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    0.3.8 • Public • Published


    Yet Another Object Bridge

    Normally Web Workers, Node.js child processes, cross-domain windows, and similar things can only communicate by sending messages back and forth. This is really inconvenient compared to using a normal object-oriented API.

    This library allows software to expose a nice object-oriented API, even if it's trapped behind a messaging interface. It does this by serializing method calls, property changes, and events into a stream of messages that can pass over the interface.

    Similar libraries include:

    • post-robot - Only works with iframes and popup windows.
    • remote-lib - Rich functionality, but requires ES6 proxy support.

    Yaob is small (under 4K minified and gzipped) and doesn't require any ES6 features besides a Promise implementation.

    Standard.js Style Guide


    In a typical use-case, a client process, such as a web app, needs some functionality from a server process, such as a Web Worker. The client launches the server process, and the server process sends back an object that contains its API. The client interacts with the server by calling methods on this object.

    The initial object the server sends across is called the "root" object. This object can have methods that return other objects, allowing the server to expose a rich, multi-object API.

    These API objects can also have dynamic properties. If the properties change on the server-side object, yaob will update the client-side object to match. It will also generate an event that the client can subscribe to. This way, the client can react to changing server-side values. This feature makes yaob unique compared to similar libraries.

    Bridgeable Objects

    To pass over the bridge, objects should inherit from the Bridgeable base class. Here is an example:

    import { Bridgeable } from 'yaob'
    class WorkerApi extends Bridgeable {
      constructor () {
        this._multiplier = 2
      async double (x) {
        return x * this._multiplier
      get version () {
        return '1.0.0'

    These Bridgeable objects can contain properties, getter functions, and async methods, which the yaob library will bridge across the messaging interface. This is the only place functions are allowed. If the API tries to pass function objects directly, yaob won't be able to handle them and will throw an error.

    The yaob library will not bridge property or method names that begin with an underscore. This means that this._multiplier will not be visible to the client. The client will only see the double method and the version getter. This provides a simple way to make things private.

    Server Side

    The yaob library provides a Bridge object, which can send objects back and forth. The Bridge needs to know how to send and receive messages. For Web Workers, postMessage and onmessage are the way to do this. Other interfaces, such as Web Sockets, TCP/IP, or Node.js child processes each have their own different ways:

    // worker.js
    import { Bridge } from 'yaob'
    // Create a bridge server, telling it how to send messages out:
    const server = new Bridge({
      sendMessage: message => postMessage(message)
    // If the worker gets a message, give it to the bridge server:
    onmessage = event => server.handleMessage(event.data)

    Once this send & receive functionality is set up, we can transmit our initial API object:

    // worker.js
    server.sendRoot(new WorkerApi());

    This is all the server side needs to do.

    Client Side

    On the client side, spin up your worker and connect a Bridge to its messaging interface:

    import { Bridge } from 'yaob'
    const worker = new WebWorker('./worker.js')
    // Create the bridge client, telling it how to send messages out:
    const client = new Bridge({
      sendMessage: message => worker.postMessage(message)
    // If the worker sends us a message, forward it to the bridge client:
    worker.onmessage = event => client.handleMessage(event.data)

    Now we can wait for the server side to send us the root object, which we can then use:

    // Wait for the server to send us the root object...
    const root = await client.getRoot()
    // Method calls are async:
    expect(await root.double(1.5)).equals(3)
    // Property access is synchronous!
    // Private properties are not visible:

    Updating properties

    Any time a property changes, the server-side object should call this._update(). This method is part of the Bridgeable base class. It tells the bridge to diff the object's properties and send over the changed ones. The _update method is only available on the server side, since its name begins with an underscore.

    The bridge compares the object's properties shallowly (===). This means yaob won't notice if you modify the contents of an array, for example, since the property's identity doesn't change (it's still the same array). To force the bridge to send a property like this, simply pass the property's name to the _update method:

    class ListExample extends Bridgeable {
      constructor () {
        this.list = []
      async addItem (item) {
        // Explicitly send the `list` property over the bridge:

    Watching properties

    To receive a callback any time a property changes, use the watch method, which is part of the Bridgeable base class:

    someObject.watch('list', newValue => console.log(newValue))

    The first parameter is the property name, and the second parameter is the callback. The callback will fire any time the property changes. The object must use this._update() to trigger the changes, as described above.

    The watch method returns an unsubscribe function. You can use this to unsubscribe at any time.


    Bridgeable objects can also emit events. To subscribe to events, use the on method, which is part of the Bridgeable base class:

    someObject.on('login', username => {
      console.log('got new user:', username)

    The bridge will emit an error event any time an event callback throws an exception, and will emit a close event when objects are closed.

