Performance of truth checking a JavaScript object

03 February 2020   0 comments   Javascript, Node

I'm working on a Node project that involves large transformations of large sets of data here and there. For example:

if (!Object.keys(this.allTitles).length) {
  ...

In my case, that this.allTitles is a plain object with about 30,000 key/value pairs. That particular line of code actually only runs 1 single time so if it's hundreds of milliseconds, it's really doesn't matter that much. However, that's not a guarantee! What if you had something like this:

for (const thing of things) {
  if (!Object.keys(someObj).length) {
    // mutate someObj
  }
}

then, you'd potentially have a performance degradation once someObj becomes considerably large. And it gets particularly degraded if the length of things is considerably large as it would do the operation many times.

Actually, consider this:

const obj = {};
[...Array(30000)].forEach((_, i) => {
  obj[i] = i;
});

console.time("Truthcheck obj");
[...Array(100)].forEach((_, i) => {
  return !!Object.keys(obj).length;
});
console.timeEnd("Truthcheck obj");

On my macBook with Node 13.5, this outputs:

Truthcheck obj: 260.564ms

Maps

The MDN page on Map has a nice comparison, in terms of performance, between Map and regular object. Consider this super simple benchmark:

const obj = {};
const map = new Map();

[...Array(30000)].forEach((_, i) => {
  obj[i] = i;
  map.set(i, i);
});

console.time("Truthcheck obj");
[...Array(100)].forEach((_, i) => {
  return !!Object.keys(obj).length;
});
console.timeEnd("Truthcheck obj");

console.time("Truthcheck map");
[...Array(100)].forEach((_, i) => {
  return !!map.size;
});
console.timeEnd("Truthcheck map");

So, fill a Map instance and a plain object with 30,000 keys and values. Then, for each in turn, check if the thing is truthy 100 times. The output I get:

Truthcheck obj: 235.017ms
Truthcheck map: 0.029ms

That's not unexpected. The map instance maintains a size counter, which increments on .set (if the key is new), so doing that "truthy" check just takes O(1) seconds.

Conclusion

Don't run to rewrite everything to Maps!

In fact, I took the above mentioned little benchmark and changed the times to be a 3,000 item map and obj (instead of 30,000) and only did 10 iterations (instead of 100) and then the numbers are:

Truthcheck obj: 0.991ms
Truthcheck map: 0.044ms

These kinds of small numbers are very unlikely to matter in the scope of other things going on.

Anyway, consider using Map if you fear that you might be working with really reeeeally large mappings.

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