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Send messages from a service worker

June 16, 2021

Communication between service workers and client browser s can be achieved easily by doing:

self.clients.matchAll().then((clients) => {
clients.forEach((client) => client.postMessage({ msg: "Hello from SW" }))
}) // highlight-line What we are trying to do

Sometimes, the clients.matchAll method will return an empty list, meaning that there is no client for the current service worker, which is not true!

self.clients.matchAll().then((clients) => {
clients.forEach((client) => client.postMessage({ msg: "Hello from SW" }))

Here, the self variable self is a reserved keyword in a service worker context. It references the global scope of the current worker execution scope and has some interesting properties. It serves as the window of a browser JavaScript context.

In the above snippet, all the clients that run the service worker would load, then the .postMessage is called to send message directly to the original javascript runtime of the service worker.

A limitation

Sometimes, the clients.matchAll method will return an empty list, meaning that there are no clients for the current service worker, which is not valid!

self.clients.matchAll().then((clients) => {
console.log(clients) // [] -> No client, which is not true

Or event using a waitUntil on an event object:

const messaging = firebase.messaging()
self.onmessage = (event) => {
type: "window",
.then(function (clientList) {
console.log(clientList) // []

And without the client object, it is impossible to send a message to a browser JavaScript context.

A possible solution

We can use the BroadcastChannel API to send messages to and from a service worker context from a JavaScript context.

The BroadcastChannel API serves as an event Bus inside of a browser. It registers a channel that lives throughout the entire lifecycle of the JavaScript runtime. The channel would be able to send and receive messages regardless of where it is initiated or called.

Broadcast Channel has a one-to-many subscription model, and there can as many subscribers listening to events from a single channel. Also, the events are only sent and received to scripts executing on the same origin, even in a different browser tab or browser window.

Using BroadcastChannel

To create a broadcast channel, initiate the channel, then pass the channel’s name for our event broadcasts.

const broadCaster = new BroadcastChannel("sw-messages")

Now, the channel can be used to send a message:

broadCaster.postMessage({ message: "Hello from BroadcastChannel" })

The broadcasted message can be consumed by:

const receiver = new BroadcastChannel("sw-messages")
receiver.addEventListener("message", function eventListener(event) {

Any message broadcasted to the sw-messages channel would be handled through the addEvenListener method on the channel to listen to the “message” event,

Use cases

This example above does not mean that the implementation is limited to service workers; think of two different parts of an application running at different execution contexts but need to pass information across to each other. BroadcastChannel API can be handy to solve this.

Scenarios like: Keeping track of changes within a web app running in different tabs, like the logout button click. Also, keeping track of user interactions/updates from a remote server on a web app running in other tabs.

Browser compatibility?

This feature is part of web standard but still not supported in Safari but has good support in Chrome and Firefox.


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With 💗 by Aleem Isiaka.
Software Engineer >>> Computer && Machines | Learner && Writer