JavaScript Error Handling

JavaScript – ReferenceError: deprecated caller or arguments usage

Today as we progress through our JavaScript Error Handling series we’re going to take a dive into the Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error in all its magnificent glory. The Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error appears when code attempts to call one of two specific properties of a function while strict mode is enabled: Function.caller or Function.arguments.

Below we’ll go over a few code examples that will illustrate normal reproduction of a Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error, as well as outline how to deal with this error when it comes about. Let’s get to it!

The Technical Rundown

  • All JavaScript error objects are descendants of the Error object, or an inherited object therein.
  • The TypeError object is inherited from the Error object.
  • The Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error is a specific type of TypeError object.

When Should You Use It?

As mentioned in the introduction, an Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error will occur only when strict mode is enabled, which is a method to programmatically opt into a restricted variation of JavaScript that uses a number of different behaviors and semantics from the baseline JavaScript environment. For our purposes of analyzing the behavior of the Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error, we simply need to know that one behavior in particular of strict mode is to prevent the dangerous calling of deprecated properties, such as the aforementioned Function.caller or Function.arguments.

In normal, non-strict JavaScript, the Function.caller property returns the function that invoked the specified function on which the property is being called. For example, here we’ve created two simple functions, add and increment. Our add function simply adds the two arguments together and returns the result. To make use of this, within increment, we pass the x parameter and the value 1:

Ignoring the inefficiency of this method for our purposes, we can see that by calling the add.caller property within the add function, our console log produces the expected output:

This tells us that the call made to our add function actually took place within another function, in this case the increment function. If we had simply called add directly from our main loop, add.caller would be null.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how a Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error might show up once we enable strict mode. This is done by simply including the line ‘use strict;’ somewhere in the code, ideally within the same scope as the code we expect to cause problems. In this case, we’re enabled strict mode within the add function, the same scope in which we attempt to access the add.caller property:

Now, instead of getting the .caller property information in our output, an ugly Deprecated Caller/Deprecated Arguments error pops up, telling us we’ve attempted to access a restricted property:

Now that Strict Mode is enabled, we can no longer safely call to the .caller property, as it has been deprecated due to the security risks it presents. The same issue occurs if a call is made to the .arguments property as well while in strict mode.

While the .caller property is completely off limits in this context, it’s still possible to safely call the .arguments property, by alternatively calling a specific local variable within the function called arguments:

Notice that arguments is not an explicitly created argument within the add function, but is instead automatically created by JavaScript within every function. For this reason, we are able to call arguments[0] and arguments[1] to get the expected values of 5 and 1 in return:

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