Inheritance in JavaScript

11 Dec 2015

How do you inherit from a “class” in JavaScript

Especially if you have a class that is a mix of constructor function and prototype methods and properties.

"use strict";
function getSeq(start){
 return function next(){
   return start++;
var getId = getSeq(1);

function Mammal(name){
    var self = this;
    var id = getId(); // private variable
    this.getId = function(){
        return id;
    Object.defineProperty(this, 'name', { // we want name to be mutable
        get:function (){ return name; },
        set:function (value) { name = value; }
    this._old_name = name; // this value will be immutable

    // we want for the object to implement the same interface
    // this is a way to make objects more like java or C# objects

Mammal.prototype.says = function(){ // but we can still add functions by adding to the prototype
    return this.saying || '';

Some notes about the above code

We (me and Peter Wilhelmsson) have found that the usage of “use strict” together with Object.freeze and Object.defineProperty can some JavaScript confusion (accidentally setting a new variable when you want to set an existing, hard to find initialization of objects). Usually as with many old languages with many features (c++, perl) you should choose a subset of that language to simplify for other developers.

By modifying the prototype you can always add methods even if the object itself is frozen.

How do you create an instance of this “class”?

var m = new Mammal('Missan');

How do we inherit from this “class”?

"use strict";
function Feline(name){
    var self = this;
    this.saying = ''
    // the last thing we do is call the base class in order to inherit and freeze this class,name);

Feline.prototype = Object.create(Mammal.prototype); // we want the methods and properties added through prototype
Feline.prototype.constructor = Feline; // but still have the correct constructor

function Cat(name){
    var self = this;

Cat.prototype = Object.create(Feline.prototype);
Cat.prototype.constructor = Cat;

Naming of JavaScript classes

Note that when you write:

namespace.Name = function (){ }

This becomes an anonymous function (in many browsers). In order to give it a name we need to write it like:

namespace.Name = function namespace_Name(){ }

This can be done as a post processing step in your grunt or gulp with logic similar to the following:

"namespace.FunctionName = function() {};".replace(
 /namespace.([^ ]+) *\= *function *\(/, function (str, gr){
   return "namespace."+gr+" = fucntion namespace_"+gr+"(";

Using pure prototype inheritance

If you are using a library that does the right thing when it comes to “this”, then you can add methods to the prototype instead of “this” as a captured variable named “self”.



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