Bringing setTimeout to ECMAScript

David Bruant david.bruant at
Sun Mar 20 08:57:33 PDT 2011

Le 20/03/2011 16:04, Jorge a écrit :
> On 20/03/2011, at 15:18, David Bruant wrote:
>> Le 20/03/2011 14:33, Jorge Chamorro a écrit :
>>>> A timer that expires is an event, and I would expect events to be serviced in the order they happen. As when I click twice, I'd expect the first click to be serviced before the second click.
>>>> So given 2 timers, expiring at t0 and t1 with t0 < t1, if is >= t0 and >= t1, I would expect t0 to be serviced first, yes.
>> The difference is that the system can understand what is your expectation as a user when you've clicked twice. Both click are clearly sequenced. For timers, the non-determinism due to the computation time of computea and computeb prevents you from /expecting/ anything.
> Why ? When you do a setTimeout( f, ms ) you know you are saying "fire this @ t >= + ms".(Let's leave aside for now the problems wrt / wall clock time).
I agree that for one timer, there is no problem. Tricky case is if you
want to enforce a policy on how to deal with several delayed timers
(let's call it "scheduling policy"). That's where I say that it's not
possible to pretend expecting anything.

>> In low-memory environment, if a program does an intensive use of timers, maybe that heuristics on the time the timer firing will take could be used to try to get rid of a maximum of timers as soon as possible to save up memory. I would consider this policy as valid due to environment constraints. 
>>> And if t0 were === t1, I would also expect them to be serviced in the same order in which they were setup:
>>> setTimeout( f1, 0 );
>>> setTimeout( f2, 0 );
>>> setTimeout( f3, 0 );
>>> setTimeout( f4, 0 );
>>> setTimeout( f5, 0 );
>>> ->
>>> f1()
>>> f2()
>>> f3()
>>> f4()
>>> f5()
>> I think it is very dangerous to use talk about things like t0 === t1 and >= t0 (concerned about the "or equal"). If ECMAScript has millisecond as granularity, most systems have microseconds if not nanoseconds. 1ms = 10⁶ns. That's a lot! It leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And even the setTimeout calls aren't instantaneous.
>> Consider (milliseconds in comment):
>> // 0
>> setTimeout( f1, 1 );
>> setTimeout( f2, 0 ); // 1 (millisecond change in the middle of the call)
>> // 2
>> // -- decision to make on which timer to fire.
>> Since the millisecond change happened during the second setTimeout, when is scheduled this second timeout?
> A setTimeout( f, ms ) should be scheduled to fire at t = + ms,so in the example above, both would be scheduled to fire at the same t,
"both would be scheduled to fire the same t". Who said that? The
millisecond change is in the middle of the setTimeout call. From the
external point of view, the second timer is scheduled to be called
between two milliseconds and you (external point of view, not
implementor) have no idea which one.

> but, as f1 was setup before f2, f1 should be called before f2. You can achieve this easily with a stack per target time.
Your argument is based on the implementor point of view. I agree that
any policy can be implemented. I do not doubt that. I am just saying
that you cannot verify it from a script point of view, (and so there is
no point specifying it).

> I don't see why "you can't verify your expectation".
If you think you can verify your expectation, please write ECMAScript
interoperable test cases that show how to test whether an ECMAScript
engine is conform to your scheduling policy or not. It will be enough to
convince me.
Testing one timer ("When you do a setTimeout( f, ms ) you know you are
saying "fire this @ t >= + ms" ") will not be difficult.
Testing your scheduling policy is a different story.

A spec is a contract between an provider (implementor) and a client
(ECMAScript script writer). If the client has no way to ensure that a
spec detail has been met, there is no point adding this detail to the
With maybe the exception of and Math.random() which are
convinient but comes with no guarantee whatsoever. Their spec are empty
(not literally, but close). While you seem to have "expectations" on a
scheduling algorithm.

If I am missing something and you can write test cases to enforce
expectation over a particular scheduling policy, please do so.


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