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JavaScript Design Patterns: The Singleton

In this article, we’ll dig into the best way to implement a singleton in JavaScript, looking at how this has evolved with the rise of ES6.

Among languages used in widespread production, JavaScript is by far the most quickly evolving, looking less like its earliest iterations and more like Python, with every new spec put forth by ECMA International. While the changes have their fair share of detractors, the new JavaScript does succeed in making code easier to read and reason about, easier to write in a way that adheres to software engineering best practices (particularly the concepts of modularity and SOLID principles), and easier to assemble into canonical software design patterns.

Explaining ES6

ES6 (aka ES2015) was the first major update to the language since ES5 was standardized in 2009. Almost all modern browsers support ES6. However, if you need to accommodate older browsers, ES6 code can easily be transpiled into ES5 using a tool such as Babel. ES6 gives JavaScript a ton of new features, including a superior syntax for classes, and new keywords for variable declarations. You can learn more about it by perusing SitePoint articles on the subject.

What Is a Singleton

9 Puzzle pieces. 8 are gray, 1 is red. A visual representation of the singleton pattern

In case you’re unfamiliar with the singleton pattern, it is, at its core, a design pattern that restricts the instantiation of a class to one object. Usually, the goal is to manage global application state. Some examples I’ve seen or written myself include using a singleton as the source of config settings for a web app, on the client side for anything initiated with an API key (you usually don’t want to risk sending multiple analytics tracking calls, for example), and to store data in memory in a client-side web application (e.g. stores in Flux).

A singleton should be immutable by the consuming code, and there should be no danger of instantiating more than one of them.

Note: there are scenarios when singletons might be bad, and arguments that they are, in fact, always bad. For that discussion, you can check out this helpful article on the subject.

The Old Way of Creating a Singleton in JavaScript

The old way of writing a singleton in JavaScript involves leveraging closures and immediately invoked function expressions . Here’s how we might write a (very simple) store for a hypothetical Flux implementation the old way:

var UserStore = (function(){
  var _data = [];

  function add(item){

  function get(id){
    return _data.find((d) => {
      return === id;

  return {
    add: add,
    get: get

When that code is interpreted, UserStore will be set to the result of that immediately invoked function — an object that exposes two functions, but that does not grant direct access to the collection of data.

However, this code is more verbose than it needs to be, and also doesn’t give us the immutability we desire when making use of singletons. Code executed later could modify either one of the exposed functions, or even redefine UserStore altogether. Moreover, the modifying/offending code could be anywhere! If we got bugs as a result of unexpected modification of UsersStore, tracking them down in a larger project could prove very frustrating.

There are more advanced moves you could pull to mitigate some of these downsides, as specified in this article by Ben Cherry. (His goal is to create modules, which just happen to be singletons, but the pattern is the same.) But those add unneeded complexity to the code, while still failing to get us exactly what we want.

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