A node.js server for server-side rendering Khan Academy react components
JavaScript Other
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mpolyak Upgrade react-render-server to React 16.3.0
Test Plan:
 - Run `npm run test`
 - Run `npm run dev`
 - Visit `http://localhost:8081/react-sandbox?norehydratek=1`

Reviewers: emily, john, scottgrant

Reviewed By: john

Subscribers: tom

Differential Revision: https://phabricator.khanacademy.org/D45633
Latest commit 6d019e4 Jun 14, 2018



Build Status

react-render-server is a node.js server for server-side rendering Khan Academy React components. It allows you to do server-side rendering of React components when your main user-facing server is not written in JavaScript.

To do so, your user-facing server written in whatever language it is (ours is written in Python), will make requests to this node.js server. These requests will be HTTP POST requests to the /render endpoint with a JSON encoded payload that looks like so:

    "urls": [
    "path": "./javascript/content-library-package/components/link.jsx",
    "globals": {
        "location": "http://khanacademy.org/science/physics",
        "KA": {
            "language": "en"
    "props": {
        "href": "http://www.google.com",
        "children": "Google"
    "secret": "...."

And the response will look something like this:

    "html": "<a href='http://www.google.com' class='link141'>Google</a>",
    "css": {
        content: ".link141{backgroundColor:transparent;}",
        renderedClassNames: ["link141"]

In the request:

  • urls is an list of URLs that point to JavaScript files containing the source of the React component to render and all of their transitive dependencies. The files listed will be executed in order.
  • path is the require() path to the React component you wish to render.
  • globals is a map of global variables to their values. These values will be set in the JavaScript VM context before the React component specified by path is require()'d.
  • props will be passed verbatim as props to the component.
  • secret is a shared secret that will be pulled from disk on server bootup in order to discourage arbitrary code execution attempts against the server.

In the response:

Component Sandboxes

To sandbox the effects of rendering each component and to allow multiple versions of the same component to be rendered without re-deploying react-render-server, each component (as specified via path) is rendered in its own JavaScript context via the node.js vm module.


To avoid duplicating work on every request, react-render-server makes use of lru-cache, with a default size of 100MB.

Two varieties of things are cached:

  1. Files downloaded from the sources listed in urls, keyed by the full URL.
    This means if your file contents change, you'll need to include a cache busting query param in the file URL, or have your file names contain a hash of their contents.
  2. The component VM sandboxes as described above, keyed by the concatenation of urls and path.

Graceful Degradation

On our user facing Python server, we have a 1 second timeout that aborts the request to the react-render-server. Failures such as these are okay, because we can fall back to doing client-side rendering. This isn't part of this repository, but this server was designed with that graceful degradation behaviour in mind.


To get the server running locally, clone this repository and run:

npm install
npm run serve_local

And you should see this:

> react-render-server@0.1.0 serve_local /Users/jlfwong/khan/react-render-server
> nodemon src/main.js -- --dev

[nodemon] 1.8.1
[nodemon] to restart at any time, enter `rs`
[nodemon] watching: *.*
[nodemon] starting `node src/main.js --dev`
info: react-render-server running at http://:::8060

Adapting for use outside of Khan Academy

This server tries to minimize the amount of Khan Academy-specific logic, with though it does have a hard dependency on KAdefine, our in-house JavaScript module system. To adapt this to your needs, you'll need to replace references to KAdefine in src/render.js with the relevant version from your module system.

For instance, you could expose all of the components you wish to server render as globals, and replace references to KAdefine.require with accesses to global variables.

How to deploy

Go to https://jenkins.khanacademy.org/job/deploy/job/deploy-react-render-server/build and click on Build.

Using set_default.sh is not currently recommended since the version tends to get overwhelmed with traffic and return a bunch of 502 errors rather than scaling smoothly. The current recommended deployment process is to deploy a new version and then manually switch traffic to it slowly using the "split traffic" feature and slowly ramping traffic up. Keep an eye on 502s. Once they die down, you can increase the amount of traffic to the version. I start with sending 1% of traffic to the new version, wait a few minutes then up it to 2%, then continue to double the percentage every 5 minutes or so. The important part is to make sure the the rate of 502s stays relatively low. 502s can be seen in the version logs as well as the "summary" view of the app engine "instances" screen.

Versions screen where you can split traffic: https://console.cloud.google.com/appengine/versions?project=khan-academy&serviceId=react-render

Instances screen: https://console.cloud.google.com/appengine/instances?project=khan-academy&serviceId=react-render

Logs: https://console.cloud.google.com/logs/viewer?authuser=0&project=khan-academy&minLogLevel=0&expandAll=false&resource=gae_app%2Fmodule_id%2Freact-render&advancedFilter=&logName=projects%2Fkhan-academy%2Flogs%2Fappengine.googleapis.com%252Fnginx.request

When looking for 502 on both the "instances" screen and in the logs, make sure to select the version that you just deployed.

We may automate this process in the future.