A simple, standardized interface library to Erlang HTTP Servers.
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Build Status

SimpleBridge takes the pain out of coding to multiple Erlang HTTP servers by creating a standardized interface. It currently supports Cowboy, Inets, Mochiweb, Webmachine, and Yaws.

SimpleBridge is used as the bridge to webservers for two of the most popular Erlang web frameworks: Nitrogen Web Framework and ChicagoBoss

In a sense, it is similar to EWGI, except SimpleBridge has some key improvements/differences:

  • Easily extended - Takes between 200 and 400 lines to add support for a new HTTP server, including the Bridge module itself, as well as default supervisor, and anchor module.
  • Websockets - SimpleBridge provides a single interface for handling websockets. Even servers which don't natively support websockets have a websocket layer with SimpleBridge. This means you can run websockets on Inets, Mochiweb, and Webmachine, none of which natively support Websockets.
  • MultiPart File Uploads - SimpleBridge has better support for HTTP POSTS, including support for multipart file uploads, with size limits and handle-able errors.
  • Static File Support - Support for sending a static file to the browser, using the underlying HTTP server's own methods.
  • Cookies Support - SimpleBridge provides interface functions for getting and setting cookies.
  • No Middleware Components - SimpleBridge does not explicitly support EWGI's concept of "middleware components". (Though you could probably fake it, haven't tried.)

  • SimpleBridge is split into three parts:

    • A Bridge module to allows you to see information about the incoming request and construct a response.
    • A Default supervisor that starts and configures the underlying server based on either the server-specific configuration, or the univeral Simple Bridge configuration.
    • A Default anchor module, which implements the underlying communication and connection setup for each request, and that interfaces with your appliction through the use of a handler module.

Hello World Example

% SimpleBridge Hello World Example

start() ->
  Handler = ?MODULE,
  simple_bridge:start(mochiweb, Handler).

run(Bridge) ->
    HTML = [
        "<h1>Hello, World!</h1>",
        io_lib:format("METHOD: ~p~n<br><br>", [Bridge:request_method()]),
        io_lib:format("COOKIES: ~p~n<br><br>", [Bridge:cookies()]),
        io_lib:format("HEADERS: ~p~n<br><br>", [Bridge:headers()]),
        io_lib:format("QUERY PARAMETERS: ~p~n<br><br>", [Bridge:query_params()])       
    Bridge2 = Bridge:set_status_code(200),
    Bridge3 = Bridge2:set_header("Content-Type", "text/html"),
    Bridge4 = Bridge3:set_response_data(HTML),

A more complete example:

To see a complete example handler page using SimpleBridge, demonstrating the results of requests, as well as providing a simple echo websocket server, look at the code of simple_bridge_handler_sample.

Quick Start

There is a built-in quickstart for demoing simple bridge with any backend, using the example mentioned above.

To try it out:

git clone -b ws git://github.com/nitrogen/simple_bridge.git
cd simple_bridge
make run_inets
# Feel free to replace "inets" with "cowboy", "mochiweb", "webmachine", or "yaws"

Then, open your browser and navigate to

Starting Simple Bridge

As demonstrated above, the simplest approach is to just start simple bridge with the appropriate backend (or use the simple_bridge.config). Simple Bridge will then start the server to the specs of your choice.

The following are all valid ways to start Simple Bridge:

%% Explicitly start with particular Backend and HandlerMod
simple_bridge:start(Backend, HandlerMod).

%% HandlerMod is determined from the handler config variable

%% Backend and HandlerMod are both determined by the configuration

%% Same as simple_bridge:start().

Note: You will still need to ensure that the dependencies are there for the webserver of your choice. For example, trying to start Yaws without the yaws application currently in your dependencies will fail.

The Anchor Module

When creating your server using any of the above methods, simple_bridge will automatically use the backend-specific anchor module for the chosen backend provided by Simple Bridge.

The anchor module serves as an additional layer to eliminate the need to write any platform-specific code in your application. The anchor module will transform the platform-specific requests and pass them off to the Handler Module in a uniform fashion.

The Handler Module

A Handler module is a standard module that SimpleBridge will call out to when a request is made, both standard HTTP requests, and websocket frames.

