Exploring the Power of JavaScript Proxies and Reflect API

Exploring the Power of JavaScript Proxies and Reflect API

Exploring the Power of JavaScript Proxies and Reflect API

Over the past four years, I’ve gained extensive experience building products with Expressjs, Vue.js and React. As I delved deeper into these frameworks, I uncovered fascinating implementation details hidden beneath the surface. For instance, Vue 3’s reactivity system relies on Proxies instead of Object.defineProperty() used in Vue 2, while React employs Proxies in implementing the Virtual DOM. My initial encounter with Proxies was limited to proxy servers, which I mainly used to bypass CORS issues. However, I soon realized that JavaScript Proxies offer the power to observe and manipulate various actions, such as getting or setting a property or invoking a function.

In a previous large-scale JavaScript project, I was tasked with revamping the data validation and error management for a Vue.js client. This undertaking exposed me to computed properties and watchers in Vue and the Reflect.defineProperty() method. Computed properties derive their values from other component data properties, while watchers are functions triggered when a data property changes. This exploration ultimately led me to the JavaScript Reflect API, which simplifies working with Proxies and modifying objects through its built-in methods.

Admittedly, Proxies might seem intimidating for JavaScript beginners. They act like concealed intermediaries between an object and its properties or methods. Nevertheless, gaining proficiency in Proxies and the Reflect API is invaluable for JavaScript developers. Their versatile applications include object inspection, data storage and connection, security enhancement, and problem resolution. By harnessing these features, you can craft clean, easily readable code that maintains a well-organized separation between distinct application components.

In this article, we’ll examine the fundamentals of Proxies and the Reflect API, discuss their benefits in JavaScript applications, and demonstrate their real-world utility by constructing a book rating application.

JavaScript Proxies

A JavaScript Proxy serves as an intermediary between an object and its properties or methods. It allows you to intercept and modify actions performed on the object, such as getting or setting properties, calling functions, or checking if a property exists.

Imagine you have a simple JavaScript object called book:

You can create a Proxy for the book object that intercepts attempts to read or modify its properties:

Now, when you interact with the bookProxy object, the Proxy will log your actions:

Proxies

Proxies

Reflect API

The Reflect API is a built-in JavaScript object that provides methods for performing low-level operations on objects. It works seamlessly with Proxies, allowing you to access and modify properties, invoke functions, or perform other operations on objects more intuitively.

For example, you can use the Reflect API to check if a property exists in an object and, if not, set a default value:

Reflect API

Reflect API

Benefits of Proxies and the Reflect API

By incorporating JavaScript Proxies and the Reflect API into your applications, you can achieve several benefits:

  • Enhanced validation and error handling: Proxies can intercept and validate property assignments or function calls, ensuring they adhere to business rules and constraints.
  • Better encapsulation: Proxies can hide implementation details by intercepting property access or method calls and redirecting them to the appropriate handler.
  • Code maintainability and readability: Proxies and the Reflect API can streamline complex operations on objects, making the code more maintainable and easier to understand.

In the next section, we’ll put these concepts into practice by building a simple book rating application that leverages the power of Proxies and the Reflect API.\

Building a Book Rating Application

Now that we have a solid understanding of JavaScript Proxies and the Reflect API, let’s put them to use by building a simple book rating API. This API will allow users to rate books on a scale of 1 to 5.

Let’s break down the features/functionalities.

The API will be built using Node.js and Express, with MongoDB and Mongoose as ORM. It will consist of the following components:

  • User Accounts and Authentication: User registration and authentication will be implemented using JSON Web Tokens (JWT), to protect the API endpoints.
  • Book Data: A list of books will be stored in the database, along with user ratings.
  • API Endpoints: The backend will expose API endpoints for user registration, authentication, fetching book data, and submitting book ratings.

Pre-requisites

You need to have the following:

  • Nodejs ≥v16
  • Code editor (VS code preferably)
  • Knowledge of JavaScript and React
  • MongoDB installed
  • Postman, ThunderClient (on VSCode), or any API client of your choice

The complete code is on GitHub.

Setting up

First, let’s create a new folder for our project and initialize a new Node.js application:

Next, install the required dependencies:

Spin up your local MongoDB interactive shell with this command on your terminal.

Create a DB by running these prompts:

Now you’ve created the DB, head back to the code editor and create a .env file to store environment variables such as the MongoDB connection string.

Create this directory structure with your terminal from the root of your application.

The directory tree will look like this:

For the purpose of this article, we will not go through the implementation details of all the files. You can find that on this GitHub repo.

