Detecting Locations in JavaScript Programs Affected by Breaking Library Changes

Presenter: Anders Møller, Benjamin Barslev Nielsen, Martin Toldam Torp
Date: 27 November 2020


JavaScript libraries are widely used and evolve rapidly. When adapting client code to non-backwards compatible changes in libraries, a major challenge is how to locate affected API uses in client code, which is currently a difficult manual task. In this paper we address this challenge by introducing a simple pattern language for expressing API access points and a pattern-matching tool based on lightweight static analysis.

Experimental evaluation on 15 popular npm packages shows that typical breaking changes are easy to express as patterns. Running the static analysis on 265 clients of these packages shows that it is accurate and efficient: it reveals usages of breaking APIs with only 14% false positives and no false negatives, and takes less than a second per client on average. In addition, the analysis is able to report its confidence, which makes it easier to identify the false positives. These results suggest that the approach, despite its simplicity, can reduce the manual effort of the client developers.

This is a paper presented at this year's OOPSLA (Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications) conference and recommended for the seminar by Theodoris Sotiropoulos. We will watch the talk's video and then discuss the method, the results, and the paper.