A Handler module is expected to export the following functions:

  • run(Bridge) - Bridge will be an initialized instance of a SimpleBridge object, and the last step of the run will be the return value of BridgeX:build_response()
  • ws_init(Bridge) - Called when a websocket connection is initialized.
    • Return Values:
      • ok - Everything went okay, proceed with the connection.
      • {ok, State} - Everything went okay, proceeed with connection and initialize with the provided State (which will be passed to ws_message, ws_info, and ws_terminate functions.
      • close - Everything did not go okay, let's shut down the connection.
  • ws_message(Message, Bridge, State) - Called when a websocket client has sent us something.
    • Message can be:
      • {Type, Data} - Type will be either binary or text, depending on the nature of the message. Data will always be a binary. By the nature of the WebSocket protocol, you can be guaranteed that if Type==text, that Data will be verified to be valid UTF8 Unicode.
    • Return Values:
      • noreply - No reply will be made.
      • {noreply, NewState} - No reply will be made, but change the state to NewState
      • {reply, {Type, Data}} - Type can be text or binary and Data can be a binary, list, or iolist.
      • {reply, {Type, Data}, NewState} - Same as {reply, {Type, Data}}, except that the internal state will be changed to NewState
      • {reply, [{Type, Data}]} - Reply with a list of {Type, Data} pairs as a single message broken into several frames.
      • {reply, [{Type, Data}], NewState} - Same as {reply, [{Type, Data}]} except change the state to NewState
      • close - Kill the connection (will provide the Websocket Error code 1000)
      • {close, StatusCode} - Kill the connection with StatusCode (See RFC6455 Sec 7.4.1 for the list of valid connection codes).
  • ws_info(Message, Bridge, State) - Called when the websocket process receives a message (that is, a message was sent from an Erlang process).
    • Message can be any term
    • Return values are exactly the same as ws_message
  • ws_terminate(ReasonCode, Bridge, State) - The websocket is shutting down with ReasonCode.
    • Return Value: ok

Notice that each of the call above passes in a Bridge object. This object will be how you interface with the underlying server, both retrieving information about the request (headers, query strings, etc), as well as building your response to the server.

A brief note about State and Websockets

In the above handler functions, State can be any term. It's for your own applications to track the state of your application's. The State is local only to the specific client's connection. For example, it could be used for storing a session identifier (for quick lookup in the session key-value store, rather than having to read a cookie from the Bridge object), or for tracking some user-specific value that might change from message to message, such as "Away" or "Do Not Disturb" status. It's provided as a convenience so that you won't need to rely on the process dictionary for tracking this state. As soon as the connection dies, this State will cease to exist. It is not, as one might be inclined to believe, an application-wide state.

If your function returns, for example, the atom noreply or the {reply, Message} two-tuples, then State will remain unchanged. As such, if you simply don't care about using the State variable, then you could easily ignore the State variable by matching it with _ in your function definitions, and retuning the "Stateless" versions of each return value (noreply, {reply, Message}).

What can I do with the Bridge?

Once you have created Bridge object, you can interface with it using a series of standardized function calls universal to all bridges.

You can interface with it using either of two mechanisms:

  • Standard Erlang Calls: sbw:function_name(Bridge) - "sbw" is an acronym for (S)imple (B)ridge (W)rapper.
  • Parameter Module Style Calls: Bridge:function_name()

Additionally, a Bridge provides both the Request and Response interface in a single object (which means you no longer have to track both a request and a response bridge in your application. A single bridge will do, pig.)

Request Bridge Interface

  • sbw:request_method(Bridge) - returns atom 'GET', 'POST', 'HEAD', etc.
  • sbw:path(Bridge) - returns the requested path and file (string)
  • sbw:peer_ip(Bridge) - returns the client's IP address in tuple format ( = {74, 125, 67, 100}).
  • sbw:peer_port(Bridge) - returns the client's port (integer)
  • sbw:headers(Bridge)(+) - returns a proplist of headers, {<<"header">>, <<"Value1">>}, {<<"header2">>, <<"Value2">>}, ...].
  • sbw:header(Header, Bridge)(++) - returns the value of a header.
  • sbw:cookies(Bridge)(+) - returns a proplist of cookies, [{<<"cookie1">>, <<"Value1">>}, {<<"cookie2">>, <<"Value2">>}, ...].
  • sbw:cookie(Cookie, Bridge)(++) - returns the value of a cookie.
  • sbw:query_params(Bridge)(+) - returns a proplist of query params, [{<<"Query1">>, <<"Value1">>}, {<<"Query2">>, <<"Value2">>}, ...].
  • sbw:query_param(Param, Bridge)(++) - returns value of a query param named Param, undefined if not found.
  • sbw:query_param_group(Param, Bridge)(++) - returns values of all query params named Param as list, ["Value1", "Value2", ...], [] if none found.
  • sbw:post_params(Bridge)(+) - returns a proplist of post params, [{"Post1", "Value1"}, {"Post2", "Value2"}, ...].
  • sbw:post_param(Param, Bridge)(++) - returns value of a post param named Param, undefined if not found
  • sbw:post_param_group(Param, Bridge)(++) - returns values of all post params named Param as list, ["Value1", "Value2", ...], [] if none found.
  • sbw:param(Param, Bridge)(++) - returns value of a query or post param named Param, undefined if not found
  • sbw:param_group(Param, Bridge)(++) - returns values of all query and post params named Param as list, ["Value1", "Value2", ...], [] if none found.
  • sbw:post_files(Bridge) - returns a list of #sb_uploaded_file records, describing the files uploaded in a multipart post. These can be conveniently interfaced with the sb_uploaded_file module, documented below in the "Uploaded File Interface" section.
  • sbw:request_body(Bridge) - returns the request body that has been read so far as binary.
  • sbw:error(Bridge) - returns an Erlang term describing any errors that happened while parsing a multipart post.

