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6.3.0 • Public • Published


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Tools for making web workers fun and type-safe.


yarn add @shopify/web-worker


This library contains three parts that must be used together:

  1. The public API of the package provided by @shopify/web-worker
  2. A babel plugin provided by @shopify/web-worker/babel that identifies uses of createWorkerFactory that need to be processed
  3. A webpack plugin provided by @shopify/web-worker/webpack that outputs the worker as a dedicated chunk

App code


The main thread will use the createWorkerFactory() function provided by this library to create a function that can build "smart" workers. Developers should pass this function an async import() for the module they wish to make into a worker:

import {createWorkerFactory} from '@shopify/web-worker';

const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));

When the resulting function is called, it will return a worker "instance". This instance is directly connected to the worker code, so you are expected to call it as if you had imported that external module directly. Note that any return values from functions exported by the worker module will be promises, because they are executed via message passing (if you use TypeScript, you’ll see the correct return types automatically).

const worker = createWorker();

// Assuming worker was:
// export function hello(name) {
//   return `Hello, ${name}`;
// }

const result = await worker.hello('world'); // 'Hello, world'

Note that more complex workers are allowed; they can export multiple functions, including default exports, and it can accept complex argument types with some restrictions:

const worker = createWorker();

// Assuming worker was:
// export default function hello(name) {
//   return `Hello, ${name}`;
// }
// export function getName(user) {
//   return user.getDisplayName();
// }

const result = await worker.default(
  await worker.getName({
    getDisplayName: () => 'Tobi',
); // 'Hello, Tobi'
Terminating the worker

When the web worker is no longer required, you can terminate the worker using terminate(). This will immediately terminate any ongoing operations in the worker, and free up any memory associated with it. If an attempt is made to make calls to a terminated worker, an error will be thrown.

Note: A worker can only be terminated from the main thread. A worker can not terminate itself from within the worker module.

import {createWorkerFactory, terminate} from '@shopify/web-worker';

const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));
const worker = createWorker();

// ...



Your worker can be written almost indistinguishably from a "normal" module. It can import other modules (including async import() statements), use modern JavaScript features, and more. The exported functions from your module form its public API, which the main thread code will call into as shown above. Note that only functions can be exported; this library is primarily meant to be used to create an imperative API for offloading work to a worker, for which only function exports are needed.

As noted in the browser section, worker code should be mindful of the limitations of what can be passed into and out of a worker function.


This library implements the calling of functions on a worker using @remote-ui/rpc. As such, all the limitations and additional considerations in that library must be considered with the functions you expose from the worker. In particular, note the memory management concerns when passing functions to and from the worker. For convenience, the release and retain methods from @remote-ui/rpc are re-exported from this library.


This library only works if your application is bundled with webpack. When configuring webpack, include the Babel plugin this library provides for any modules that might contain a call to createWorkerFactory(), and include the WebWorkerPlugin exported by @shopify/web-worker/webpack:

import {WebWorkerPlugin} from '@shopify/web-worker/webpack';

const webpackConfig = {
  // rest of webpack config...
  plugins: [new WebWorkerPlugin()],
  module: {
    rules: [
        test: /\.js/,
        exclude: /node_modules/,
        use: [
            loader: 'babel-loader',
            options: {
              babelrc: false,
              plugins: [require.resolve('@shopify/web-worker/babel')],

The WebWorkerPlugin helps coordinate a few things during webpack compilation and allows you to pass options to the loader, which is otherwise completely hidden. The following options are accepted by the WebWorkerPlugin constructor:

  • globalObject: allows you to customize the options.output.globalObject option passed to the child Webpack compiler. By default, this is set to self, which works well in workers, but if you have a different global object that must be used, you can pass it here.
  • plugins: an array of webpack plugins to include in the child compilation of the worker. This library automatically includes a few plugins that will generate output code appropriate for workers.
  • publicPathGlobalVariable: a global variable name to be read when prefixing the worker's script path. When this option is set, the loader assumes the global variable will always be defined. By default, this value is __webpack_public_path__ which is always defined.


We do not recommend including the Babel plugin for the test environment. When the Babel plugin is omitted, Factory will know to access your module asynchronously, and will proxy all method calls to it. When in this mode, the function returned from createWorkerFactory will not actually construct a Worker for your code. As a result, this will only work if your worker code is written such that it will also execute successfully on the "main" thread. If you do use features in the worker that make it incompatible to run alongside the browser code, we recommend mocking the "worker" module (using jest.mock(), for example).