This is what each of these files does:

  • authenticateJWT.js: This file contains a middleware function called authenticateJWT that is responsible for verifying and decoding JSON Web Tokens (JWTs) attached to incoming requests. It ensures that users are authenticated before they can access protected routes.
  • mockData.js: This file contains an array of book objects generated using a list of titles, authors, and descriptions. This data is used for seeding the database with some initial book entries.
  • modules/book/book.controller.js: This file contains the controller functions for managing books, including adding a book rating and getting a book by its ID.
  • modules/book/book.model.js: This file defines the Book model and its schema for the MongoDB database, using Mongoose as an ORM. It includes the book’s title, description, author, and an array of ratings.
  • modules/book/book.routes.js: This file contains the routes related to book management, including endpoints for adding a rating to a book and fetching a book by its ID.
  • modules/user/user.controller.js: This file contains the controller functions for managing users, including registering a new user and logging in to an existing user.
  • modules/user/user.model.js: This file defines the User model and its schema for the MongoDB database, using Mongoose as an ORM. It includes the user’s username, email, and password.
  • modules/user/user.routes.js: This file contains the routes related to user management, including endpoints for registering a new user and logging in to an existing user.
  • seed.js: This file is a script that seeds the MongoDB database with the initial book data from the mockData.js file.
  • server.js: This file is the main entry point of the application. It sets up the Express.js server, connects to the MongoDB database, and imports and uses the routes defined in the book.routes.js and user.routes.js files. It also starts the server and listens for incoming requests on a specified port.

This is the database schema for the application.

database schema

database schema

Testing the API works

After you’ve cloned the repo, install the packages by running:

Update the .env keys with the appropriate values.

I generated the JWT_SECRET using openssl. The command for generating the secret is openssl rand -hex 16

Generate seed data by running this command

Then start the app server by running:

Open your API client and make the following requests:

Register user:

http://localhost:3000/api/users/register

Register user

Register user

Login User

Login user endpoint

Login user endpoint

List books

Testing List books endpoint

Testing List books endpoint

Rate Book

http://localhost:3000/api/books/:bookId/rate

Testing the Rate book endpoint

Testing the Rate book endpoint

Enforcing Business Rules Using Proxies

In this section, I’ll show you how Proxies help us ensure that users are logged in before rating a book and that the rating values are within the allowed range.

Creating a Proxy to Intercept Book Rating Requests

Instead of directly interacting with the Book model when a user attempts to rate a book, we can create a Proxy to intercept the rating request. This Proxy can be used to enforce the business rules before allowing the request to proceed. First, let’s create a function that will handle the rating logic and wrap it with a Proxy:

Ensuring the User Is Logged In Before Allowing Them to Rate a Book

With the Proxy in place, we can now enforce our first business rule: ensuring the user is logged in before they can rate a book. We’ll check the userId parameter and make sure it’s a valid user ID:

Validating That the Rating Is Within the Allowed Range (1 to 5)

Next, we’ll enforce our second business rule: validating that the rating value is within the allowed range (1 to 5). We’ll add this check to the apply method of our rateBookHandler:

Now, when a user attempts to rate a book, the Proxy will first enforce the business rules and only allow the request to proceed if the rules are met. This ensures that the application remains consistent and adheres to the desired constraints.

This is the complete code for ./modules/book/book.controller.js

When the rating is above 5 or less than 1:

Error rating book

Error rating book

When you’ve already rated a book:

Error rating book

Error rating book

Awesome. Notice how adding more business cases is simple, and the code is readable. The more your code grows, you can create a directory for proxies.

Implementing Validation Logic Using the Reflect API

This section will explore how the Reflect API can help us implement validation logic in the book rating application.

Checking for Existing Book Ratings

One of the use cases for the Reflect API in this application is to check for existing book ratings. Instead of using the traditional approach with find or filter, we can use the Reflect object to inspect the book object’s ratings.

For example, let’s say we rewrite the check for “if a user has already rated a book”. We can use Reflect.get() to retrieve the ratings property of a book object and then use the find() method to check if the user has already rated the book:

Preventing Users from Rating the Same Book Multiple Times

Using the Reflect API, we can prevent users from rating the same book multiple times. To enforce this constraint, we will use Reflect.has() method to check if a user’s rating already exists in the book’s ratings array.

Here, the Reflect.get() method is used to retrieve the ratings array from the book object, and then the some() method to check if the user has already rated the book. If they have, an error is thrown; otherwise, add the new rating to the book and save it.

Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid

When working with JavaScript proxies and the Reflect API, it’s important to follow best practices to ensure your code is maintainable and efficient.