(+) Return Values will be a proplist of binaries. Keys are normalized to lower-case binaries.

(++) Return type will be dependent on the provided Key (Cookie, Header, Param, etc). If the Key is a binary, the return type will be binary. If Key is an atom or a string (list), the return type will be a string.

Note: When using Parameter-module style calls, simple remove the Bridge argument from the call. For example, when using the query_param function as a P-mod call, use Bridge:query_param(Param) instead of sbw:query_param(Param, Bridge).

Uploaded File Interface

sbw:post_files(Bridge) returns a list of #sb_uploaded_file records, but it's inconvenient to have to include the simple_bridge.hrl header in your application's modules. The safer and more portable approach is to use the sb_uploaded_file module provided by Simple Bridge.

As with the Bridge module above, all sb_uploaded_file objects can be referenced in either of two ways:

  • Standard Erlang Calls: sb_uploaded_file:function_name(File)
  • Parameter Module Style Calls: File:function_name()

sb_uploaded_file exports the following functions:

  • sb_uploaded_file:original_name(UploadedFile) - The original name of the file from the user's system
  • sb_uploaded_file:temp_file(UploadedFile) - The temporary name for the file as it's stored on the server. Returns undefined if file is kept in memory.
  • sb_uploaded_file:size(UploadedFile) - The size of the file in bytes
  • sb_uploaded_file:field_name(UploadedFile) - The name of the HTML <input type=file> element from the page.
  • sb_uploaded_file:data(UploadedFile) - The entire data of uploaded file. Returns undefined if file is stored as temporary file on disk.

Storing uploaded files in RAM rather than on disk

By default uploaded files are always stored in temporary file sb_uploaded_file:temp_file(UploadedFile). If you want to keep the uploaded files in memory (sb_uploaded_file:data(UploadedFile)) instead of on disk, set the max memory size for uploaded files by setting the simple_bridge configuration variable {max_file_in_memory_size, SizeinMB}. Uploaded files larger than SizeInMB are still stored in temporary files.

What can I do with the Response Bridge?

The response portion of the Bridge object provides you with a standard interface for adding response status codes, headers, cookies, and a body.

Each function below returns a new bridge object, so you will need to chain together requests like this:

run(Bridge) ->
    Bridge1 = sbw:set_status_code(200, Bridge),
    Bridge2 = sbw:set_header("Header1", "Value1", Bridge1),
    Bridge3 = sbw:set_response_data(HTML, Bridge2),

Response Bridge Interface

As with all SimpleBridge interfaces, you can work with either the standard Erlang calling syntax or use the P-mod style:

  • sbw:function_name(Bridge)
  • Bridge:function_name()

The Bridge modules export the following functions:

  • sbw:set_status_code(Code, Bridge) - set the HTTP status code. (200, 404, etc.)
  • sbw:set_header(Name, Value, Bridge) - set an HTTP header.
  • sbw:clear_headers(Bridge) - clear all previously set headers.
  • sbw:set_cookie(Name, Value, Bridge) - set a cookie for path "/" with expiration in 1 hour.
  • sbw:set_cookie(Name, Value, Options, Bridge) - set a cookie, setting HTTP Options. Options is a proplist looking something supporting the options domain, path, max_age, secure, and http_only. Any or all can be specified like below.
    Options = [
       {domain, undefined},
       {path, "/"},
       {max_age, 3600}, %% time in seconds
       {secure, false},
       {http_only, false}
    sbw:set_cookie("mycookie", "mycookievalue", Options, Bridge).
  • sbw:set_cookie(Name, Value, Path, MinutesToLive, Bridge) (deprecated) - set a cookie for the defined Path with MinutesToLive to define the max age of the cookie. Deprecated in favor of sbw:set_cookie/4.
  • sbw:clear_cookies(Bridge) - clear all previously set cookies.
  • sbw:set_response_data(Data, Bridge) - set the data to return in the response. Usually HTML goes here.
  • sbw:set_response_file(File, Bridge) - Send a static file to the browser.

