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diego michel
diego michel

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Asynchronous Programming in javascript(Callbacks)

A callback is a function that you write and then pass to some other function. That other function then invokes your function when some condition is met or some event occurs. The invocation of the callback function you provide notifies you of the condition or event, and sometimes, the invocation will include function arguments that provide additional details.

This is easier to understand with some concrete examples, and the subsections that follow demonstrate various forms of callback-based asynchronous programming using both client-side JavaScript and Node.


One of the simplest kinds of asynchrony is when you want to run some code after a certain amount of time has elapsed, you can do this with the setTimeout() function.

setTimeout(checkForUpdates, 60000);

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The first argument to setTimeout() is a function and the second is a time interval measured in milliseconds. In the preceding code, a hypothetical checkForUpdates() function will be called 60,000 milliseconds (1 minute) after the setTimeout() call.

setTimeout() calls the specified callback function one time, passing no arguments, and then forgets about it. If you are writing a function that really does check for updates, you probably want it to run repeatedly. You can do this by using setInterval() instead of setTimeout():

// Call checkForUpdates in one minute and then again every minute after that
let updateIntervalId = setInterval(checkForUpdates, 60000);

// setInterval() returns a value that we can use to stop the repeated
// invocations by calling clearInterval(). (Similarly, setTimeout()
// returns a value that you can pass to clearTimeout())
function stopCheckingForUpdates() {

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Client-side JavaScript programs are almost universally event driven: rather than running some kind of predetermined computation, they typically wait for the user to do something and then respond to the user’s actions. The web browser generates an event when the user presses a key on the keyboard, moves the mouse, clicks a mouse button, or touches a touchscreen device. Event-driven JavaScript programs register callback functions for specified types of events in specified contexts, and the web browser invokes those functions whenever the specified events occur.

// Ask the web browser to return an object representing the HTML
// <button> element that matches this CSS selector
let okay = document.querySelector('#confirmUpdateDialog button.okay');

// Now register a callback function to be invoked when the user
// clicks on that button.
okay.addEventListener('click', applyUpdate);

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applyUpdate() is a hypothetical callback function that we assume is implemented somewhere else. The call to document.querySelector() returns an object that represents a single specified element in the web page. We call addEventListener() on that element to register our callback.

Network Events

Another common source of asynchrony in JavaScript programming is network requests. JavaScript running in the browser can fetch data from a web server with code like this

function getCurrentVersionNumber(versionCallback) { // Note callback argument
    // Make a scripted HTTP request to a backend version API
    let request = new XMLHttpRequest();"GET", "");

    // Register a callback that will be invoked when the response arrives
    request.onload = function() {
        if (request.status === 200) {
            // If HTTP status is good, get version number and call callback.
            let currentVersion = parseFloat(request.responseText);
            versionCallback(null, currentVersion);
        } else {
            // Otherwise report an error to the callback
            versionCallback(response.statusText, null);
    // Register another callback that will be invoked for network errors
    request.onerror = request.ontimeout = function(e) {
        versionCallback(e.type, null);

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Client-side JavaScript code can use the XMLHttpRequest class plus callback functions to make HTTP requests and asynchronously handle the server’s response when it arrives.

The getCurrentVersionNumber() function defined here makes an HTTP request and defines event handlers that will be invoked when the server’s response is received or when a timeout or other error causes the request to fail.

Callbacks and Events in Node

The Node.js server-side JavaScript environment is deeply asynchronous and defines many APIs that use callbacks and events. The default API for reading the contents of a file, for example, is asynchronous and invokes a callback function when the contents of the file have been read.

const fs = require("fs"); // The "fs" module has filesystem-related APIs
let options = {           // An object to hold options for our program
    // default options would go here

// Read a configuration file, then call the callback function
fs.readFile("config.json", "utf-8", (err, text) => {
    if (err) {
        // If there was an error, display a warning, but continue
        console.warn("Could not read config file:", err);
    } else {
        // Otherwise, parse the file contents and assign to the options object
        Object.assign(options, JSON.parse(text));

    // In either case, we can now start running the program

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Node’s fs.readFile() function takes a two-parameter callback as its last argument. It reads the specified file asynchronously and then invokes the callback. If the file was read successfully, it passes the file contents as the second callback argument. If there was an error, it passes the error as the first callback argument.

Node also defines a number of event-based APIs. The following function shows how to make an HTTP request for the contents of a URL in Node. It has two layers of asynchronous code handled with event listeners

const https = require("https");

// Read the text content of the URL and asynchronously pass it to the callback.
function getText(url, callback) {
    // Start an HTTP GET request for the URL
    request = https.get(url);

    // Register a function to handle the "response" event.
    request.on("response", response => {
        // The response event means that response headers have been received
        let httpStatus = response.statusCode;

        // The body of the HTTP response has not been received yet.
        // So we register more event handlers to to be called when it arrives.
        response.setEncoding("utf-8");  // We're expecting Unicode text
        let body = "";                  // which we will accumulate here.

        // This event handler is called when a chunk of the body is ready
        response.on("data", chunk => { body += chunk; });

        // This event handler is called when the response is complete
        response.on("end", () => {
            if (httpStatus === 200) {   // If the HTTP response was good
                callback(null, body);   // Pass response body to the callback
            } else {                    // Otherwise pass an error
                callback(httpStatus, null);

    // We also register an event handler for lower-level network errors
    request.on("error", (err) => {
        callback(err, null);

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