When should I use asynchronous code in JavaScript?

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If you were learning JavaScript for some time, I'm sure that you've heard about asynchronous code. Promises, callbacks, the async and await keywords, etc. But a question that often gets unanswered is, when should I even use asynchronicity?

The short answer is: only if you have to use a function that is already asynchronous and you need the return value of that function.

For example, imagine that we have to create a function that receives the number of a Pokémon and returns its name, e.g. if you pass the number 25, it returns "Pikachu".

In this function, we'll call the PokéAPI using the native fetch function.

The thing is, fetch is an asynchronous function. And we need what this function returns because it's the response from the API. It means that the function we create should be asynchronous.

"use strict"; // Enable strict mode

async function getPokemonName(pokemonNumber) {
    let pokeApiResponse = await fetch(
        `https://pokeapi.co/api/v2/pokemon/${pokemonNumber}`
    );
    pokeApiResponse = await pokeApiResponse.json();

    return pokeApiResponse.name;
}

const pokemon25 = await getPokemonName(25);
console.log(`Pokémon #25 is ${pokemon25}`);
// 👆 Prints "Pokémon #25 is pikachu"

In some cases, however, you can choose whether to use synchronous or asynchronous functions to perform the same task. This often happens in Node.js, where you can read and write files using synchronous functions or asynchronous ones. Which ones should I use?

If you're creating the back end of a website using Node.js (or Deno) or you're working on the front end, you should definitely use the async versions.

Synchronous tasks block everything else. It means that, if a task takes a lot of time in Node, other people won't be able to enter the website until that task finished. On the front end, the site will freeze while a synchronous task runs. That's why async works better in those cases.

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