Basic Inheritance with Object.create


A few issues back we looked at how to implement basic inheritance with constructors. In this issue, we'll look at how to do the same with the newer Object.create.

When using constructors for inheritance, we attach properties to the constructor's prototype property like so:

Here's a little refresher:

function SuperHuman (name, superPower) {
    this.name = name;
    this.superPower = superPower;
}

SuperHuman.prototype.usePower = function () {
    console.log(this.superPower + "!");
};

var banshee = new SuperHuman("Silver Banshee", "sonic wail");

// Outputs: "sonic wail!"
banshee.usePower();

The SuperHuman constructor contains our initialization logic, while SuperHuman.prototype contains the methods that are shared across all SuperHuman instances.

If we were to implement the same basic logic using Object.create, it would look a bit different:

var superHuman = {
    usePower: function () {
        console.log(this.superPower + "!");
    }
};

var banshee = Object.create(superHuman, {
    name: { value: "Silver Banshee" },
    superPower: { value: "sonic wail" }
});

// Outputs: "sonic wail!"
banshee.usePower();

In this case we first define the prototype object superHuman, and then we use Object.create to make a new object which inherits from superHuman. That second argument might look a little strange to you, but it's just a simple property descriptor object, like we use with Object.defineProperty to fine-tune an object's properties.

Now, what if we want to create a new type which inherits from superHuman while adding its own functionality? What would that look like?

var superHero = Object.create(superHuman, {
    allegiance: { value: "Good" },
    saveTheDay: {
        value: function () {
            console.log(this.name + " saved the day!");
        }
    }
});

var marvel = Object.create(superHero, {
    name: { value: "Captain Marvel" },
    superPower: { value: "magic" }
});

// Outputs: "Captain Marvel saved the day!"
marvel.saveTheDay();

So far so good. But does Captain Marvel have access to the superHuman prototype methods?

// Outputs: "magic!"
marvel.usePower();

Yes, she does!

Using Object.create makes setting up inheritance chains simple because any object can be used as a prototype. However, inheritance managed by Object.create can't be detected by instanceof. Instead you'll need to use the isPrototypeOf method, like so:

// Outputs: true
console.log(superHero.isPrototypeOf(marvel));

// Outputs: true
console.log(superHuman.isPrototypeOf(marvel));

Because both superHero and superHuman are part of marvel's prototype chain, their isPrototypeOf calls each return true.

As with other JavaScript features we've reviewed, Object.create is a feature of ECMAScript 5 and is not available in older browsers like IE8.

That's our brief introduction to using Object.create. Thanks for reading!

Joshua Clanton



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