The performance hazards of [[Prototype]] mutation

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每个JavaScript对象都拥有一个[[Prototype]]对象。  获取一个对象的属性时首先会搜索其自身, 然后就是它的 [[Prototype]]对象, 之后再搜索此[[Prototype]]对象的 [[Prototype]]对象, 直到找到这个属性或者搜索链条达到终点. 这个类似链条的查找过程被称为原型链。  原型链在对象继承中非常重要。

ECMAScript 6 引入了一种方式来修改 [[Prototype]]对象。 提升了灵活性的代价是降低了性能。 修改[[Prototype]] 对象会损害降低所有现代 JavaScrip引擎的性能。这篇文章解释了修改 [[Prototype]] 对象在所有浏览器中都很慢的原因并给出了替代方案。


Objects are hashes, 所以理论上来说 (实际上也是如此) 访问属性所花费的时间是恒定不变的.  但是 "恒定不变" 的背后也可能有成千上万的机器指令.  幸运的是, 大多数情况下对象和属性是"可预测的", 在这些情况下它们的底层结构也是可预测的.  即时编译器可以据此来减少对象属性的访问所花费时间。


function Landmark(lat, lon, desc) {
  this.location = { lat: lat, long: lon };
  this.description = desc;
var lm1 = new Landmark(-90, 0, "South Pole");
var lm2 = new Landmark(-24.3756466, -128.311018, "Pitcairn Islands");

在上面的例子中,每生成一个 Landmark 对象时都将按照 location 和 description 两个属性顺序加载,而存储“经度/纬度”信息的 location 也具有 lat 到 long 的顺序。随后的代码可以删除一个属性。但这是不可能的,因为引擎在这种情况下会生成一段不太理想的代码。在 SpiderMonkey (火狐的 JavaScript 引擎)里,属性的特定顺序(以及属性的其他一些方面,但不包括值)我们称之为“形状”(shape)(谷歌 V8 引擎里,这个概念名为“结构ID”(structure ID))。如果两个对象共享同一个 shape,那么他们属性的存储也相同。

Landmark 对象在引擎内部的(简化)版本如同下面的 C++:

struct Property {
  Property* prev; // null if first property
  String name; // name of property
  unsigned int index; // index of its value in storage
using Shape = Property*;
struct Object {
  Shape shape;
  Value* properties;
  Object* prototype;

例子中的JS表达式对应下面的 C++:

lm1->properties[0]; // loc1.location
lm1->properties[1]; // loc1.description
lm2->properties[0].toObject()->properties[1]; // loc2.location.long

如果引擎知道一个对象具有特殊 shape,就可以根据 shape 假定这个对象所有属性的索引。这样一来进行一次访问特定属性,也就相当于几个指针访问所花费的时间。机器语言去检查对象是否具有特定 shape 也很容易,如果有,那么假定索引快速访问;如果没有,那么慢慢来。

Naively optimizing inherited properties

Many properties don't exist directly on the object: lookups often find properties on the prototype chain.  Accesses to properties on prototypes is just extra "hops" through the prototype field to the object containing the property.  Optimizing correctly requires that no object along the way have the property, so every hop must check that object's shape.

var d = new Date();
d.toDateString(); // Date.prototype.toDateString

function Pair(x, y) { this.x = x; this.y = y; }
Pair.prototype.sum = function() { return this.x + this.y; };

var p = new Pair(3, 7);
p.sum(); // Pair.prototype.sum

Engines take this quick-and-dirty approach in many cases.  But in especially performance-sensitive JavaScript, this isn't good enough.

Intelligently optimizing inherited properties

Predictable property accesses usually find the property a constant number of hops along the [[Prototype]] chain; intervening objects usually don't acquire new properties; the ultimate object usually won't have any properties deleted.  Finally: [[Prototype]] mutation is rare.  All these common assumptions are necessary to avoid slow prototype-hopping.  Different engines choose different approaches to intelligently optimize inherited properties.

