Execution Context: JavaScript under the Hood.

Photo by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash

JavaScript is quite an easy Language to begin with but it gets complicated once it seems to be mastered. In this blog, we will see the breakdown of how a general JavaScript Code compiles in the JS Engine V8 in different phases so things get clear to begin with.

JavaScript Code:

We will take an example of the following Code snippet:

Every JavaScript program is ran into 2 phases:

Memory Creation Phase

In this particular phase, a Global Execution Context is created which is responsible for allocating Memory to all the Variables & Functions in a JavaScript program. All Functions such as a() is placed with its entire Code inside the memory of the Global Execution Context. Also variable var hoisting is allocated memory in the same context.

But now the Interesting part comes into play. Each function in JavaScript has its own Internal Execution Context. With this, we can try to understand the above code with this diagram,

Execution Context of a JavaScript code.

Now initially an entire new Context is created & Memory is allocated for function a() alongside var hoisting. This is where an entire new Context is created with several lines of code such as declaration of let x & declaration of the entire function b() insidefunction a() memory.

Similarly, this entire nesting happens for function b() inside inner Execution Context. Then memory for var x (not the above let x) is allocated inside inner Memory phase. During this phase no Code is executed in the Browser, but only the Memory for Variables & Functions is allocated inside Memory Heap.

One interesting thing to note from above, no variable is assigned any value during memory creation but rather assigned as undefined. This is where concepts like Hoisting also come into play. Hoisting is the process where the declaration of all functions & variables is moved on top of a Function Scope or Global Scope before execution of any code.

It is during the Memory creation phase that a Lexical Scope Chain is created for each function closure with its outer surroundings. This would simply mean a functions closure environment will also have access to its Parent’s Environment. A Global Object called “window” is created as well which can help us access the Browser APIs such as the setTimeout, DOM APIs, console, fetch() within our JavaScript program.

Also at this moment, this object is bounded with the window Object. “this” keyword refers to the Object it belongs to.

Code Execution Phase

Now comes the time when all variables are assigned the value as per the Initialization. Also all Functions are Executed when they are called/invoked & the entire Program runs Top 2 Bottom executing all functions declared. These Functions are Pushed into something called Call Stack when the whole code is ran line by line. We will understand this with below diagram:

Call Stack

This works with the LIFO principle where the last executed function or Execution Context is executed first, following which all previous functions are executed & the program completes successfully (unless there aren’t any errors). During this phase, the variables are searched within their Lexical Scope & accessed (if a variable is not available inside the function it is called, it is searched within its parents Scope).

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