Detecting Locations in JavaScript Programs Affected by Breaking Library Changes

Benjamin Barslev Nielsen, Martin Toldam Torp, Anders Møller

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperConference articleResearchpeer-review

23 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number187
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • breaking changes
  • software evolution
  • software maintenance


Dive into the research topics of 'Detecting Locations in JavaScript Programs Affected by Breaking Library Changes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this