The shape of the ultimate object containing the inherited can be checked.
In this case, a shape match must imply that no intervening object's [[Prototype]] has been modified.  Therefore, when an object's [[Prototype]] is mutated, every object along its [[Prototype]] chain must also have its shape changed.
var obj1 = {};
var obj2 = Object.create(obj1);
var obj3 = Object.create(obj2);

// Objects whose shapes would change: obj3, obj2, obj1, Object.prototype
obj3.__proto__ = {};
The shape of the object initially accessed can be checked.
Every object that might inherit through a changed-[[Prototype]] object must change, reflecting the [[Prototype]] mutation having happened
var obj1 = {};
var obj2 = Object.create(obj1);
var obj3 = Object.create(obj2);

// Objects whose shapes would change: obj1, obj2, obj3
obj1.__proto__ = {};

Pernicious effects of [[Prototype]] mutation

[[Prototype]] mutation's adverse performance impact occurs in two phases: at the time mutation occurs, and in subsequent execution.  First, mutating [[Prototype]] is slow.  Second, mutating [[Prototype]] slows down code that interacts with mutated-[[Prototype]] objects.

Mutating [[Prototype]] is slow

While the spec considers mutating [[Prototype]] to be modifying a single hidden property, real-world implementations are considerably more complex.  Both shape-changing tactics described above require examining (and modifying) more than one object.  Which approach modifies fewer objects in practice, depends upon the workload.

Mutated [[Prototype]]s slow down other code

The bad effects of [[Prototype]] mutation don't end once the mutation is complete.  Because so many property-examination operations implicitly depend on [[Prototype]] chains not changing, when engines observe a mutation, an object with mutated [[Prototype]] "taints" all code the object flows through.  This tainting flows through all code that ever observes a mutated-[[Prototype]] object.  As a near-worst-case illustration, consider these patterns of behavior:

var obj = {};
obj.__proto__ = { x: 3 }; // gratuitous mutation

var arr = [obj];
for (var i = 0; i < 5; i++)
  arr.push({ x: i });

function f(v, i) {
  var elt = v[i];
  var r =  elt.x > 2 // pessimized
           ? elt
           : { x: elt.x + 1 };
  return r;
var c = f(arr, 0);
c.x; // pessimized: return value has unknown properties
c = f(arr, 1);
c.x; // still pessimized!

var arr2 = [c];
arr2[0].x; // pessimized

(Only code that runs many times is optimized, so this doesn't trigger all these bad behaviors.  But every breakdown could happen if it appeared in "hot" code.)

Recognizing exactly where a mutated-[[Prototype]] object flows, often across multiple scripts, is extraordinarily difficult.  It depends on careful textual analysis of the code and particular runtime behaviors.  Far-distant changes, that trigger subtly different control flow, can taint previously-optimal code paths with pessimal behavior.  It's impossible to recognize all the places that will become slower, even for a JavaScript language implementer.

remaining constant.Mutation must, in addition to changing other objects' shapes,


  But this requires storing cross-object information.

Cross-object information is different from shape, in that it can't easily be checked.  One modification to this information may affect many locations, none obviously connected to it: where to look to verify assumptions?  So instead of checking the assumptions before use, all code making assumptions is invalidated when a modification happens.  When a [[Prototype]] changes, all code depending on it must be thrown away.  The operation obj.__proto__ = ... is thus inherently slow.  And by throwing away already-optimized code, it makes that code much slower when it runs later.

But it's worse than that.  When evaluating obj.prop sees an object whose [[Prototype]] has been mutated, so much previously-known information about the object becomes useless that SpiderMonkey considers the object to have wholly-unknown characteristics.  Any code path that touches such an object in the future will assume the worst.  Optimizing JIT engines assume that future execution is like past execution.  If an object with mutated [[Prototype]] is observed by some code, that code will likely observe more such objects.  Therefore, operations that interact with an object with mutated [[Prototype]], anywhere, in any scripts, are un-optimizable.

The un-optimizability of objects with mutated [[Prototype]] is not