postMessage - Dave's Blog


Multiple Windows in Win10 JavaScript UWP apps

Mar 10, 1:47

Win10 Changes

In Win8.1 JavaScript UWP apps we supported multiple windows using MSApp DOM APIs. In Win10 we use and window and a new MSApp API getViewId and the previous MSApp APIs are gone:

Win10 Win8.1
Create new window MSApp.createNewView
New window object window MSAppView
viewId MSApp.getViewId(window) MSAppView.viewId

WinRT viewId

We use and window for creating new windows, but then to interact with WinRT APIs we add the MSApp.getViewId API. It takes a window object as a parameter and returns a viewId number that can be used with the various Windows.UI.ViewManagement.ApplicationViewSwitcher APIs.

Delaying Visibility

Views in WinRT normally start hidden and the end developer uses something like TryShowAsStandaloneAsync to display the view once it is fully prepared. In the web world, shows a window immediately and the end user can watch as content is loaded and rendered. To have your new windows act like views in WinRT and not display immediately we have added a option. For example
let newWindow ="", null, "msHideView=yes");

Primary Window Differences

The primary window that is initially opened by the OS acts differently than the secondary windows that it opens:

Primary Secondary Allowed Disallowed
window.close Close app Close window
Navigation restrictions ACUR only No restrictions

The restriction on secondary windows such that they cannot open secondary windows could change in the future depending on feedback.

Same Origin Communication Restrictions

Lastly, there is a very difficult technical issue preventing us from properly supporting synchronous, same-origin, cross-window, script calls. That is, when you open a window that's same origin, script in one window is allowed to directly call functions in the other window and some of these calls will fail. postMessage calls work just fine and is the recommended way to do things if that's possible for you. Otherwise we continue to work on improving this.


Serializing JavaScript Promise Execution

2013 Aug 10, 3:07
Occasionally I have need to run a set of unrelated promises in series, for instance an object dealing with a WinRT camera API that can only execute one async operation at a time, or an object handling postMessage message events and must resolve associated async operations in the same order it received the requests. The solution is very simply to keep track of the last promise and when adding a new promise in serial add a continuation of the last promise to execute the new promise and point the last promise at the result. I encapsulate the simple solution in a simple constructor:

    function PromiseExecutionSerializer() {
var lastPromise = WinJS.Promise.wrap(); // Start with an empty fulfilled promise.

this.addPromiseForSerializedExecution = function(promiseFunction) {
lastPromise = lastPromise.then(function () {
// Don't call directly so next promise doesn't get previous result parameter.
return promiseFunction();

The only thing to watch out for is to ensure you don't pass the result of a previous promise onto a subsequent promise that is unrelated.
PermalinkCommentsasync javascript promise technical

Considerate MessagePort Usage

2013 Aug 7, 7:14
Sharing by leezie5. Two squirrels sharing food hanging from a bird feeder. Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.When writing a JavaScript library that uses postMessage and the message event, I must be considerate of other JS code that will be running along side my library. I shouldn't assume I'm the only sender and receiver on a caller provided MessagePort object. This means obviously I should use addEventListener("message" rather than the onmessage property (see related What if two programs did this?). But considering the actual messages traveling over the message channel I have the issue of accidentally processing another libraries messages and having another library accidentally process my own message. I have a few options for playing nice in this regard:
Require a caller provided unique MessagePort
This solves the problem but puts a lot of work on the caller who may not notice nor follow this requirement.
Uniquely mark my messages
To ensure I'm acting upon my own messages and not messages that happen to have similar properties as my own, I place a 'type' property on my postMessage data with a value of a URN unique to me and my JS library. Usually because its easy I use a UUID URN. There's no way someone will coincidentally produce this same URN. With this I can be sure I'm not processing someone else's messages. Of course there's no way to modify my postMessage data to prevent another library from accidentally processing my messages as their own. I can only hope they take similar steps as this and see that my messages are not their own.
Use caller provided MessagePort only to upgrade to new unique MessagePort
I can also make my own unique MessagePort for which only my library will have the end points. This does still require the caller to provide an initial message channel over which I can communicate my new unique MessagePort which means I still have the problems above. However it clearly reduces the surface area of the problem since I only need once message to communicate the new MessagePort.
The best solution is likely all of the above.
Photo is Sharing by leezie5. Two squirrels sharing food hanging from a bird feeder. Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.
PermalinkCommentsDOM html javascript messagechannel postMessage programming technical

Subtleties of postMessage

2013 Jul 15, 1:00

In IE10 and other new browsers one may create MessageChannel objects that have two MessagePorts each connected (w3c spec calls it entangled) to one another such that postMessage on one port results in the message event firing on the other. You can pass an array of ports as the last parameter to postMessage and they show up in the ports property of the message event arg.


