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Execution Context in JavaScript (Part 2.)

By Zoran Stankovic
Published in Programming
December 06, 2020
3 min read
Execution Context in JavaScript (Part 2.)

In this second part, I will try to answer these questions:

  1. What is the difference between Global Execution Context and Functional Execution Context?
  2. What is a Call Stack?

In the first part, I explained what is Global Execution Context, and its two phases Creation and Execution. Also, we know that Global Execution Context is created when the JavaScript engine first starts executing your code. It creates a Function Execution Context when the function is invoked. We know that function is invoked when we put parenthesis after the function name e.g. myFunction(). Now we know when the Functional Execution Context is created, let see what is the difference between Global and Functional Execution Context.

Global Execution Context - Creation Phase

  1. Create a global object
  2. Create a variable called this
  3. Allocate memory space for variables and functions
  4. Assign to a variable declaration a default value of undefined, and place whole function declarations in memory.

Functional Execution Context - Creation Phase

  1. Create an arguments object
  2. Create a variable called this
  3. Allocate memory space for variables and functions
  4. Assign to a variable declaration a default value of undefined, and place whole function declarations in memory.

Here we can see that the only difference is the first step. Instead of creating a global object, Functional Execution Context creates an arguments object. It’s a logical step here in our program. We only need to have one global object, and that is only when Global Execution Context is executed. But whenever we call (invoke) a function, new Functional Execution Context is created, and it always creates arguments object for invoked function.

Let’s return to our previous example and see visually what happens.

Functional Execution Context - Creation Phase
Functional Execution Context - Creation Phase

On line 7, we can see that we are invoking the add function. JavaScript engine creates a new add (Functional) Execution Context. We can see that it created for us new arguments object with two argument values and default property called length. In our case, length is 2 because we have two arguments. In the next Execution phase of your Functional Execution Context, JavaScript engine will execute our function line by line, and in our case, we only have a return statement so, after line 4 we will go out of our function and also we are going out of add (Functional) Execution Context.

Functional Execution Context - Execution Phase
Functional Execution Context - Execution Phase

In the next picture, we can see that our Functional Execution Context was removed from our diagram. This is because JavaScript engine, when runs our code for the first time and creates Global Execution Context, also creates Execution Stack (or Call Stack). Because JavaScript is single-threaded, we can only execute one task at the time in our Call Stack.

Functional Execution Context Removed from Call Stack
Functional Execution Context Removed from Call Stack

Call Stack is a data structure that JavaScript engine uses to track in which execution context we are in, and where to return to after an execution context is popped off the stack. Let first explain what data structure Call Stack is. Call Stack, at the basic level, uses Last In, First Out (LIFO) principle to temporarily store and manage function invocation.

What is LIFO?

Basically, this means that the last function that we invoked is pushed on top of the stack and is the first to be popped out when the function execution ends. I like to imagine this like a can of tennis balls. First ball that you put in the can will go out last. And the last one goes first.

Tennis balls
Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

Same with our functions. Let go once more through our example, but now we will focus only on Call Stack in our diagram.

Representation of Call Stack in our example
Representation of Call Stack in our example

Until line 7, we only created Global Execution Context and our Call Stack only had it. But on line 7 when we invoked a add function, we pushed it on top of our Call Stack. And once we return the value from our add function, it will be popped off the Call Stack.

Call Stack after add function was popped off the stack
Call Stack after add function was popped off the stack

Recap

  • JavaScript engine creates Functional Execution Context every time function is invoked.
  • Difference between Functional and Global Execution Context is in the first step JavaScript creates in Global Execution Context global object and in Functional Execution Context it creates arguments object for us. All other steps are the same.
  • Call Stack is a JavaScript data structure that uses LIFO (Last In First Out) principle, and JavaScript engine uses it to track in which execution context we are, and where to return to after current execution context popped off the stack.
  • JavaScript is single-threaded, so we can only execute one task at the time.

Tags

#javascript#programming
Previous Article
Execution Context in JavaScript (Part 1.)
Zoran Stankovic

Zoran Stankovic

Software Developer

Topics

Learning
Programming

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Execution Context in JavaScript (Part 1.)
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