    Use the _emit method to send events, which is part of the Bridgeable base class:

    someObject._emit('eventName', somePayload)

    The on method is available on both the client and server side objects, but the _emit method is only available on the server side, since its name begins with an underscore.

    The payload must be a single value. If you need a more complicated payload, simply pack everything into an object:

    someObject._emit('logout', { username: 'yaob', reason: 'timeout' })

    The on method returns an unsubscribe function. You can use this to unsubscribe at any time. You can also use it to set up a one-shot event listener:

    const unsubscribe = someObject.on('logout', payload => {


    Once the server sends an object over the bridge, the object will stick around for the lifetime of the bridge. This is because there is no way of knowing when the client will access the object again. This can leak memory.

    If this sort of thing becomes a problem, you can explicitly free objects by calling this._close(), which is part of the Bridgeable base class. Closing a server-side object will make it un-bridgeable and will destroy the client-side object. Calling any method on the client side will then throw an exception.

    This can also be a useful way to represent logging out of accounts, closing files, or other situations where an API object needs to become unusable.

    Unit Testing

    To help test your API in a realistic setting (but without starting an entirely new process), the yaob library provides a makeLocalBridge function, which returns a locally-connected bridge for any bridgeable object:

    class MyApi extends Bridgeable { ... }
    const testApi = makeLocalBridge(new MyApi())

    This example creates a testApi which looks and feels just like a MyApi instance, but is actually a bridge. Every property change and method call turns into a message, just as it would if the MyApi instance were in another process.

    The makeLocalBridge function also accepts an optional cloneMessage function:

    const testApi = makeLocalBridge(new MyApi(), {
      cloneMessage: m => JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(m))

    This makes it possible to incorporate realistic message serialization and deserialization into the test.

    Shared Methods

    Bridges normally forward method calls to the original object. Sometimes, though, it's useful to have synchronous methods that run directly on the client side without bridging. The shareData function makes this possible:

    import { Bridgeable, shareData } from 'yaob'
    class SomeApi extends Bridgeable {
      syncMethod (x) {
        return 2 * x
    // Share the method with the client:
      'SomeApi.syncMethod': SomeApi.prototype.syncMethod
    // Send the object over a bridge:
    const local = makeLocalBridge(new SomeApi())
    // No `await` needed!

    Since shared methods run on the client side, they can only access whatever public API the client side could access anyhow. In particular, this means they cannot access private class members that begin with underscores, since those aren't bridged.

    Both the client and the server keep matching tables of shared data. When the server encounters a shared value, it sends value's name to the client, who looks up the equivalent value in its table. This means that every shared value must have a unique name, such as the 'SomeApi.syncMethod' name given in the example above.

    Adding items to the shared table is only effective at library load time. Otherwise, bundling tools like rollup.js will not copy the values into the client-side code bundle.


    Both the Bridge constructor and makeLocalBridge function accept an optional throttleMs option. When this option is set, the bridge will wait this long between sending messages. It will batch up any events, method calls, or property changes that occur in the mean time. This may improve performance if properties change often, but could also hurt performance by increasing latency.

    makeLocalBridge(new RootApi(), { throttleMs: 10 })
    const server = new Bridge({
      throttleMs: 10,
      sendMessage () {}

    Avoiding Bridgeable

    The easiest way to make your object bridgeable is to extend the Bridgeable base class. If you need more control though, yaob provides other options:

    • Call bridgifyClass on a class constructor function. Any instances of this class will be bridgeable.
    • Call bridgifyObject directly on an object.

    You might use one of these other options if you don't control your class hierarchy, for instance. All the Bridgeable methods have standalone versions, so their functionality is available even if your class doesn't extend Bridgeable:

    import { close, emit, update } from 'yaob'
    // Instead of this._emit(...):
    emit(this, 'event', payload)
    // Instead of this._update():
    // Instead of this._close():

    If you would like to give your users nice on or watch methods like the one Bridgeable provides, you can do this:

    import { bridgifyClass, onMethod, watchMethod } from 'yaob'
    class SomeApi { ... }
    SomeApi.prototype.on = onMethod
    SomeApi.prototype.watch = watchMethod

    The onMethod and watchMethod values are shared, so the bridge knows to replace them with a proper client-side methods instead of bridging them.

    Flow Types

    This library ships with Flow types. For information on using them, please see the Flow tutorial.


    Consider using a tool like rollup.js to bundle your library. This bundler supports tree shaking, so it will eliminate unused code from the bundles it produces. This way, you can put all your code in one source tree, and let the bundler separate your server-side code from your client-side code.




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