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// synchronous Javascript
var result = db.get('select * from table1');
console.log('I am syncronous');
// asynchronous Javascript 
db.get('select * from table1', function(result){
    // do something with the result
console.log('I am asynchronous')

I know in synchronous code, console.log() executes after result is fetched from db, whereas in asynchronous code console.log() executes before the db.get() fetches the result.

Now my question is, how does the execution happen behind the scenes for asynchronous code and why is it non-blocking?

I have searched the Ecmascript 5 standard to understand how asynchronous code works but could not find the word asynchronous in the entire standard.

And from I also found out that we should not use a return statement as it blocks the event loop. But nodejs api and third party modules contain return statements everywhere. So when should a return statement be used and when shouldn't it?

Can somebody throw some light on this?

Best Answer:

First of all, passing a function as a parameter is telling the function that you're calling that you would like it to call this function some time in the future. When exactly in the future it will get called depends upon the nature of what the function is doing.

If the function is doing some networking and the function is configured to be non-blocking or asychronous, then the function will execute, the networking operation will be started and the function you called will return right away and the rest of your inline javascript code after that function will execute. If you return a value from that function, it will return right away, long before the function you passed as a parameter has been called (the networking operation has not yet completed).

Meanwhile, the networking operation is going in the background. It's sending the request, listening for the response, then gathering the response. When the networking request has completed and the response has been collected, THEN and only then does the original function you called call the function you passed as a parameter. This may be only a few milliseconds later or it may be as long as minutes later - depending upon how long the networking operation took to complete.

What's important to understand is that in your example, the db.get() function call has long since completed and the code sequentially after it has also executed. What has not completed is the internal anonymous function that you passed as a parameter to that function. That's being held in a javascript function closure until later when the networking function finishes.

It's my opinion that one thing that confuses a lot of people is that the anonymous function is declared inside of your call to db.get and appears to be part of that and appears that when db.get() is done, this would be done too, but that is not the case. Perhaps that would look less like that if it was represented this way:

function getCompletionfunction(result) {
    // do something with the result of db.get
// asynchronous Javascript 
db.get('select * from table1', getCompletionFunction);

Then, maybe it would be more obvious that the db.get will return immediately and the getCompletionFunction will get called some time in the future. I'm not suggesting you write it this way, but just showing this form as a means of illustrating what is really happening.

Here's a sequence worth understanding:

db.get('select * from table1', function(result){

What you would see in the debugger console is this:


"a" happens first. Then, db.get() starts its operation and then immediately returns. Thus, "c" happens next. Then, when the db.get() operation actually completes some time in the future, "b" happens.

For some reading on how async handling works in a browser, see How does JavaScript handle AJAX responses in the background?

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