works are ways to do classical inheritance in JavaScript.


As mentioned, the movies by Douglas Crockford give a good explanation about the why and it covers the how. But to put it in a couple of lines of JavaScript:

// Declaring our Animal object
var Animal = function () {

    this.name = 'unknown';

    this.getName = function () {
        return this.name;
    }

    return this;
};

// Declaring our Dog object
var Dog = function () {

    // A private variable here        
    var private = 42;

    // overriding the name
    this.name = "Bello";

    // Implementing ".bark()"
    this.bark = function () {
        return 'MEOW';
    }  

    return this;
};


// Dog extends animal
Dog.prototype = new Animal();

// -- Done declaring --

// Creating an instance of Dog.
var dog = new Dog();

// Proving our case
console.log(
    "Is dog an instance of Dog? ", dog instanceof Dog, "\n",
    "Is dog an instance of Animal? ", dog instanceof Animal, "\n",
    dog.bark() +"\n", // Should be: "MEOW"
    dog.getName() +"\n", // Should be: "Bello"
    dog.private +"\n" // Should be: 'undefined'
);

The problem with this approach however, is that it will re-create the object every time you create one. Another approach is to declare your objects on the prototype stack, like so:

// Defining test one, prototypal
var testOne = function () {};
testOne.prototype = (function () {
    var me = {}, privateVariable = 42;
    me.someMethod = function () {
        return privateVariable;
    };

    me.publicVariable = "foo bar";
    me.anotherMethod = function () {
        return this.publicVariable;
    };

    return me;

}());


// Defining test two, function
var testTwo = ​function() {
    var me = {}, privateVariable = 42;
    me.someMethod = function () {
        return privateVariable;
    };

    me.publicVariable = "foo bar";
    me.anotherMethod = function () {
        return this.publicVariable;
    };

    return me;
};


// Proving that both techniques are functionally identical
var resultTestOne = new testOne(),
    resultTestTwo = new testTwo();

console.log(
    resultTestOne.someMethod(), // Should print 42
    resultTestOne.publicVariable // Should print "foo bar"
);

console.log(
    resultTestTwo.someMethod(), // Should print 42
    resultTestTwo.publicVariable // Should print "foo bar"
);



// Performance benchmark start
var stop, start, loopCount = 1000000;

// Running testOne
start = (new Date()).getTime(); 
for (var i = loopCount; i>0; i--) {
    new testOne();
}
stop = (new Date()).getTime();

console.log('Test one took: '+ Math.round(((stop/1000) - (start/1000))*1000) +' milliseconds');



// Running testTwo
start = (new Date()).getTime(); 
for (var i = loopCount; i>0; i--) {
    new testTwo();
}
stop = (new Date()).getTime();

console.log('Test two took: '+ Math.round(((stop/1000) - (start/1000))*1000) +' milliseconds');

There is a slight downside when it comes to introspection. Dumping testOne, will result in less useful information. Also the private property "privateVariable" in "testOne" is shared in all instances, als helpfully mentioned in the replies by shesek.


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