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MOVED. This doc is now maintained at https://github.com/w3c/webcomponents/blob/gh-pages/proposals/css-modules-v1-explainer.md. Please refer to that link for the latest content.

CSS Modules V1 Explainer

Author: @dandclark

Introduction

This document proposes an extension of the ES Script Modules system to include CSS Modules. These will allow web developers to load CSS into a component definition in a manner that interacts seamlessly with other module types.

Why are CSS Modules needed?

The introduction of ES6 JavaScript Modules has provided several benefits for web developers including more componentized code and better dependency management. However, solutions for including CSS in component definitions are lacking. Current practices all have one or more of the following rough edges:

  • Side effects like appending <style> elements to the document. If this is done in the top-level scope of the document then it breaks shadow root style scoping. If it is done inside a shadow root then each individual instance of the component must include its own <style> element in its shadow root instance.
  • Inlined CSS text as a string in JavaScript. This is not optimally performant (it's processed by both the JS and CSS parsers) and is a poor developer experience.
  • Dynamically fetch()ing CSS is generally not statically analyzable and requires careful dependency management by the developer for complex applications.

CSS modules solves these issues by extending the ES modules infrastructure to allow importing a CSSStyleSheet object from a CSS file, which can then be added to the document or a shadowRoot via the adoptedStyleSheets array.

There is demand for this functionality in the developer community -- see this thread where there a number of developers have expressed interest. The popularity of CSS loaders in JS bundlers is also indicative of demand for this functionality.

Importing a CSS Module

CSS modules will be imported using the same import statements currently used for other ES modules:

import styles from "styles.css";
document.adoptedStyleSheets = [...document.adoptedStyleSheets, styles];

The default export of the module is the CSSStyleSheet generated from the CSS file. A CSS module has no named exports.

Some implementation details

The MIME-type in the HTTP response header is checked to determine how a given module should interpreted. A MIME-type of text/css will be treated as a CSS module. Each imported CSS Module will have its own module record as introduced in the ES6 spec and will participate in the module map and module dependency graphs.

The V1 of CSS Modules will be built using Synthetic Modules. Specifically, to create a new CSS module given a fetched text/css file:

  1. Create a CSSStyleSheet() via the constructor.
  2. Call CSSStyleSheet.replaceSync on the new sheet with the contents of the file as the argument (see here for discussion of why this is replaceSync rather than replace). An error thrown from this call causes the module creation to fail with a parse error.
  3. Create a new Synthetic module via CreateSyntheticModule with "default" as the sole entry of exportNames and with evaluationSteps that calls SetMutableBinding("default", sheet) where sheet is the CSSStyleSheet created in step 1.
  4. Create a new CSS module script with the Synthetic module created in step 3 as its record.

Why is CSSStyleSheet.replaceSync used instead of CSSStyleSheet.replace?

This proposal describes a limited V1 of CSS modules that do not support @imports. The reason for this is that it's not clear whether an @import in a CSS module should be treated as its own CSS module in the module graph, or whether CSS modules should be leaf modules. There are 3 possibilities under consideration:

  1. CSS Modules are leaf modules, and don't allow @import references (following the example of replaceSync in constructable stylesheets). This is the V1 implementation described in this document, and this is why step 2 of of CSS module creation as described here uses replaceSync instead of replace; replaceSync throws if given input containing @import rules.
  2. CSS modules are leaf modules; prior to creating the module record for a CSS module, load the full @import tree of its stylesheet and if any fail to resolve, treat it as a parse error for the module.
  3. CSS Modules are non-leaf (cyclic) modules. Process a CSS Module's @imported stylesheets as its requested module children in the module graph, with their own module records. They will Instantiate and Evaluate as distinct modules.

Option 1 seems needlessly restrictive in the long-term.

One of the main differences between options 2 and 3 is that 3 implies that if a CSS file is @imported multiple times for a given realm, each import would share a single CSSStyleSheet between them (because a module is only instantiated/evaluated once for a given module specifier). There are potential memory/performance gains to be found here in cases where a developer includes a stylesheet multiple times by mistake or because of shared CSS dependencies. On the other hand, this is a divergence from the existing behavior where multiple @imports of the same .css file each come with their own CSSStyleSheet.

