A smart request-making library
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README.md

fetch-engine

Build Status Stories in Ready

A smart request-making library that makes sure your Javascript client is a good citizen of your distributed system.

install

To get fetch-engine, install it with yarn:

yarn add fetch-engine

Getting started

fetch-engine is designed for use in a web browser, and you'll need a build tool like webpack or browerify to include it in your project:

import fetchEngine from 'fetch-engine';

Note: fetch-engine relies on window.fetch internally. This API is not implemented in all browsers so you might need to polyfill it with a module like cross-fetch.

The default export, fetchEngine, is a function. When called, it returns an implementation of the fetch API — a request-making function that you might call fetch:

const fetch = fetchEngine();

The magic of fetch-engine is that you can pass plugins and filters that augment the network requests to do things like:

  • retry on network-failure
  • log request time per URL
  • throttle requests to a rate-limited API endpoint
  • respect common HTTP error codes (eg. 503 retry with exponential backoff to a limit)
  • deduplicate identical in-flight requests

Here's a simple example that logs every request using the willFetch lifecycle method:

class LoggerPlugin {
  willFetch(request) {
    console.log(request.method, request.url);
  }
}

const fetch = fetchEngine({
  plugins: [
    new LoggerPlugin()
  ]
});

Using fetch-engine

Note: fetch-engine relies on window.fetch internally. This API is not implemented in all browsers so you might need to polyfill it with a module like cross-fetch.

fetch-engine allows you to combine plugins in groups or sequences to add behaviour to the Fetch API. The basic building block is the plugin.

Plugins

Plugins can intercept and modify HTTP requests and responses. They're simple objects, so this is a valid plugin:

const logger = {
  willFetch(request) {
    console.log(request.method, request.url);
  }
};

But to be able to store state in the plugins, or to give them a proper name for debugging, you can create a simple class and use new:

class Logger {
  willFetch(request) {
    console.log(request.method, request.url);
  }
}

That willFetch method is one of many lifecyle methods you can attach behaviour to.

The full list, in the order they run:

  • shouldFetch
  • getRequest
  • willFetch
  • fetch
  • fetching
  • getResponse
  • didFetch

shouldFetch

shouldFetch allows plugins to prevent or allow a request by returning a boolean, or a Promise for a boolean. It's passed the candidate Request object.

class RateLimitPlugin {
  isRateLimited(request) {
    /* ... */
    return false;
  }
  shouldFetch(request) {
    return !this.isRateLimited(request);
  }
}

getRequest

getRequest allows plugins to add data to Request, or produce an entirely new Request. After this method has run, the subsequent lifecycle methods will use the new or changed Request. getRequest should return a Request or a Promise for one.

class CORSAuthPlugin {
  constructor(csrfToken) {
    this.csrfToken = csrfToken;
  }
  getRequest(request) {
    return new Request(request, {
      mode: 'cors',
      credentials: 'include',
      headers: {
        ...request.headers,
        'X-Csrf-Token': this.csrfToken
      }
    });
  }
}

willFetch

willFetch allows a plugin to react to a Request just before it is made, but not affect it, becuase the return value is be ignored.

class RequestMetricsPlugin {
  willFetch(request) {
    trackRequest(request);
  }
}

fetch

fetch takes two arguments: the input request and a next method that takes no arguments, but causes the request to be passed to the next plugin and eventually hit the network.

The fetch method allows plugins to intercept the Request that's about to be made and return a Response without hitting the network.

It should return (a Promise for) a Response.

class CachePlugin {
  fetch(request, next) {
    if (this.isCached(request)) {
      return this.getFromCache(request);
    }
    return next();
  }
  isCached(request) {
    // ...
  }
  getFromCache(request) {
    // ...
  }
}

fetching

Allows plugins to react to the completion of the fetch but not affect it, or cancel the request.

It's passed an object of the form { request, promise, cancel } and the return value is ignored.

class TimeoutPlugin {
  constructor(time=1000) {
    this.time = time;
  }
  fetching({ cancel }) {
    setTimeout(cancel, this.time);
  }
}

getResponse

Allows plugins to add data to Response, produce an entirely new Response, or retry the whole fetch.

It's passed the current Response object, a retry function, and should return a Promise for a Response.

class SuperResponseWrapperPlugin {
  getResponse(response, retry) {
    return new SuperResponse(response);
  }
}

Use the retry function to start the whole request again:

// Note: your retry plugin needs to be smarter than this as this implementation
//       could cause a retry-storm or self-DDoS.
class RetryPlugin {
  getResponse(response, retry) {
    if (response.status === 503) {
      return retry();
    } else {
      return response;
    }
  }
}

Or to try a different request:

// Note: your retry plugin needs to be smarter than this as this implementation
//       could cause a retry-storm or self-DDoS.
class RetryPlugin {
  getResponse(response, retry) {
    if (response.status === 503) {
      return retry(new Request("/somewhere-else"));
    } else {
      return response;
    }
  }
}

didFetch

Allows a plugin to react to a response arriving, without affecting it.

Passed the current Response object. Return value would be ignored.

class ResponseMetricsPlugin {
  didFetch(response) {
    trackResponse(response);
  }
}

Groups

Groups of plugins can be created using something called a FetchGroup. A group lets you pull together functionality in a way that can be reused as plugin:

import fetchEngine, { FetchGroup } from 'fetch-engine';

const combinedMetricsGroup = new FetchGroup({
  plugins: [
    new RequestMetricsPlugin(),
    new ResponseMetricsPlugin()
  ]
});

FetchGroup instances are plugins too, so you can pass them to fetchEngine like any other plugin:

const fetch = fetchEngine({
  plugins: [
    combinedMetricsGroup
  ]
});

Reusable groups

Some kinds of Group need to be stateful, for functionality like rate limiting and tracking retries.

fetch-engine exports a utility to help you to this: makeFetchGroup.

makeFetchGroup takes a function that, when called, should return an object of FetchGroup options, and it returns a constructor function.

