Javascript – Stringify (convert to JSON) a JavaScript object with circular reference

javascriptjqueryjsonserializationstringify

I've got a JavaScript object definition which contains a circular reference: it has a property that references the parent object.

It also has functions that I don't want to be passed through to the server. How would I serialize and deserialize these objects?

I've read that the best method to do this is to use Douglas Crockford's stringify. However, I'm getting the following error in Chrome:

TypeError: Converting circular structure to JSON

The code:

function finger(xid, xparent){
    this.id = xid;
    this.xparent;
    //other attributes
}

function arm(xid, xparent){
    this.id = xid;
    this.parent = xparent;
    this.fingers = [];

    //other attributes

    this.moveArm = function() {
        //moveArm function details - not included in this testcase
        alert("moveArm Executed");
    }
}

 function person(xid, xparent, xname){
    this.id = xid;
    this.parent = xparent;
    this.name = xname
    this.arms = []

    this.createArms = function () {
        this.arms[this.arms.length] = new arm(this.id, this);
    }
}

function group(xid, xparent){
    this.id = xid;
    this.parent = xparent;
    this.people = [];
    that = this;

    this.createPerson = function () {
        this.people[this.people.length] = new person(this.people.length, this, "someName");
        //other commands
    }

    this.saveGroup = function () {
        alert(JSON.stringify(that.people));
    }
}

This is a test case that I created for this question. There are errors within this code but essentially I have objects within objects, and a reference passed to each object to show what the parent object is when the object is created. Each object also contains functions, which I don't want stringified. I just want the properties such as the Person.Name.

How do I serialize before sending to the server and deserialize it assuming that the same JSON is passed back?

Best Solution

Circular structure error occurs when you have a property of the object which is the object itself directly (a -> a) or indirectly (a -> b -> a).

To avoid the error message, tell JSON.stringify what to do when it encounters a circular reference. For example, if you have a person pointing to another person ("parent"), which may (or may not) point to the original person, do the following:

JSON.stringify( that.person, function( key, value) {
  if( key == 'parent') { return value.id;}
  else {return value;}
})

The second parameter to stringify is a filter function. Here it simply converts the referred object to its ID, but you are free to do whatever you like to break the circular reference.

You can test the above code with the following:

function Person( params) {
  this.id = params['id'];
  this.name = params['name']; 
  this.father = null;
  this.fingers = [];
  // etc.
}

var me = new Person({ id: 1, name: 'Luke'});
var him = new Person( { id:2, name: 'Darth Vader'});
me.father = him; 
JSON.stringify(me); // so far so good

him.father = me; // time travel assumed :-)
JSON.stringify(me); // "TypeError: Converting circular structure to JSON"
// But this should do the job:
JSON.stringify(me, function( key, value) {
  if(key == 'father') { 
    return value.id;
  } else {
    return value;
  };
});

BTW, I'd choose a different attribute name to "parent" since it is a reserved word in many languages (and in DOM). This tends to cause confusion down the road...