JavaScript Private Members


Example

JavaScript does not technically support private members as a language feature. Privacy - described by Douglas Crockford - gets emulated instead via closures (preserved function scope) that will be generated each with every instantiation call of a constructor function.

The Queue example demonstrates how, with constructor functions, local state can be preserved and made accessible too via privileged methods.

class Queue {

  constructor () {                    // - does generate a closure with each instantiation.

    const list = [];                  // - local state ("private member").

    this.enqueue = function (type) {  // - privileged public method
                                      //   accessing the local state
      list.push(type);                //   "writing" alike.
      return type;
    };
    this.dequeue = function () {      // - privileged public method
                                      //   accessing the local state
      return list.shift();            //   "reading / writing" alike.
    };
  }
}


var q = new Queue;            //
                              //
q.enqueue(9);                 // ... first in ...
q.enqueue(8);                 //
q.enqueue(7);                 //
                              //
console.log(q.dequeue());     // 9 ... first out.
console.log(q.dequeue());     // 8
console.log(q.dequeue());     // 7
console.log(q);               // {}
console.log(Object.keys(q));  // ["enqueue","dequeue"]

With every instantiation of a Queue type the constructor generates a closure.

Thus both of a Queue type's own methods enqueue and dequeue (see Object.keys(q)) still do have access to list that continues to live in its enclosing scope that, at construction time, has been preserved.

Making use of this pattern - emulating private members via privileged public methods - one should keep in mind that, with every instance, additional memory will be consumed for every own property method (for it is code that can't be shared/reused). The same is true for the amount/size of state that is going to be stored within such a closure.