Finally, you build the response to send to your HTTP server with the build_response/0 function.

  • sbw:build_response(Bridge) - Create a response tuple that you can hand off to your HTTP server.

DEPRECATION NOTICE: For backwards compatibility with SimpleBridge Version 1, the following functions are also exported. Please refrain from using them in future code, as they are deprecated.

  • sbw:status_code/2 - equivilant to sbw:set_status_code/2.
  • sbw:header/3 - equivilant to sbw:set_header/3
  • sbw:cookie/3,5 - equivilant to sbw:set_cookie/3/5
  • sbw:data/2 - equivilant to sbw:set_response_data/2
  • sbw:file/2 - equivilant to sbw:set_response_file/2

Configuration Options

The configuration optiosn found in etc/simple_bridge.config are all full documented within the config file itself. Feel free to copy it to your project and use it as a base.

Migrating from 1.x to 2.x?

Simple Bridge 2.0 should be mostly compatible with 1.x versions mostly right out of the box, but is only compatible through deprecations.

Let simple bridge start your server and set up the bridge for you

The recommended approach to migrating to 2.x is to remove instantiating your Bridge altogether (that is, remove your simple_bridge:make_request and simple_bridge:make_response functions from your app, and instead rely on the "Handler" module (above) for handling requests, and the simple_bridge.config file for setting up the backend server.

When doing this, instead of starting the backend servers yourself in the code, you can rely on Simple Bridge to correctly set up the right configuration based on simple_bridge.config and instantiate the server in the correct way, and then starting your server with Simple Bridge by using something like simple_bridge:start(yaws, my_handler_module) (or check the "Starting Simple Bridge" section above).

You can still set up the bridge yourself, if you prefer

Following this paradigm, however, is not a requirement. If you want to maintain the same basic structure of your app, starting the server yourself, handling the requests yourself, and then simply using Simple Bridge to interface with the requests and response, then the recommended approach would be to convert calls like:

ReqBridge = simple_bridge:make_request(cowboy_request_module, Req),
ResBridge = simple_bridge:make_response(cowboy_response_module, Req),

to simply using:

Bridge = simple_bridge:make(cowboy, Req),
sbw:build_response(Bridge). %% Bridge:build_response() works too!

Return type changes to look out for in 2.0

One of the other things to look out for with the move to 2.0 is the handling of query parameter, post parameters, and headers.

  • The return value of the sbw:headers/1, sbw:query_params/1, and sbw:post_params/1 functions is now a list of proplists of binaries.
  • The return values of the single sbw:header/query_param/post_param/etc functions however, will be based on the key provided. For example, calling sbw:header("x-forwarded-for", Bridge) will return a list, while sbw:header(<<"x-forwarded-for">>, Bridge) will return a binary.

Use non-deprecated functions in 2.0

The last thing to deal with when converting from 1.x to 2.0 is making the changes from the old-style response bridge calls to the new names for the same functions. This change was made to disambiguate some of the confusion that would arise from having sbw:header/2,3,4 and sbw:cookie/2,3,5 some of which being setters and some being getters.

So Make sure that you're using sbw:set_status_code instead of Bridge:status_code, sbw:set_header instead of Bridge:header, etc. The thing to note, is that all of the non-deprecated response functions begin with a verb (e.g. set_response_data, clear_cookies, build_response, etc). See the "DEPRECATION NOTICE" a few sections above.


Version 2.0 TODO

  • Fix the simple_bridge:ensure_header stuff to use binaries and require less conversion.
  • Add Typespecs
  • Ensure that internally, sbw:function is used everywhere instead of Bridge:function.
  • Test with dialyzer after being converted to sbw:function

Beyond 2.0

  • Support compression in websockets?

Questions or Comments

We can be found on:


If you wish to contribute to SimpleBridge's development, check out our contribution guidelines.

License and Copyright

Simple Bridge was created by Rusty Klophaus in 2008 and has been maintained by Jesse Gumm since 2011.

Simple Bridge is copyright 2008-2015 Rusty Klophaus and Jesse Gumm.

Licensed under the MIT License