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Protocol Buffers - Google's data interchange format

Build Status

Copyright 2008 Google Inc.

This directory contains the JavaScript Protocol Buffers runtime library.

The library is currently compatible with:

  1. CommonJS-style imports (eg. var protos = require('my-protos');)
  2. Closure-style imports (eg. goog.require('my.package.MyProto');)

Support for ES6-style imports is not implemented yet. Browsers can be supported by using Browserify, webpack, Closure Compiler, etc. to resolve imports at compile time.

To use Protocol Buffers with JavaScript, you need two main components:

  1. The protobuf runtime library. You can install this with npm install google-protobuf, or use the files in this directory.
  2. The Protocol Compiler protoc. This translates .proto files into .js files. The compiler is not currently available via npm, but you can download a pre-built binary on GitHub (look for the protoc-*.zip files under Downloads).


First, obtain the Protocol Compiler. The easiest way is to download a pre-built binary from

If you want, you can compile protoc from source instead. To do this follow the instructions in the top-level README.

Once you have protoc compiled, you can run the tests by typing:

$ cd js
$ npm install
$ npm test

# If your protoc is somewhere else than ../src/protoc, instead do this.
# But make sure your protoc is the same version as this (or compatible)!
$ PROTOC=/usr/local/bin/protoc npm test

This will run two separate copies of the tests: one that uses Closure Compiler style imports and one that uses CommonJS imports. You can see all the CommonJS files in commonjs_out/. If all of these tests pass, you know you have a working setup.

Using Protocol Buffers in your own project

To use Protocol Buffers in your own project, you need to integrate the Protocol Compiler into your build system. The details are a little different depending on whether you are using Closure imports or CommonJS imports:

Closure Imports

If you want to use Closure imports, your build should run a command like this:

$ protoc --js_out=library=myproto_libs,binary:. messages.proto base.proto

For Closure imports, protoc will generate a single output file (myproto_libs.js in this example). The generated file will goog.provide() all of the types defined in your .proto files. For example, for the unit tests the generated files contain many goog.provide statements like:


The generated code will also goog.require() many types in the core library, and they will require many types in the Google Closure library. So make sure that your goog.provide() / goog.require() setup can find all of your generated code, the core library .js files in this directory, and the Google Closure library itself.

Once you've done this, you should be able to import your types with statements like:


var message =;

CommonJS imports

If you want to use CommonJS imports, your build should run a command like this:

$ protoc --js_out=import_style=commonjs,binary:. messages.proto base.proto

For CommonJS imports, protoc will spit out one file per input file (so messages_pb.js and base_pb.js in this example). The generated code will depend on the core runtime, which should be in a file called google-protobuf.js. If you are installing from npm, this file should already be built and available. If you are running from GitHub, you need to build it first by running:

$ gulp dist

Once you've done this, you should be able to import your types with statements like:

var messages = require('./messages_pb');

var message = new messages.MyMessage();

The --js_out flag

The syntax of the --js_out flag is:


Where OPTIONS are separated by commas. Options are either opt=val or just opt (for options that don't take a value). The available options are specified and documented in the GeneratorOptions struct in src/google/protobuf/compiler/js/js_generator.h.

Some examples:

  • --js_out=library=myprotos_lib.js,binary:.: this contains the options library=myprotos.lib.js and binary and outputs to the current directory. The import_style option is left to the default, which is closure.
  • --js_out=import_style=commonjs,binary:protos: this contains the options import_style=commonjs and binary and outputs to the directory protos.


The API is not well-documented yet. Here is a quick example to give you an idea of how the library generally works:

var message = new MyMessage();

message.setName("John Doe");
message.setPhoneNumbers(["800-555-1212", "800-555-0000"]);

// Serializes to a UInt8Array.
bytes = message.serializeBinary();

var message2 = MyMessage.deserializeBinary(bytes);

For more examples, see the tests. You can also look at the generated code to see what methods are defined for your generated messages.