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Quirks in Javascript

kabir4691 profile image Kabir Nazir ・4 min read

I have been learning Javascript over the past week and have come across a lot of things that appear to not make sense in the beginning, but later do once you understand how Javascript works under the hood. I am listing a few of them here, along with my own interpretation of what’s going on to help you understand better. We will discuss loose vs strict comparisons with == and ===.

Comparing Number values

    let a = '2';
    let b = 1;

    console.log(a > b); // this prints true

From the above example, we can see that we’re comparing two variables of different data types, a string ‘2’ and a number 1. However, JS is still able to calculate that 2 is greater than 1 and return the result as true. This is because when comparing values of different types, JS converts the values to numbers and then compares them. In the above example, the string ‘2’ is first converted to the number 2 and then compared with the number 1. This results in the statement returning true.

Comparing Boolean values

    console.log(true == 1); // this prints true

    console.log(false == 0); // this prints true

Here, true equates to 1 and false equates to 0, in their respective number conversions. A good thumb rule is to remember that all truthy values convert to the number 1 and all falsy values convert to the number 0.

Now let’s try to see an interesting consequence of the above two examples. Consider the following code

    let a = 0;
    let b = "0";

    console.log(Boolean(a) == Boolean(b)); // this prints false
    console.log(a == b); // but this prints true

Boolean(a) = Boolean(0), which equates to false, since 0 is a falsy value. Boolean(b) = Boolean(“0”), which equates to true since any non-empty string is a truthy value.

Hence, (Boolean(a) == Boolean(b) returns false.

However, a == b returns true since the “0” value of b is converted to the number 0 and then compared with the 0 value of a.

Strict equality problem

There’s an issue with using == when comparing a few values.

    console.log(false == 0); // this prints true
    console.log(false == ''); // this prints true

For example, the == operator cannot differentiate between false and 0 since both of them are falsy values and equate to 0 in their number conversions. The same holds for false and empty string as well.

The above conundrum is solved by using the triple equals (===) operator. The difference between the triple equals and double equals operator is that the former does not do any implicit type conversion before comparison. In other words,

    console.log(false == 0); // this prints true
    console.log(false === 0); // this prints false

In the above example, the second statement compares false directly with 0. Hence, the result of the statement prints as false.

Any comparison between the values of different data types returns false by default when using the === operator. This holds true for !== as well.

Comparing null and undefined

In Javascript, null and undefined have a weird relationship. I’m guessing it’s due to the nature of how Javascript was built in the early days. However, let me point out a few discrepancies that can leave a beginner confused. Consider the following code

    console.log(null === undefined); // this prints false
    console.log(null == undefined); // this prints true

null and undefined are distinct data types in Javascript and hence the first statement prints false. However, we can see that the second statement prints true. From what we had discussed earlier in this article when comparing two values using the == operator, Javascript first tries to convert the values into their number representation. null becomes 0 and undefined becomes NaN. Although 0 is not equal to NaN, we find that null == undefined still returns as true. This is a special rule (or maybe error?) in Javascript that allows such a relation between null and undefined.

However, this applies only to the == operator. All other operators return false when comparing null with undefined.

    console.log(null > undefined); // this prints false
    console.log(null < undefined); // this prints false
    console.log(null >= undefined); // this prints false
    console.log(null <= undefined); // this prints false

10 > 9 but “10” < “9”

When comparing numbers in Javascript, the logic differs on whether we are comparing their Number or String representations. In the case of Number, the logic is pretty much the same as that in real life.

    10 > 9; // this returns true;
    "10" > "9"; // this returns false;

However, we notice something different when using the String version. “10” is not greater than “9”. The reason for this is that when Javascript is comparing strings, it converts them to their ASCII representation and compares their values instead. You can check out the ASCII codes of “10” and “9” using charCodeAt() function.

    "10".charCodeAt(0); // this returns 49
    "9".charCodeAt(0); // this returns 57

Since the ASCII code of “10” is 49, which is lesser than the ASCII code of “9” which is 57, hence it is considered as the smaller value.

P.S. I shall be updating this article with other quirks, as I encounter them. Till then, happy coding!

This post was originally published here on Medium.


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