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Chrome 85 has an experimental implementation of request flows, which means that you can start making a request before you have the entire body available.

You could use this to:

  • Heat up the server. In other words, you can start the request once the user focuses on a text input field and remove all the headers, then wait until the user hits 'submit' before submitting the data they entered.
  • Gradually send data generated to the client, such as audio, video or input data.
  • Recreate web sockets over HTTP.

But since this is a low-level web platform feature, don't limit yourself to me ideas. Maybe you can think of a much more interesting use case for request streaming.

Test the request sequences

Enable support during the proof of origin phase

Recovery request streams are available in a proof of origin starting with Chrome 85. The proof of origin is expected to finish in Chrome 87.

Origin testing allows you to test new features and provide feedback on their usability, practicality, and effectiveness to the web standards community. For more information, see the Origin testing guide for web developers. To enroll in this or any other proof of origin, visit the registration page.

Register for proof of origin

  1. Request a token by your origin.
  2. Add the token to your pages. There are two ways to do it:
    • Add a origin-trial tag to the header of each page. For example, this might look like this:
    • If you can configure your server, you can also add the token using a Origin-Trial HTTP header. The resulting response header should look like this:
      Origin-Trial: TOKEN_GOES_HERE

Enabling via chrome: // flags

Test request streams in Chrome 85 by flipping an experimental flag:
enable-experimental-web-platform-features.

Manifestation

This shows how you can transmit user data to the server and send data that can be processed in real time.

Yeah okay, not the most imaginative example, I just wanted to keep it simple, okay?

Anyway, how does this work?

Previously on the exciting adventures of fetch streams

Answer Streams have been available in all modern browsers for a while. They allow you to access parts of a response as they arrive from the server:

const response = await fetch ( url ) ;
const reader = response . body . getReader ( ) ;

while ( true ) {
const { value , done } = await reader . read ( ) ;
if ( done ) break ;
console . log ( 'Received' , value ) ;
}

console . log ( 'Response fully received' ) ;

Every value is a Uint8Array bytes. The number of arrays you get and the size of the arrays depends on the speed of the network. If you have a fast connection, you will get fewer "chunks" of larger data. If you have a slow connection, you will get more smaller chunks.

If you want to convert the bytes to text, you can use
TextDecoderor the most recent transformation stream if your target browsers support it:

const response = await fetch ( url ) ;
const reader = response . body
. pipeThrough ( new TextDecoderStream ( ) )
. getReader ( ) ;

TextDecoderStream is a current of transformation that traps all those Uint8Array
fragments and turns them into strings.

The streams are great as you can start to act on the data as it arrives. For example, if you receive a list of 100 'results', you can display the first result as soon as you receive it, instead of waiting for 100.

Anyway, that's response streams, the new and exciting thing I wanted to talk about is the request stream.

Transmission request bodies

Requests can have bodies:

await fetch ( url , {
method : 'POST' ,
body : requestBody ,
} ) ;

Previously, you needed the whole body ready to go before you could start the request, but now in Chrome 85 you can provide yours ReadableStream of data:

function wait ( milliseconds ) {
return new Promise ( ( resolve ) => setTimeout ( resolve , milliseconds ) ) ;
}

const stream = new ReadableStream ( {
async start ( controller ) {
await wait ( 1000 ) ;
controller . enqueue ( 'This' ) ;
await wait ( 1000 ) ;
controller . enqueue ( 'is' ) ;
await wait ( 1000 ) ;
controller . enqueue ( 'a' ) ;
await wait ( 1000 ) ;
controller . enqueue ( 'slow' ) ;
await wait ( 1000 ) ;
controller . enqueue ( 'request.' ) ;
controller . close ( ) ;
} ,
} ) . pipeThrough ( new TextEncoderStream ( ) ) ;

fetch ( url , {
method : 'POST' ,
headers : { 'Content-Type' : 'text / plain' } ,
body : stream ,
} ) ;

This will send "This is a slow request" to the server, one word at a time, with a one second pause between each word.

Each part of the body of a request must be a Uint8Array of bytes, so I am using
pipeThrough (new TextEncoderStream ()) to do the conversion for me.

Recordable streams

Sometimes it is easier to work with transmissions when you have one WritableStream. You can do this by using an 'identity' sequence, which is a readable / writable pair that takes everything that is passed to its write end and sends it to the read end. You can create one of these by creating a TransformStream without any argument:

const { readable , writable } = new TransformStream ( ) ;

const responsePromise = fetch ( url , {
method : 'POST' ,
body : readable ,
} ) ;

Now everything you send to the write stream will be part of the request. This allows you to compose streams together. For example, here's a silly example where data is fetched from one URL, compressed, and sent to another URL:


const response = await fetch ( url1 ) ;
const { readable , writable } = new TransformStream ( ) ;


response . body
. pipeThrough ( new CompressionStream ( 'gzip' ) )
. pipeTo ( writable ) ;


await fetch ( url2 , {
method : 'POST' ,
body : readable ,
} ) ;

The example above uses compression flows to compress arbitrary data using gzip.