The first argument passed to the group constructor is forwared to the options function, allowing you to customise the configuration of the group on an instance-by-instance basis.

Here's two examples:

const RateLimitGroup = makeFetchGroup(() => ({
  filters: [
    new MethodFilter("GET")
  ],
  plugins: [
    new RateLimitPlugin()
  ]
}));

const fetch = fetchEngine({
  plugins: [
    new RateLimitGroup()
  ]
});

const PathRateLimitGroup = makeFetchGroup((opts = {}) => ({
  filters: [
    new MethodFilter("GET"),
    new PathFilter(opts.path || /.*/))
  ],
  plugins: [
    new RateLimitPlugin()
  ]
}));

const fetch = fetchEngine({
  plugins: [
    new PathRateLimitGroup({
      path: /^\/1\.1/
    })
  ]
});

Filters

Filters are used to decide whether to apply a set of plugins. They combine with plugins as part of a FetchGroup, deciding whether the plugins will run. If the filter says no, the request is passed to the next plugin for processing.

In the example below, the RateLimitPlugin will only be applied to requests that match the testRequest method of the PathPrefixFilter.

class PathPrefixFilter {
  constructor(prefix) {
    this.prefix = prefix;
  }
  testRequest(request) {
    const url = new URL(request.url);
    return url.pathname.startsWith(this.prefix);
  }
}

const rateLimitGroup = new FetchGroup({
  filters: [ new PathPrefixFilter('/1.1/') ],
  plugins: [ new RateLimitPlugin() ]
});

Filters can intercept requests and responses, to decide which portion of the plugin methods run. Filters can implement testRequest and testResponse. They should return true, false or a promise for true or false.

Rationale

The idea for this project comes from TweetDeck, a very 'chatty' native web app. The client-side is an oft-forgetten but important component of a distributed system, capable of bringing down servers with large amounts of traffic.

To mitigate the risk that TweetDeck contributes to a system failure we have developed a fairly complex networking layer. In various places, often ad-hoc, we do some of the following:

  • use a OAuth1-signing server to authenticate to our requests
  • de-duplicate in-flight requests
  • poll rate-limited API endpoints as fast as the limits allow
  • retry requests if they fail due to lack of network connection
  • retry, with exponential back-off, requests that return an error from the server
  • add authentication data in different ways based on app-configuration
  • track network request performance
  • timeout requests
  • fall-back from a stream connection to polling

However, these behaviours can require some manual work. Not all are used for all network requests, even if they should be. In particular, retry + exponential backoff with timeouts are a general good practice that we don't always apply. They can prevent cascading failures, or compounding of issues as they arise.

In many places on the server-side, this is assumed behaviour and done automatically. For example, Twitter's Finagle comes with timeouts, retries and other features out-of-the-box.

This project aims to make it easy to build JavaScript clients that are good citizens of distributed systems.

Example

import fetchEngine, { FetchGroup } from 'fetch-engine';

class PathPrefixFilter {
  constructor(prefix) {
    this.prefix = prefix;
  }
  testRequest(request) {
    const url = new URL(request.url);
    return url.pathname.startsWith(this.prefix);
  }
}

class CORSAuthPlugin {
  constructor(csrfToken) {
    this.csrfToken = csrfToken;
  }
  getRequest(request) {
    return new Request(request, {
      mode: 'cors',
      credentials: 'include',
      headers: Object.assign(request.headers, {
        'X-Csrf-Token': this.csrfToken
      })
    });
  }
}

class RateLimitPlugin {
  isRateLimited(request) {
    /* ... */
    return false;
  }
  shouldFetch(request) {
    return !this.isRateLimited(request);
  }
}

class TimeoutPlugin {
  constructor(time=1000) {
    this.time = time;
  }
  fetching({ cancel }) {
    setTimeout(cancel, this.time);
  }
}

class MetricsPlugin {
  willFetch(request) {
    trackRequest(request);
  }
  didFetch(response) {
    trackResponse(response);
  }
}

class CachePlugin {
  fetch(request, next) {
    if (this.isCached(request)) {
      return this.get(request);
    }
    return next();
  }
  isCached(request) {
    // ...
  }
  get(request) {
    // ...
  }
}

const fetch = fetchEngine({
  plugins: [
    new CachePlugin(),
    new TimeoutPlugin(5000),
    new CORSAuthPlugin(),
    new FetchGroup({
      filters: [ new PathPrefixFilter('/1.1/') ],
      plugins: [ new RateLimitPlugin() ]
    }),
    new MetricsPlugin()
  ]
});

Developing Fetch Engine

  • Clone the repo: git clone https://github.com/tgvashworth/fetch-engine.git
  • cd fetch-engine
  • yarn
  • yarn test to check it's all working

fetch-engine uses TypeScript. To help you write great code, I'd recommend that you get a plugin for your editor or use an IDE like VS Code.

Every commit should pass yarn test. We use ghooks to enforce this.

Compiling & running tests locally

$ jest -w

Your editor may do this for you.

Goals of the project

These were the original goals of the project:

  • Highly configurable
  • Do nothing by default
  • Support plug-ins to add functionality
  • Provide useful plugins to solve common problems:
    • respect common HTTP error codes (eg. 503 retry with exponential backoff to a limit)
    • throttle requests to a rate-limited API endpoint
    • deduplicate identical in-flight requests
    • retry on network-failure
  • Instrumentable for performance and behaviour monitoring
  • Work in IE9+ (stretch-goal, IE6+)
  • Node-compatible
  • Drop-in replacement for fetch