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Async/Await: Common Mistakes

bhagatparwinder profile image Parwinder 👨🏻‍💻 ・3 min read

What await cannot do

Before we get too comfortable using await in our code we need to realize that we cannot:

  1. Use await in a function that is not marked async. You have to prefix the function with async keyword if you are going to use await inside it.
  2. Use await on the top level.

We discussed the first item in previous blog post. For the second one here is an example:

async function wait(message, time) {
    return new Promise((resolve) => setTimeout(resolve(message), time));
}

await wait ("hello", 2000); // SyntaxError: await is only allows inside an async function

We can rewrite this to make it work correctly.

async function wait(message, time) {
    return new Promise((resolve) => setTimeout(resolve(message), time));
}

async function execute() {
    const message = await wait ("hello", 2000);
    console.log(message); // hello (after 2000 ms)
}

execute();

🚨 Top-level await proposal is here and V8 already supports it

Accidentally making code synchronous

The biggest issue with async/await is the await keyword and how it is easy to misuse it. We almost always want our code to run asynchronously (if we have the option) and make sure we do not block the client.

To help us understand this, let's start with a promise example, convert it into async/await and then correct a mistake that happens far too often.

const sayGreeting = (name, time) => {
    return new Promise((resolve) => {
        setTimeout(() => {
            resolve(`Hello ${name}`);
        }, time);
    })
}

sayGreeting("Parwinder", 1000)
    .then((data) => {
        console.log(data); // "Hello Parwinder" after 1 second
        return sayGreeting("Lauren", 2000);
    })
    .then((data) => {
        console.log(data); // "Hello Lauren" after 2 seconds
        return sayGreeting("Robert", 500);
    })
    .then((data) => {
        console.log(data); // "Hello Robert" after half a second
        return sayGreeting("Eliu", 2000);
    })
    .then((data) => {
        console.log(data); // "Hello Eliu" after 2 seconds
        return sayGreeting("George", 1500);
    })
    .then((data) => {
        console.log(data); // "Hello George" after 1.5 seconds
    })

The above example says a greeting to a person after a specified time. Promises made the code flat as compared to callbacks, but this is still chained code with at least one callback in each link.

An individual that has recently learned await might rewrite this like so:

const sayGreeting = (name, time) => {
    return new Promise((resolve) => {
        setTimeout(() => {
            resolve(`Hello ${name}`);
        }, time);
    })
}

const main = async () => {
    let a = await sayGreeting("Parwinder", 1000);
    console.log(a); // "Hello Parwinder" after 1 second
    a = await sayGreeting("Lauren", 2000);
    console.log(a); // "Hello Lauren" after 2 seconds
    a = await sayGreeting("Robert", 500);
    console.log(a); // "Hello Robert" after half a second
    a = await sayGreeting("Eliu", 2000);
    console.log(a); // "Hello Eliu" after 2 seconds
    a = await sayGreeting("George", 1500);
    console.log(a); // "Hello George" after 1.5 seconds
}

main();

No more then callbacks and a lot easier to read. So far, we have created a promise and converted it into async/await. The converted code looks a lot better, so where is the mistake?

More often than not, we can do async operations in parallel. Every time I write an await statement in the main I am making JavaScript wait for that promise to complete and then move forward. We could probably execute all five promises at the same time and get back the greetings.

The first promise example I provided is chained/sync, as well. So if you have read my previous blog posts on promises, you would know how we run multiple promises at the same time! We use Promise.all and that is what we are going to do with the async/await example to make it performant.

const sayGreeting = (name, time) => {
    return new Promise((resolve) => {
        setTimeout(() => {
            resolve(`Hello ${name}`);
        }, time);
    })
}

const main = async () => {
    const a = sayGreeting("Parwinder", 1000);
    const b = sayGreeting("Lauren", 2000);
    const c = sayGreeting("Robert", 500);
    const d = sayGreeting("Eliu", 2000);
    const e = sayGreeting("George", 1500);
    const [greeting1, greeting2, greeting3, greeting4, greeting5] = await Promise.all([a, b, c, d, e]);
    // all promises in promise.all
    console.log(greeting1, greeting2, greeting3, greeting4, greeting5)
}

main();

What did we do here:

  1. Instead of awaiting for each promise, we stored the promise in a variable.
  2. Created a mega promise that has all promises passed to it.
  3. We await this Promise.all instead of individual promises.
  4. Promise.all executes all promises at the same time and when all of them finish, assigns the response to variables
  5. We log the results 🙂

I hope this improves your ability to use async/await. We will learn about error handling with async/await in the next blog post.

Until then, happy coding. 👋🏼

Posted on by:

bhagatparwinder profile

Parwinder 👨🏻‍💻

@bhagatparwinder

Happy, cheerful, confident. Web developer based out of Chicago :)

Discussion

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Very nicely explained 😍😍..
This gave me more clear understanding then before thanks.