Update

JavaScript now supports the nullish coalescing operator (??). It returns its right-hand-side operand when its left-hand-side operand is null or undefined, and otherwise returns its left-hand-side operand.

Please check compatibility before using it.


The JavaScript equivalent of the C# null coalescing operator (??) is using a logical OR (||):

var whatIWant = someString || "Cookies!";

There are cases (clarified below) that the behaviour won't match that of C#, but this is the general, terse way of assigning default/alternative values in JavaScript.


Clarification

Regardless of the type of the first operand, if casting it to a Boolean results in false, the assignment will use the second operand. Beware of all the cases below:

alert(Boolean(null)); // false
alert(Boolean(undefined)); // false
alert(Boolean(0)); // false
alert(Boolean("")); // false
alert(Boolean("false")); // true -- gotcha! :)

This means:

var whatIWant = null || new ShinyObject(); // is a new shiny object
var whatIWant = undefined || "well defined"; // is "well defined"
var whatIWant = 0 || 42; // is 42
var whatIWant = "" || "a million bucks"; // is "a million bucks"
var whatIWant = "false" || "no way"; // is "false"