prototype and constructor object properties

I've:

function Obj1(param)
{
    this.test1 = param || 1;

}

function Obj2(param, par)
{
    this.test2 = param;

}

now when I do:

Obj2.prototype = new Obj1(44);
var obj = new Obj2(55);

alert(obj.constructor) 

I have:

function Obj1(param) {
    this.test1 = param || 1;
}

but the constructor function has been Obj2... why that? Obj1 has become the Obj2 prototype...

Can someone explain me, in detail, the prototype chain and the constructor property

Thanks

Answers:

Answer

constructor is a regular property of the prototype object (with the DontEnum flag set so it doesn't show up in for..in loops). If you replace the prototype object, the constructor property will be replaced as well - see this explanation for further details.

You can work around the issue by manually setting Obj2.prototype.constructor = Obj2, but this way, the DontEnum flag won't be set.

Because of these issues, it isn't a good idea to rely on constructor for type checking: use instanceof or isPrototypeOf() instead.


Andrey Fedorov raised the question why new doesn't assign the constructor property to the instance object instead. I guess the reason for this is along the following lines:

All objects created from the same constructor function share the constructor property, and shared properties reside in the prototype.

The real problem is that JavaScript has no built-in support for inheritance hierarchies. There are several ways around the issue (yours is one of these), another one more 'in the spirit' of JavaScript would be the following:

function addOwnProperties(obj /*, ...*/) {
    for(var i = 1; i < arguments.length; ++i) {
        var current = arguments[i];

        for(var prop in current) {
            if(current.hasOwnProperty(prop))
                obj[prop] = current[prop];
        }
    }
}

function Obj1(arg1) {
    this.prop1 = arg1 || 1;
}

Obj1.prototype.method1 = function() {};

function Obj2(arg1, arg2) {
    Obj1.call(this, arg1);
    this.test2 = arg2 || 2;
}

addOwnProperties(Obj2.prototype, Obj1.prototype);

Obj2.prototype.method2 = function() {};

This makes multiple-inheritance trivial as well.

Answer

Check out Tom Trenka's OOP woth ECMAscript, the "Inheritance" page. Everything from the prototype is inherited, including the constructor property. Thus, we have to unbreak it ourselves:

Obj2.prototype = new Obj1(42);
Obj2.prototype.constructor = Obj2;
Answer

Short version: ‘constructor’ doesn't do what you think, and isn't cross-browser compatible. Never use it.

Long version: Convention for prototype inheritance in JavaScript

Generally: you're getting confused due to (a) the impedence mismatch between class-based and prototype-based OO, and (b) the strangeness of JavaScript's particular rather poor interpretation of prototype-based OO.

You'll probably be happier if you find one classes-in-prototypes implementation you like and stick with that. Many libraries have one. Here's an arbitrary one I use:

Function.prototype.subclass= function() {
    var c= new Function(
        'if (!(this instanceof arguments.callee)) throw(\'Constructor called without "new"\'); '+
        'if (arguments[0]!==Function.prototype.subclass.FLAG && this._init) this._init.apply(this, arguments); '
    );
    if (this!==Object)
        c.prototype= new this(Function.prototype.subclass.FLAG);
    return c;
}
Function.prototype.subclass.FLAG= new Object();

And here's an example of how one might use it:

// make a new class
var Employee= Object.subclass();

// add members to it
Employee.prototype._LEGS= 2;
Employee.prototype.getLegs= function() {
    return this._LEGS;
};

// optional initialiser, takes arguments from constructor
Employee.prototype._init= function(name) {
    this.name= name;
};

// make a subclass
Manager= Employee.subclass();

// extend subclass method
Manager.prototype._init= function(name, importance) {
    // call base class's method
    Employee.prototype._init.call(this, name);
    this.importance= importance;
}

// all managers are well-known to have three legs
Manager.prototype._LEGS= 3;

// create one
var jake= new Manager('Jake the Peg', 100);
Answer

Well, the constructor property is a property like any other, on the prototype (property) of Obj1. If you understand how prototypes work, this might help:

>>> obj.hasOwnProperty("constructor")
false

// obj's [[Prototype]] is Obj2.prototype
>>> Obj2.prototype.hasOwnProperty("constructor")
false

// Obj2.prototype's [[Prototype]] is Obj1.prototype
>>> Obj1.prototype.hasOwnProperty("constructor")
true

// Oh?
>>> Obj1.prototype.constructor
Obj1()

Aha! So obj has no constructor, JS goes to get it up the [[Prototype]] chain, all the way from Obj1.prototype.constructor

I'm not sure why the constructor property isn't just set on an object when you use `new'. There might be a reason, or it might just be an oversight. Either way, I tend to avoid it.

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