What Is the Observer Pattern?
The Observer Pattern is a software design pattern that establishes a one-to-many dependency between objects. Anytime the state of one of the objects (the “subject” or “observable”) changes, all of the other objects (“observers”) that depend on it are notified.
Let’s use the example of users that have subscribed to receive offers from Envato Market via email. The users in this case are observers. Anytime there is an offer from Envato Market, they get notified about it via email. Each user can then either buy into the offer or decide that they might not be really interested in it at that moment. A user (an observer) can also subscribe to receive offers from another e-commerce marketplace if they want and might later completely unsubscribe from receiving offers from any of them.
This pattern is very similar to the Publish-Subscribe pattern. The subject or observable publishes out a notification to the dependent observers without even knowing how many observers have subscribed to it, or who they are—the observable only knows that they should implement an interface (we’ll get to that shortly), without worrying about what action the observers might perform….
In the rest of this post, we’ll look at how to create our own Observer pattern implementation, and we’ll also use the built-in Java Observer/Observable API as well as looking into third-party libraries that can offer such functionality.