The postMessage here is like the worker postMessage and unlike the window and iframe postMessage in that it applies no origin checking:

  1. No origin postMessage in workers and MessagePorts: postMessage(messageData, ports)
  2. Origin postMessage in windows and iframes: postMessage(messageData, targetOrigin, ports)

Unfortunately the origin isn't an optional parameter at the end to make the two postMessages have the same signature.

On the event handler side, the event arg always has an origin property. But in the no origin case it is always the empty string.


There is also a source property on the message event arg which if set is an object that has a postMessage property allowing you to post back to your caller. It is set for the origin case, however, in the no origin case this property is null. This is somewhat reasonable because in the case of MessagePort and Workers there are only two endpoints so you always know the source of a message implicitly. Unlike the origin case in which any iframe or window can be calling postMessage on any other iframe or window and the caller is unknown. So not unreasonable but it would be nice if the source property was always set for consistency.

MessageChannel start

When a MessageChannel is created it has two MessagePorts, but until those ports are started they will queue up any messages they receive. Once started they will dispatch all queued messages. Ports don't have to be started to send messages.

A port may be started in two ways, either by explicitly calling the start method on the port, or by setting the onmessage callback property on the port. However, adding an event listener via addEventListener("message", does not start the port. It works this way in IE and Chrome and the spec states this as well.

The justification is that since you can have only one callback via onmessage that once set you must implicitly be ready to receive messages and its fine to start the port. As opposed to the addEventListener in which case the user agent cannot start implicitly because it doesn't know how many event listeners will be added.  I found Hixie stating this justification in geoloc meeting notes.


W3C Spec

Opera introduction

PermalinkCommentsDOM html javascript postMessage technical web-worker worker

Words with Hints Windows 8 App Development Notes

2013 Jul 4, 1:00

My second completed app for the Windows Store was Words with Hints a companion to Words with Friends or other Scrabble like games that gives you *ahem* hints. You provide your tiles and optionally letters placed in a line on the board and Words with Hints gives you word options.

I wrote this the first time by building a regular expression to check against my dictionary of words which made for a slow app on the Surface. In subsequent release of the app I now spawn four web workers (one for each of the Surface's cores) each with its own fourth of my dictionary. Each fourth of the dictionary is a trie which makes it easy for me to discard whole chunks of possible combinations of Scrabble letters as I walk the tree of possibilities.

The dictionaries are large and takes a noticeable amount of time to load on the Surface. The best performing mechanism I found to load them is as JavaScript source files that simply define their portion of the dictionary on the global object and synchronously (only on the worker so not blocking the UI thread). Putting them into .js files means they take advantage of bytecode caching making them load faster. However because the data is mostly strings and not code there is a dramatic size increase when the app is installed. The total size of the four dictionary .js files is about 44Mb. The bytecode cache for the dictionary files is about double that 88Mb meaning the dictionary plus the bytecode cache is 132Mb.

To handle the bother of postMessage communication and web workers this was the first app in which I used my promise MessagePort project which I'll discuss more in the future.

This is the first app in which I used the Microsoft Ad SDK. It was difficult to find the install for the SDK and difficult to use their website, but once setup, the Ad SDK was easy to import into VS and easy to use in my app.

PermalinkCommentsdevelopment technical windows windows-store words-with-hints

Web Worker Initialization Race

2012 Feb 24, 1:44

Elaborating on a previous brief post on the topic of Web Worker initialization race conditions, there's two important points to avoid a race condition when setting up a Worker:

  1. The parent starts the communication posting to the worker.
  2. The worker sets up its message handler in its first synchronous block of execution.

For example the following has no race becaues the spec guarentees that messages posted to a worker during its first synchronous block of execution will be queued and handled after that block. So the worker gets a chance to setup its onmessage handler. No race:

var worker = new Worker();

onmessage = function(e) {
// ...

The following has a race because there's no guarentee that the parent's onmessage handler is setup before the worker executes postMessage. Race (violates 1):

var worker = new Worker();
worker.onmessage = function(e) {
// ...


The following has a race because the worker has no onmessage handler set in its first synchronous execution block and so the parent's postMessage may be sent before the worker sets its onmessage handler. Race (violates 2):

var worker = new Worker();

function() {
onmessage = function(e) {
// ...
PermalinkCommentstechnical programming worker web-worker html script

[html5] Web Workers: Race-Condition setting onmessage handler?

2011 Sep 20, 7:17There's no race between posting to a web worker and the web worker setting up its message handler as long as the web worker sets its message handler in the first sync. block of code that runs in the web worker: "Basically, once the initial worker script returns, the worker's port is enabled and the normal message port event delivery mechanism kicks in (including dropping unhandled messages on the floor)."PermalinkCommentstechnical web-worker webbrowser programming postMessage

Chromium Blog: Security in Depth: New Security Features

2010 Jan 27, 9:56Some of the new security features in Chrome: XSS filter, HTTPS only, HTML5 origin header, and HTML5 postMessage function.PermalinkCommentshtml5 html script xss csrf chrome browser google security web technical
Older Entries Creative Commons License Some rights reserved.