Null v Undefined in JavaScript

— 1 minute read

JavaScript provides two special values that are used to denote the absence of a meaningful value: null and undefined. These so called empty values (or bottom values) are themselves values but carry no information.

While the primitive types null and undefined are often interchangeable, the prevailing consensus is to use undefined in most cases. This leads to more consistent code and also means you don't have to check whether a condition satisfies both of them.

"...it’s safest and best to use only undefined as the single empty value, even though null seems attractive in that it’s shorter to type!"
- Kyle Simpson, *You Don't Know JS Yet*
"We can make better programs if we eliminate wun of them. We can not eliminate wun from the language, but we can profitably eliminate wun from our own programs. We should eliminate `null` and use `undefined` exclusively."
- Crockford, *How JavaScript Works*

There are, of course, exceptions (in JSON or to create a new empty object with Object.create(null)) but that probably means you know what you are doing.

So, in summary, use undefined most times. Use null only when you have reasons not to use undefined.