I built my first long running AJAX heavy app and memory leaks are eating me alive. I don't want to post too much code because it should be my job to fix it all, but I need some help.

Does this code leak? Where? Why? and if you'd be so kind as to suggest a fix.

function list_stuff(data, type, where, order) {
    var items = [];
    $.each(data, function (i, item) {
        //using jquery $data might make this look more readable
        '<li data-lat="' + item.lat + '" data-lng="' + item.lng + '" data-type="' + type + '" data-id="' + item.group_id + '" data-privacy="' + item.privacy + '" type = "li"> ' + '<div class ="li_title">' + item.name + '</div>' + '<div class ="li_description">' + item.description + '</div>' + '<div class ="li_footer">' + 'Miles: ' + item.distance + '  People: ' + item.people);

        if (item.privacy != 0) {
            items.push('  (Private group) ');
        if (where == '#thelist') {
            items.push('</div>' + '<button data-action ="2" type ="button" class ="join_button" onclick="join_group(this)">Join</div></li>');
        } else if (where == '#thelist2') {
            items.push('</div>' + '<button data-action= "4" type ="button" class ="join_button" onclick="join_group(this)">Leave</div></li>');

    if (order === 'append') {
    } else {


My AJAX looks like this:

function ajax(send,where) {
        url: where,
        type: 'POST',
        dataType: 'json',
        data: send,
        success: function(a) {
            if (a.success===1) {
                list_stuff(a.data, a.type, '#list1','append');
            } else {
            if(a.msg.length >1 ) {
        error: function(err){

I understand (tenuously) that JavaScript gets garbage collected, but doesn't this form a circular reference that may prevent it from being collected? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but here is my reasoning:

  1. list_stuff():

    '<button data-action ="2" type ="button" class ="join_button" onclick="join_group(this)">Join</div></li>'

    JS -> DOM

  2. Generated LI Element:


    DOM ->JS

Last question for the sake of learning/understanding: if this is not a circular reference, that will be prevented from being garbage collected, how can I change it to become one?

function join_group(block) {
    var $block = $(block);    
    var pass   = 0;
    var c_id   = $block.closest("li").data("id");
    var p      = $block.closest("li").data("privacy");
    var action = $block.data("action");

    if(p !== 0 && action ==3){
        pass = prompt("This group requires a password to join.");
        if (pass === null || pass ==='') {

    var send ={
        group_id: c_id,
        group_action: action,
        password: pass,

    ajax(send, 'group');

2 Answers 2


First of all, to answer your questions:

  1. I don't see anything in the code you've posted which would cause a "memory leak".
  2. Your reference to join_group inside of your HTML is within a string, and so does not create a reference in the JavaScript code. The browser will create a reference to that function when it is parsed. If you really want to create a reference immediately, you could, after your call to prepend or append, hook up the event handlers using jQuery with something like:

    $('.join_button').on('click', join_group);

    If you do that, you'll need to change the start of join_group to:

    function join_group() {
        var $block = $(this);

    You'll want to remove the onclick="join_group(this)" from the HTML as well.

On a different note, you can speed up your code by not concatenating strings you're pushing into an array and joining anyway. In other words, replace all of the +s inside a push() with a ,. You won't see much of a speed difference though.


javascript is garbage collected, unless you're making huge(tens of MB of XML/JSON) data transfers every couple of seconds and keep references to that data, there should be "no memory leak" unless the browser is doing a lousy job.

I would put "items" array as global variable so that with each request, you overwrite it, in this way, old data will be discarded, i.e.

// moved globally
var items = [];
function list_stuff(data, type, where, order) 
  // try to parse data as JSON
    items = jQuery.parseJSON(data);
    var index;
    var item;
    for ( index = 0; index < items.length; index++ )
      item = items[index];
      // do something with "item"
    // handle error here
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't put it global. What if the list_stuff is triggered again while it is still running? Bad idea! \$\endgroup\$
    – ANeves
    Aug 13, 2012 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ANeves well, javascript is not threaded, so, I fail to see the problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – user10745
    Aug 13, 2012 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if execution is interrupted, or if execution of the second call waits for the first to finish, or if they just run concurrently. Either way: if you just want to override it, why not simply setting it to null in the end? \$\endgroup\$
    – ANeves
    Aug 14, 2012 at 16:19

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