Customizing worker creation

By default, this library will create a worker by calling new Worker with a blob URL for the worker script. This is generally all you need, but some use cases may want to construct the worker differently. For example, you might want to construct a worker in a sandboxed iframe to ensure the worker is not treated as same-origin, or create a worker farm instead of a worker per script. To do so, you can supply the createMessenger option to the function provided by createWorkerFactory. This option should be a function that accepts a URL object for the location of the worker script, and return a MessageEndpoint compatible with being passed to @remote-ui/rpc’s createEndpoint API.

import {fromMessagePort} from '@remote-ui/rpc';
import {createWorkerFactory} from '@shopify/web-worker';

/* imaginary abstraction that vends workers */
const workerFarm = {};

const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));
const worker = createWorker({
  createMessenger(url) {
    return workerFarm.workerWithUrl(url);

An optimization many uses of createMessenger will want to make is to use a MessageChannel to directly connect the worker and the main page, even if the worker itself is constructed unconventionally (e.g., inside an iframe). As a convenience, the worker that is constructed by this library supports postMessageing a special {__replace: MessagePort} object. When sent, the MessagePort will be used as an argument to the worker’s Endpoint#replace method, making it the communication channel for all messages between the parent page and worker.

import {fromMessagePort} from '@remote-ui/rpc';
import {createWorkerFactory} from '@shopify/web-worker';

/* imaginary abstraction that creates workers in an iframe */
const iframe = {};

const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));
const worker = createWorker({
  createMessenger(url) {
    const {port1, port2} = new MessageChannel();
    iframe.createWorker(url).postMessage({__replace: port2}, [port2]);

    // In a real example, you'd want to also clean up the worker
    // you've created in the iframe as part of the `terminate()` method.
    return fromMessagePort(port1);

The createIframeWorkerMessenger is provided to make it easy to create a worker that is not treated as same-origin to the parent page. This function will, for each worker, create an iframe with a restrictive sandbox attribute and an anonymous origin, and will force that iframe to create a worker. It then passes a MessagePort through to the worker as the postMessage interface to use so that messages go directly between the worker and the original page.

import {
} from '@shopify/web-worker';

const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));
const worker = createWorker({
  createMessenger: createIframeWorkerMessenger,

Note that this mechanism will always fail CORS checks on requests from the worker code unless the requested resource has the Allow-Access-Control-Origin header set to *.

Naming the worker file

By default, worker files created using createWorkerFactory are given incrementing IDs as the file name. This strategy is generally less than ideal for long-term caching, as the name of the file depends on the order in which it was encountered during the build. For long-term caching, it is better to provide a static name for the worker file. This can be done by supplying the webpackChunkName magic comment before your import:

import {createWorkerFactory, terminate} from '@shopify/web-worker';

// Note: only webpackChunkName is currently supported. Don’t try to use
// other magic webpack comments.
const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(
  () => import(/* webpackChunkName: 'myWorker' */ './worker'),

This name will be used as the prefix for the worker file. The worker will always end in .worker.js, and may also include additional hashes or other content (this library re-uses your output.filename and output.chunkFilename webpack options). You can access the URL of a worker file by accessing the url property of the function returned by createWorkerFactory:

import {createWorkerFactory, terminate} from '@shopify/web-worker';

const createWorker = createWorkerFactory(
  () => import(/* webpackChunkName: 'myWorker' */ './worker'),

// Something like `new URL(__webpack_public_path__ + 'myWorker.worker.js')`
"Plain" workers

The power of the createWorkerFactory library is that it automatically wraps the Worker in an @remote-ui/rpc Endpoint. This allows the seamless calling of module methods from the main thread to the worker, and the ability to pass non-serializable constructs like functions. However, if your use case does not require this RPC layer, you can save on bundle size by creating a "plain" worker factory. The functions created by createPlainWorkerFactory can be used to create Worker objects directly, with which you can implement whatever message passing system you want.

import {createPlainWorkerFactory} from '@shopify/web-worker';

const createWorker = createPlainWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));
const worker = createWorker();
worker.postMessage('direct postMessage access!');

Because you are interacting with the worker directly in this mode, most other features of this library are not relevant (the memory management considerations, the createMessenger option, expose, terminate, etc). However, you can customize the name of the worker file with the webpackChunkName comment, just like with workers created via createWorkerFactory. The functions returned by createPlainWorkerFactory also have a url property for the URL of the worker file, like createWorkerFactory.

How does it work?

The @shopify/web-worker/babel Babel plugin looks for any calls of createWorkerFactory. For each one, it looks for the nested import() call, and then for the imported path (e.g., ./worker). It then replaces the first argument to createWorkerFactory with an import for the worker module that references a custom Webpack loader:

import {createWorkerFactory} from '@shopify/web-worker';
createWorkerFactory(() => import('./worker'));

// becomes something like:
import {createWorkerFactory} from '@shopify/web-worker';
import workerStuff from '@shopify/web-worker/webpack-loader!./worker';


When webpack attempts to process this import, it sees the loader syntax, and passes the worker script to this package’s custom webpack loader. This loader does most of the heavy lifting. It creates an in-memory module (using information it pulls off the WebWorkerPlugin instance it finds in the webpack compiler) that exposes the worker API using the expose() function from this library:

// This is the imaginary module the loader creates and compiles
import {expose} from '@shopify/web-worker';
import * as api from './worker';

This imaginary module is then compiled with webpack. The loader takes the asset metadata from compiling the worker, and makes that information the exported data from the original ./worker module. Finally, createWorkerFactory() takes this metadata (which includes the main script tag that should be loaded in the worker) and, when called, creates a new Worker instance using a Blob that calls importScripts() on the main script for the worker.

The actual communication between the parent and worker is handled by @remote-ui/rpc.




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