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Create An Actor

Actors represent the main unit of logic in the Actor Model. They are transactional, asynchronous and safe. When you work with actors, you have the following guarantees:

  • A single actor will process a single message at a time. For example, if you call a method in an actor two times, you will not process those calls in parallel, but sequentially.
  • A single actor will process messages in order. For example, if you call two different methods in an actor, messages will be processed in the calling order.
  • Actor failures are isolated. If an actor fails because there is a requirement that is not fulfilled (like not having network connection), the exception will not propagate to all actors, but will be managed by the actor supervisor.
  • Slow actors will not block other actors. If an actor is waiting for a response of a server, or from another actor, it will not block other actors, that will be still processing messages.

The process of creating an actor is quite transparent, and a simple task. Actor types are represented with a protocol they understand. A protocol is a set of messages that an actor can actually handle.

For example, if we have the following protocol:


It means that the actor will only understand the message ping without parameters.

With the following protocol:


It means that the actor can handle both messages, sayHi and sayBye with a single parameter.

To define an Actor protocol, we just need to create a ES6 class that extends Actor.

const { Actor } = require('tarant')

class Person extends Actor {
sayHi(whom) {
console.log('Hi', whom)

sayBye(whom) {
console.log('Bye', whom)

This Actor type Person will handle two messages with the specified logic (just printing something into the console). To instantiate an actor, [we need a running actor system](/docs/how tos/how-to-create-an-actor-system). We are going to create an Actor System with the default configuration:

const { ActorSystem } = require('tarant')

const system = ActorSystem.default()

And to instantiate an actor, we need to call the actorOf method with the Actor protocol that we want to use:

const dante = system.actorOf(Person)

And you can call any method of the actor directly, like any other class:


Actors with initial state

It's common that an actor needs some initial state to work, for example, in our case, we need the person name. Actors can receive any initial state on the constructor, and this state can be passed through actorOf. For example, let's extend our Person protocol to allow having a name.

class Person extends Actor {
constructor(name) {
super() = name

sayHi(whom) {
console.log(, ': Hi', whom)

sayBye(whom) {
console.log(, ': Bye', whom)

When defining the constructor of an Actor, there are two things to consider:

  • You need to call the super() constructor. This is a JavaScript rule and it won't work if we don't do it the first thing in your newly created constructor.
  • super() has a parameter id that is the ID of the actor. Actors are uniquely identified by an ID that you can pass through the super constructor (as in super(theIdIWant)). If we don't specify any ID, tarant will create a random UUID for it.

Now that we have our new redefined protocol, we can create a new actor with a name.

const dante = system.actorOf(Person, ['Dante'])

Now, calling the sayHi method like in the previous example, will show:

> Dante : Hi Martin

How calling an Actor works

It's important to note that calling an actor method is not a synchronous operation. It's completely asynchronous and they always return promises. When you call a method on an actor, the actor will add a new message to it's mailbox, and will be processing messages in the mailbox until it's empty.

You can find more information of the architecture in the components page.