Reconsidering double equals in JavaScript

This is difficult, and something I have not even considered for what seems like forever. Every now and again I like to revisit the beginnings of a language I have been using for a long time. Recently, I re-watched the updated version of “Getting started with JavaScript” by Kyle Simpson on FrontendMasters. One topic Kyle touches on is equality, and it got me thinking about an aspect of JavaScript I never really thought about.

What is the real difference between == and ===?

If someone asked me this question two days ago I would have answered, “The first does a loose comparison between the two operands and the second a strict comparison”. I have always thought it kinda strange that just reading that all by itself does not really explain the difference. In fact, it sounds a little highbrow 😀 Another way to state the above is to say that double-equals compare the two operands by value and triple-equals compare by type and value. You really need a code example to show the difference:

const aString = "1";
const aNumber = 1;

function compare(a, b) {
  if (a === b) {
    console.log("strictly equal");
  } else if (a == b) {
    console.log("loosely equal");

compare(aString, aNumber);
// output "loosely equal"
compare(1, aNumber);
// output "strictly equal"

Those descriptions become clearer especially in the code example's context but, there is yet another way to express this 🙃

Once you understand coercion in JavaScript, you can express it as follows, quoting Kyle, “double-equals allows coercion of the operands while triple-equals does not”. I like this way of explaining it. It sounds clear and concise.

This means that if you know the types of your operands, there is zero difference between how double and triple equals will behave. In a world where more and more JavaScript developers are turning to TypeScript or adopting a mindset of being clear about your intended types through JSDoc type annotations, perhaps it is a moment in time to rethink the all-out ban on double equals?

In the course Kyle showed a scenario where using double-equals actually leads to more readable code thanks to coercion. Let’s assume we have two Objects that each contain a topic attribute.

const bookOne = {
  title: "You don't know JS Yet",
const bookTwo = {
  title: "JavaScript: The Difinitive Guide",
  topic: null,

We next have a conditional that will only execute its body if the topic attribute of both objects are empty. If we use triple-equals, we will write the conditional as:

if (
  (bookOne.topic === null || bookOne.topic === undefined) &&
  (bookTwo.topic === null || bookTwo.topic === undefined)
) {
  // do something

If however we embrace the coerciveness afforded us by using double-equals, we can rewrite the above as:

if (bookOne.topic == null && bookTwo.topic == null) {
  // do something

Whether topic is exactly null or undefined is not really that interesting here. What is important is that the content of the conditional only execute if both properties are empty. Both these code blocks will satisfy this requirement.

How many such cases are there in our code bases? That is not a simple question to answer but, it makes you think. Should we reconsider double-equals?