Continuations and aspects to tame callback hell on the web

Paul Leger, Hiroaki Fukuda, Ismael Figueroa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

JavaScript is one of the main programming languages to develop highly rich responsive and interactive Web applications. In these kinds of applications, the use of asynchronous operations that execute callbacks is crucial. However, the dependency among nested callbacks, known as callback hell, can make it difficult to understand and maintain them, which will eventually mix concerns. Unfortunately, current solutions for JavaScript do not fully address the aforementioned issue. This paper presents Sync/cc, a JavaScript package that works on modern browsers. This package is a proof-of-concept that uses continuations and aspects that allow developers to write event handlers that need nested callbacks in a synchronous style, preventing callback hell. Unlike current solutions, Sync/cc is modular, succinct, and customizable because it does not require ad-hoc and scattered constructs, code refactoring, or adding ad-hoc implementations such as state machines. In practice, our proposal uses a) continuations to only suspend the current handler execution until the asynchronous operation is resolved, and b) aspects to apply continuations in a non-intrusive way. We test Sync/cc with a management information system that administers courses at a university in Chile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-978
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Universal Computer Science
Volume27
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Aspect-Oriented Programming
  • Callback Hell
  • Continuations
  • JavaScript

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)

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