Differential inheritance in JavaScript

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Introduction

Differential Inheritance is a common prototype-oriented model that uses the concept that most objects are derived from other, more generic objects, and only differ in a few small aspects. Each object maintains a reference to its prototype and a table of properties that are different.

Example

The following code provides a simple method for "inherit" an object:

Object.prototype.inherit = function(){
  // Create a new object with this as its prototype
  var p = Object.create(this);

  /* actually not necessary:
  // Apply the constructor on the new object
  this.constructor.apply(p, arguments);
  */

  return p;
};

Using inherit, it becomes possible to simply derive more specific objects from a generic prototype. The following is a simple example of building up increasingly more specific objects using the inherit method and differential inheritance.

var root = {}; // Could be any object with any prototype object

var record = root.inherit();
record.toString = function(){ return "a Record"; };
 
var person = root.inherit();
person.firstName = false;
person.lastName = false;
person.toString = function(){ 
    return this.firstName ?
               (this.lastName ?
                   this.firstName + " " +this.lastName :
                   this.firstName) :
               (this.lastName ?
                   this.lastName :
                   "a Person");
};
 
JoePerson = person.inherit();
JoePerson.firstName = "Joe";
alert( JoePerson.toString() );

See also

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 Contributors to this page: dmitriz, Bergi, dbruant, Np
 Last updated by: dmitriz,