@justinfagnani pointed out here, here, and here that the sharing of @imported stylesheets in option 3 could enable scenarios where a tool editing CSS or a theming system could dynamically change the shared sheet and have the changes applied in all the different importers of the sheet.

However, as @tabatkins discussed here, option 3 is a significant departure from the current @import behavior in a way that can't be reproduced dynamically: the CSS object model can't be used to make multiple sheets depend on a single child stylesheet. The .parentStyleSheet and .ownerRule references also pose a problem here as these currently reference only a single sheet and become ambiguous if a sheet were to have multiple importers.

The discussion following this comment contains more extensive discussion of this issue. Given the lack of consensus on far, we're moving forward with a V1 that sidesteps the question by going with option 1. This is forward-compatible given that any use of @import in a CSS module will prevent the module from loading. Making progress on this now rather than waiting for a final option 2 vs 3 decision is advantageous given that we can get earlier developer feedback on the feature and a better perspective of how it is used in practice, both of which may help us in making these design decisions. Additionally, completing a V1 of CSS modules unblocks progress on HTML modules.

Example: Custom Element Definition using CSS Modules

The following is an example of how a custom element might be defined today, where CSS is included inline as a JavaScript string:

<!doctype html>
<html>
    <head>
        <script type="module">
            class HTML5Element extends HTMLElement {
                constructor() {
                    super();
                    let shadowRoot = this.attachShadow({ mode: "open" });

                    let style = document.createElement("style");
                    style.innerText = `
                        .outerDiv {
                            border:0.1em solid blue;
                            display:inline-block;
                            padding: 0.4em;
                        }

                        .devText {
                            font-weight: bold;
                            font-size: 1.2em;
                            text-align: center;
                            margin-top: 0.3em;
                        }

                        .mainImage {
                            height:254px;
                        }
                        `;

                    let outerDiv = document.createElement("div");
                    outerDiv.className = "outerDiv";
                    let mainImage = document.createElement("img");
                    mainImage.className = "mainImage";
                    mainImage.src = "https://www.w3.org/html/logo/downloads/HTML5_Logo_512.png";
                    let devText = document.createElement("div");
                    devText.className = "devText";
                    devText.innerText = "CSS Modules Are Great!";

                    this.shadowRoot.appendChild(outerDiv);
                    outerDiv.appendChild(mainImage);
                    outerDiv.appendChild(devText);
                    this.shadowRoot.appendChild(style);
                }
            }

            window.customElements.define("my-html5-element", HTML5Element);
        </script>
    </head>
    <body>
        <my-html5-element></my-html5-element>
    </body>
</html>

The following example shows shows how the same custom element definition could incorporate a CSS module to avoid CSS-as-a-JS-string (or inserting a <style> tag, etc.):

<!doctype html>
<html>
    <head>
        <script type="module">
            import styles from './html5Element.css';

            class HTML5Element extends HTMLElement {
                constructor() {
                    super();
                    let shadowRoot = this.attachShadow({ mode: "closed" });

                    this.shadowRoot.adoptedStyleSheets = [styles];

                    let outerDiv = document.createElement("div");
                    outerDiv.className = "outerDiv";
                    let mainImage = document.createElement("img");
                    mainImage.className = "mainImage";
                    mainImage.src = "https://www.w3.org/html/logo/downloads/HTML5_Logo_512.png";
                    let devText = document.createElement("div");
                    devText.className = "devText";
                    devText.innerText = "CSS Modules Are Great!";

                    shadowRoot.appendChild(outerDiv);
                    outerDiv.appendChild(mainImage);
                    outerDiv.appendChild(devText);
                }
            }

      window.customElements.define("my-html5-element", HTML5Element);
       </script>
    </head>
    <body>
        <my-html5-element></my-html5-element>
    </body>
</html>
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