Asynchronous JavaScript with async/await

In this course we will learn how to use the ES2017 async and await keywords to write asynchronous code that is more readable and easier to follow than equivalent code based on long promise chains or deeply nested callbacks.

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The && and || Operator in JavaScript

Similar to other C-like programming languages, JavaScript defines the two operators && and || which represent the logical AND and OR operations, respectively. Using only the two boolean values true and false, we can generate the following truth tables:

// Logical AND operation
true  && true;  // true
true  && false; // false
false && true;  // false
false && false; // false

// Logical OR operation
true  || true;  // true
true  || false; // true
false || true;  // true
false || false; // false

If applied to boolean values, the && operator only returns true when both of its operands are true (and false in all other cases), while the || operator only returns false when both of its operands are false (and true in all other cases).

Using Logical Operators with Non-Boolean Values

In JavaScript, the logical operators have different semantics than other C-like languages, though. They can operate on expressions of any type, not just booleans. Also, the logical operators do not always return a boolean value, as the specification points out in section 12.12:

The value produced by a && or || operator is not necessarily of type Boolean. The value produced will always be the value of one of the two operand expressions.

The following examples showcase some values produced by && and ||:

"foo" && "bar"; // "bar"
"bar" && "foo"; // "foo"
"foo" && "";    // ""
""    && "foo"; // ""

"foo" || "bar"; // "foo"
"bar" || "foo"; // "bar"
"foo" || "";    // "foo"
""    || "foo"; // "foo"

Both && and || result in the value of (exactly) one of their operands:

  • A && B returns the value A if A can be coerced into false; otherwise, it returns B.
  • A || B returns the value A if A can be coerced into true; otherwise, it returns B.

They select one of their operands, as noted by Kyle Simpson in his You Don't Know JS series:

In fact, I would argue these operators shouldn't even be called "logical operators", as that name is incomplete in describing what they do. If I were to give them a more accurate (if more clumsy) name, I'd call them "selector operators," or more completely, "operand selector operators."

Control Flow Structures and Truthy Values

In practice, you might not even notice that && and || don't always produce a boolean value. The body of control flow structures like if-statements and loops will be executed when the condition evaluates to a "truthy" value, which doesn't have to be a proper boolean:

let values = [1, 2, 3];

while (values.length) {
    console.log(values.pop());
}

// 3
// 2
// 1

So when is a value considered "truthy"? In JavaScript, all values are considered "truthy", except for the following six "falsy" values:

  • false
  • undefined
  • null
  • NaN
  • 0 (both +0 and -0)
  • ""

The above while-loop works because after popping the last element, values.length returns the "falsy" value 0. Therefore, the loop body won't be executed and the loop terminates.

Truthy and Falsy Return Values

Let's look at an example where it actually matters that && and || don't necessarily produce a boolean value. Imagine you're developing a web application. Users can be signed out, in which case the user object is null, or they can be signed in, in which case the user object exists and has an isAdmin property.

If you wanted to check whether the current user is an administrator, you would first check whether the user is authenticated (that is, user is not null). Then, you would access the isAdmin property and check whether it's "truthy":

let user = { isAdmin: true };

// ...

if (user && user.isAdmin) {
    // ...
}

You might even consider extracting the expression user && user.isAdmin into a separate isAdministrator function so you can use it in multiple places without repeating yourself:

function isAdministrator(user) {
    return user && user.isAdmin;
}

let user = { isAdmin: true };

if (isAdministrator(user)) {
    // ...
}

For user objects with a boolean isAdmin property, either true or false will be returned, just as intended:

isAdministrator({ isAdmin: true });  // true
isAdministrator({ isAdmin: false }); // false

But what happens if the user object is null?

isAdministrator(null); // null

The expression user && user.isAdmin evaluates to null, its first operand, because user contains a "falsy" value. Now, a function called isAdministrator should only return boolean values, as the prefix is in the name suggests.

Coercion to Boolean Values

In JavaScript, a common way to coerce any value into a boolean is to apply the logical NOT operator ! twice:

function isAdministrator(user) {
    return !!(user && user.isAdmin);
}

The ! operator, produces the value false if its single operand can be coerced into true; otherwise, it returns true. The result is always a proper boolean, but the truthiness of the operand is flipped. Applying the ! operator twice undoes the flipping:

!!true = !false = true
!!false = !true = false

!!0 = !true = false
!!1 = !false = true

Another option would've been to call the Boolean function, which is a slightly more explicit way to convert a given value to a proper boolean value:

function isAdministrator(user) {
    return Boolean(user && user.isAdmin);
}

Conclusion

In JavaScript, && and || don't always produce a boolean value. Both operators always return the value of one of their operand expressions. Using the double negation !! or the Boolean function, "truthy" and "falsy" values can be converted to proper booleans.

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