Using “Object.create” instead of “new”

Using “Object.create” instead of “new”

Javascript 1.9.3 / ECMAScript 5 introduces Object.create, which Douglas Crockford amongst others has been advocating for a long time. How do I replace new in the code below with Object.create?
var UserA = function(nameParam) {
this.id = MY_GLOBAL.nextId();
this.name = nameParam;
}
UserA.prototype.sayHello = function() {
console.log(‘Hello ‘+ this.name);
}
var bob = new UserA(‘bob’);
bob.sayHello();

(Assume MY_GLOBAL.nextId exists).
The best I can come up with is:
var userB = {
init: function(nameParam) {
this.id = MY_GLOBAL.nextId();
this.name = nameParam;
},
sayHello: function() {
console.log(‘Hello ‘+ this.name);
}
};
var bob = Object.create(userB);
bob.init(‘Bob’);
bob.sayHello();

There doesn’t seem to be any advantage, so I think I’m not getting it. I’m probably being too neo-classical. How should I use Object.create to create user ‘bob’?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

With only one level of inheritance, your example may not let you see the real benefits of Object.create.

This methods allows you to easily implement differential inheritance, where objects can directly inherit from other objects.

On your userB example, I don’t think that your init method should be public or even exist, if you call again this method on an existing object instance, the id and name properties will change.

Object.create lets you initialize object properties using its second argument, e.g.:

var userB = {
  sayHello: function() {
    console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
  }
};

var bob = Object.create(userB, {
  'id' : {
    value: MY_GLOBAL.nextId(),
    enumerable:true // writable:false, configurable(deletable):false by default
  },
  'name': {
    value: 'Bob',
    enumerable: true
  }
});

As you can see, the properties can be initialized on the second argument of Object.create, with an object literal using a syntax similar to the used by the Object.defineProperties and Object.defineProperty methods.

It lets you set the property attributes (enumerable, writable, or configurable), which can be really useful.

Solution 2:

There is really no advantage in using Object.create(...) over new object.

Those advocating this method generally state rather ambiguous advantages: “scalability”, or “more natural to JavaScript” etc.

However, I have yet to see a concrete example that shows that Object.create has any advantages over using new. On the contrary there are known problems with it. Sam Elsamman describes what happens when there are nested objects and Object.create(...) is used:

var Animal = {
    traits: {},
}
var lion = Object.create(Animal);
lion.traits.legs = 4;
var bird = Object.create(Animal);
bird.traits.legs = 2;
alert(lion.traits.legs) // shows 2!!!

This occurs because Object.create(...) advocates a practice where data is used to create new objects; here the Animal datum becomes part of the prototype of lion and bird, and causes problems as it is shared. When using new the prototypal inheritance is explicit:

function Animal() {
    this.traits = {};
}

function Lion() { }
Lion.prototype = new Animal();
function Bird() { }
Bird.prototype = new Animal();

var lion = new Lion();
lion.traits.legs = 4;
var bird = new Bird();
bird.traits.legs = 2;
alert(lion.traits.legs) // now shows 4

Regarding, the optional property attributes that are passed into Object.create(...), these can be added using Object.defineProperties(...).

Solution 3:

Object.create is not yet standard on several browsers, for example IE8, Opera v11.5, Konq 4.3 do not have it. You can use Douglas Crockford’s version of Object.create for those browsers but this doesn’t include the second ‘initialisation object’ parameter used in CMS’s answer.

For cross browser code one way to get object initialisation in the meantime is to customise Crockford’s Object.create. Here is one method:-

Object.build = function(o) {
   var initArgs = Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments,1)
   function F() {
      if((typeof o.init === 'function') && initArgs.length) {
         o.init.apply(this,initArgs)
      }
   }
   F.prototype = o
   return new F()
}

This maintains Crockford prototypal inheritance, and also checks for any init method in the object, then runs it with your parameter(s), like say new man(‘John’,’Smith’). Your code then becomes:-

MY_GLOBAL = {i: 1, nextId: function(){return this.i++}}  // For example

var userB = {
    init: function(nameParam) {
        this.id = MY_GLOBAL.nextId();
        this.name = nameParam;
    },
    sayHello: function() {
        console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
    }
};
var bob = Object.build(userB, 'Bob');  // Different from your code
bob.sayHello();

So bob inherits the sayHello method and now has own properties id=1 and name=’Bob’. These properties are both writable and enumerable of course. This is also a much simpler way to initialise than for ECMA Object.create especially if you aren’t concerned about the writable, enumerable and configurable attributes.

For initialisation without an init method the following Crockford mod could be used:-

Object.gen = function(o) {
   var makeArgs = arguments 
   function F() {
      var prop, i=1, arg, val
      for(prop in o) {
         if(!o.hasOwnProperty(prop)) continue
         val = o[prop]
         arg = makeArgs[i++]
         if(typeof arg === 'undefined') break
         this[prop] = arg
      }
   }
   F.prototype = o
   return new F()
}

This fills the userB own properties, in the order they are defined, using the Object.gen parameters from left to right after the userB parameter. It uses the for(prop in o) loop so, by ECMA standards, the order of property enumeration cannot be guaranteed the same as the order of property definition. However, several code examples tested on (4) major browsers show they are the same, provided the hasOwnProperty filter is used, and sometimes even if not.

MY_GLOBAL = {i: 1, nextId: function(){return this.i++}};  // For example

var userB = {
   name: null,
   id: null,
   sayHello: function() {
      console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
   }
}

var bob = Object.gen(userB, 'Bob', MY_GLOBAL.nextId());

Somewhat simpler I would say than Object.build since userB does not need an init method. Also userB is not specifically a constructor but looks like a normal singleton object. So with this method you can construct and initialise from normal plain objects.

Solution 4:

TL;DR:

new Computer() will invoke the constructor function Computer(){} for one time, while Object.create(Computer.prototype) won’t.

All the advantages are based on this point.

Sidenote about performance: Constructor invoking like new Computer() is heavily optimized by the engine, so it may be even faster than Object.create.

Solution 5:

You could make the init method return this, and then chain the calls together, like this:

var userB = {
    init: function(nameParam) {
        this.id = MY_GLOBAL.nextId();
        this.name = nameParam;
        return this;
    },
    sayHello: function() {
        console.log('Hello '+ this.name);
    }
};

var bob = Object.create(userB).init('Bob');

Solution 6:

Another possible usage of Object.create is to clone immutable objects in a cheap and effective way.

var anObj = {
    a: "test",
    b: "jest"
};

var bObj = Object.create(anObj);

bObj.b = "gone"; // replace an existing (by masking prototype)
bObj.c = "brand"; // add a new to demonstrate it is actually a new obj

// now bObj is {a: test, b: gone, c: brand}

Notes: The above snippet creates a clone of an source object (aka not a reference, as in cObj = aObj). It benefits over the copy-properties method (see 1), in that it does not copy object member properties. Rather it creates another -destination- object with it’s prototype set on the source object. Moreover when properties are modified on the dest object, they are created “on the fly”, masking the prototype’s (src’s) properties.This constitutes a fast an effective way of cloning immutable objects.

The caveat here is that this applies to source objects that should not be modified after creation (immutable). If the source object is modified after creation, all the clone’s unmasked properties will be modified, too.

Fiddle here(http://jsfiddle.net/y5b5q/1/) (needs Object.create capable browser).