Proper error handling: When using Proxies and the Reflect API, ensure you handle errors correctly. This includes catching exceptions, returning meaningful error messages, and using the appropriate HTTP status codes.

Code maintainability and readability: Use Proxies and Reflect API to make your code more maintainable and easier to read. This means using descriptive variable names, commenting your code, and following consistent coding conventions.

Thorough testing: Test your Proxy and Reflect API implementations thoroughly to ensure they are working as expected. This includes unit, integration, and end-to-end testing, as appropriate for your project.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Performance issues: Overusing Proxies or implementing them incorrectly can lead to performance issues in your application. Be mindful of how many Proxies you create and ensure that you are using them efficiently.

Complexity and confusion: Using Proxies and the Reflect API without clear intent or justification can make your code harder to understand. Only use these features when they clearly benefit your application and ensure their purpose is well-documented.

Conflicts between Proxy traps and Reflect API: When using Proxies and the Reflect API together, be aware of potential conflicts between Proxy traps and Reflect methods. Ensure that your code handles these conflicts gracefully and in a way that is consistent with your application’s requirements.

Wrapping up…

JavaScript Proxies and the Reflect API are powerful tools that can significantly enhance the functionality and maintainability of your applications. Through exploring these features and implementing a book rating app, we’ve demonstrated the capabilities and benefits of both Proxies and the Reflect API.

Proxies provide an excellent way to intercept and manipulate operations on objects, while the Reflect API offers a more functional and standardized approach to handling objects and their properties. By using these features in tandem, you can create clean, efficient, and modular code that is easy to understand and maintain.

Throughout this article, we’ve discussed the importance of following best practices, such as proper error handling, code maintainability, and thorough testing, as well as avoiding pitfalls like performance issues, unnecessary complexity, and conflicts between Proxy traps and Reflect methods. By considering these considerations, you can confidently incorporate Proxies and the Reflect API into your projects, unlocking their full potential and elevating your JavaScript development skills.

As you continue to grow as a developer, embracing the power of JavaScript Proxies and the Reflect API will not only enable you to create more robust and adaptable applications but also equip you with a deeper understanding of the language itself.

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5 comments

Jos de April 27, 2023 at 11:00 am
0

Thanks for writing your article. I do not see any reason though to use a Proxy in the example with book ratings. Using a normal object and plain functions is less complex than using a Proxy, so why would I use a Proxy in this case?

I could rewrite the proxy part:

const rateBookProxy = new Proxy(rateBookFunction, rateBookHandler);
const book = await rateBookProxy(userId, bookId, value);

With plain data and functions, for example:

const book = saveBookRating(validateBookRating(userId, bookId, value)))

No “magic”, just plain and simple.

 
Umoren Samuel April 27, 2023 at 11:21 am
0

Yes, I agree with you. That’s why I included this statement

“Using Proxies and the Reflect API without clear intent or justification can make your code harder to understand. Only use these features when they clearly benefit your application and ensure their purpose is well-documented’

Thanks for recommending the simpler alternative.

 
Jos de April 27, 2023 at 12:50 pm
0

That is indeed a very good advice, only the book rating example does do the opposite I think. Shouldn’t you follow the advice yourself? 😉

As for a good example: I’ve used Proxy in one occasion so far where I found it truly useful: in my workerpool library, where you can invoke methods on a dynamic, remote object in a Web Worker via a proxy. Basically: RPC to some remote process or backend.

 
 
Umoren Samuel April 28, 2023 at 11:42 am
0

Thanks again for your feedback and for sharing your perspective. I understand your concern about the simplicity of the book rating example, and I appreciate your suggestion for a more advanced use case. The primary focus of this article is to introduce JavaScript proxies and the Reflect API to beginners. The example provided serves as a basic, introductory demonstration. While more advanced use cases like the one you mentioned are better use cases, they might be better suited for a follow-up article or an article targeting more experienced developers.

With that in mind, I am considering writing a separate article showing more practical use cases of JavaScript proxies, including the one you suggested. I will make sure to credit you for your contribution when discussing your suggested use-case. Thank you again for your engagement with the article. I always appreciate feedback from my readers, and I’m looking forward to any further insights you might have.

 
 
 
Umoren Samuel May 7, 2023 at 2:04 pm
0

Here’s the follow up article:

https://soshace.com/mastering-javascript-proxies-practical-use-cases-and-real-world-applications/

It contains some practical uses cases including RPC with web workers.

There’s also an example of using workerpool for distributing API requests across multiple Web Workers.

Thanks for your comment that inspired this article.

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