Feature detection

If you provide a body object that the browser doesn't specifically handle, it will call toString () on the object and use the result as the body. If the browser doesn't support request sequences, that means the request body becomes
"[object ReadableStream]" - probably not what you want to send to the server. To avoid this, use feature detection:

const supportsRequestStreams = ! new Request ( '' , {
body : new ReadableStream ( ) ,
method : 'POST' ,
} ) . headers . has ( 'Content-Type' ) ;

if ( supportsRequestStreams ) {
} else {
}

This works because the browser adds a Content-Type header of
text / plain; charset = UTF-8 to the request if the body is text. The browser only treats the body as text if do not support request flows, otherwise it won't add a Content-Type header at all.

Restrictions

Stream requests are a new powerhouse for the web, so they come with a few restrictions:

Restricted redirects

Some forms of HTTP redirection require the browser to resend the request body to another URL. To support this, the browser would have to buffer the content of the stream, which overrides the period, so it doesn't do that.

On the other hand, if the request has a transmission body and the response is an HTTP redirect other than 303, the retrieval will be rejected and the redirect do not be followed.

303 redirects are allowed as they explicitly change the method to GET and discard the request body.

HTTP / 2 only by default

By default, retrieval will be rejected if the connection is not HTTP / 2. If you want to use streaming requests over HTTP / 1.1, you must participate:

await fetch ( url , {
method : 'POST' ,
body : stream ,
allowHTTP1ForStreamingUpload : true ,
} ) ;

Caution:
allowHTTP1ForStreamingUpload It is non-standard and will only be used as part of the experimental Chrome implementation.

According to the HTTP / 1.1 rules, request and response bodies must send a
Content-Length header, so the other side knows how much data it will receive, or change the message format to use chunky encoding. With chunky encoding, the body is divided into parts, each with its own length of content.

Chunk encoding is quite common when it comes to HTTP / 1.1 answers, but very rare when it comes to requests. Because of this, Chrome is a bit concerned about compatibility, so it's enabled for now.

This is not a problem for HTTP / 2 as HTTP / 2 data is always 'chunked', even though it calls chunks
frames. Chunky encoding wasn't introduced until HTTP / 1.1, so requests with streaming bodies will always fail on HTTP / 1 connections.

Depending on how this test goes, the spec will restrict streaming responses to HTTP / 2 or always allow it for both HTTP / 1.1 and HTTP / 2.

No duplex communication

One little-known feature of HTTP (though, whether this is standard behavior depends on who you ask) is that you can start receiving the response while still sending the request. However, it is so little known that it is not well supported by servers and, well, browsers.

In the current Chrome implementation, you won't get the response until the body has been fully submitted. In the following example responsePromise it will not resolve until the readable transmission has been closed. Anything that the server sends before that point will be buffered.

const responsePromise = fetch ( url , {
method : 'POST' ,
body : readableStream ,
} ) ;

The second best option for duplex communication is to search for a transmission request and then search again to receive the transmission response. The server will need some way to associate these two requests, such as an ID in the URL. This is how the demo works.

Potential problems

Yes, so ... this is a new feature, and it is not widely used on the Internet today. Here are some issues to be aware of:

Incompatibility on the server side

Some app servers don't support streaming requests, and instead wait for the full request to be received before allowing you to see something, which frustrates the point. Instead, use an application server that supports streaming, such as
NodeJS.

But you're not out of the woods yet! The application server, like NodeJS, is typically behind another server, often called a "front-end server," which in turn may be behind a CDN. If any of them decide to buffer the request before delivering it to the next server in the chain, they will lose the benefit of transmitting requests.

Also, if you are using HTTP / 1.1, one of the servers may not be ready for chunk encoding and may fail with an error. But hey, you can at least try that and try to switch servers if necessary.

... long sigh ...

Incompatibility beyond your control

If you are using HTTPS, you don't need to worry about proxies between you and the user, but the user may be running a proxy on your machine. Some Internet protection software does this to allow you to monitor everything that happens between the browser and the network.

There may be cases where this software's buffers request bodies, or in the case of HTTP / 1.1, don't expect chunky encoding and it breaks in some interesting way.

At this time, it is unclear how often, if at all, this will happen.

If you want to guard against this, you can create a 'feature test' similar to the demo above, where you try to stream some data without closing the stream. If the server receives the data, it can respond through a different lookup. Once this happens, you will know that the client supports end-to-end streaming requests.

Comments welcome

Community feedback is crucial to designing new APIs, so give it a try and let us know what you think! If you find any errors, please Report them, but if you have general comments, please send them to blink-network-dev Google Group.

Photo by Laura Lefurgey-Smith
in
Unsplash

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