structuredClone and json.parse(...)

3 min read  •  04 Apr 2022

Javascript is a language of objects, and when we talk about objects there are terms like shallow copy/clone and deep copy/clone.

  • shallow copy/clone: A copy of an object, where both the object properties values' share same reference is called as shallow copy.

So, if we have an object user and we create a shallow copy of it - userCopy then if we update properties on userCopy object it will be updated on both the objects since they share the same reference.

const user = { name: "Akul" };
const userCopy = user;
console.log(user, userCopy); // {name: 'Akul'} {name: 'Akul'} = "John";
console.log(user, userCopy); // {name: 'John'} {name: 'John'}

Same happens with arrays also since array is also an object in javascript.

const arr = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
const arrCopy = arr;
arrCopy[2] = "three";
console.log(arr, arrCopy); // [1, 2, 'three', 4, 5] [1, 2, 'three', 4, 5]
delete arrCopy[0];
console.log(arr, arrCopy); // [empty, 2, 'three', 4, 5] [empty, 2, 'three', 4, 5]
  • deep copy/clone: A copy of an object, where both the object properties values' have different reference is called as deep copy.

If we update a property on a deep copy it will be updated only on the copy object.

const m = { name: "Alice" };
const n = JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(m));
console.log(m, n); // {name: 'Alice'} {name: 'Alice'} = "Bryce";
console.log(m, n); // {name: 'Alice'} {name: 'Bryce'}

Now there are multiple ways to create deep copy of an object, out of which two popular ways are:

  • JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(obj)): We can stringify an object and then parse it to create a deep copy of that object. As shown in the above example.

  • structuredClone(obj): It is a method which is available to us in most of the common browsers and nodejs through which we can create deep copy of an object.
const user = { name: "Akul" };
const userCopy = structuredClone(user);
console.log(userm, userCopy); // {name: 'Akul'} {name: 'Akul'} = "Elon";
console.log(user, userCopy); // {name: 'Akul'} {name: 'Elon'}

Let's analyze the performance of both ways by having an array of 50000 objects and creating its deep copy using above ways.

const x = Array(50000)
  .map((e, i) => ({ [i]: i + 1 }));

const copy1 = structuredClone(x);

const copy2 = JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(x));

We have ran the above code 5 times and here are the results.


No. structuredClone() JSON.parse(JSON.stringify())
1 97.93 86.94
2 62.18 48.81
3 83.01 52.13
4 61.11 45.30
5 60.97 50.27
Average 73.04 56.69

From the above results, we can see that JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(...)) way is faster than the structuredClone() method for larger objects.

Then the question arises, why did we needed structuredClone() method, we could have use the other way and it's also performance efficient.

Let's take an example to see the drawback of JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(...)) and need of structuredClone() method.

const user = { name: "Akul" };
user.self = user;
const userCopy1 = JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(user)); // throws Error (TypeError: Converting circular structure to JSON)
const userCopy2 = structuredClone(user); // {name: 'Akul', self: {...}}

The reason it throws error is we cannot stringify a circular object. In these cases, we can use structuredClone() to create deep copy of an object which is cyclic.