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Worker.postMessage()

The postMessage() method of the Worker interface sends a message to the worker's inner scope. This accepts a single parameter, which is the data to send to the worker. The data may be any value or JavaScript object handled by the structured clone algorithm, which includes cyclical references.

The Worker can send back information to the thread that spawned it using the DedicatedWorkerGlobalScope.postMessage method.

Syntax

myWorker.postMessage(aMessage, transferList);

Parameters

aMessage
The object to deliver to the worker; this will be in the data field in the event delivered to the DedicatedWorkerGlobalScope.onmessage handler. This may be any value or JavaScript object handled by the structured clone algorithm, which includes cyclical references.
transferList Optional
An optional array of Transferable objects to transfer ownership of. If the ownership of an object is transferred, it becomes unusable (neutered) in the context it was sent from and becomes available only to the worker it was sent to.
Only MessagePort and ArrayBuffer objects can be transferred. null is not an acceptable value for the transferList.

Returns

Void.

Example

The following code snippet shows the creation of a Worker object using the Worker() constructor. When either of two form inputs (first and second) have their values changed, change events invoke postMessage() to send the value of both inputs to the current worker.

var myWorker = new Worker("worker.js");

first.onchange = function() {
  myWorker.postMessage([first.value,second.value]);
  console.log('Message posted to worker');
}

second.onchange = function() {
  myWorker.postMessage([first.value,second.value]);
  console.log('Message posted to worker');
}

For a full example, see ourBasic dedicated worker example (run dedicated worker).

Note: postMessage() can only send a single object at once. As seen above, if you want to pass multiple values you can send an array.

Transfer Example

This example shows a Firefox add-on that transfers an ArrayBuffer from the main thread to the ChromeWorker, and then the ChromeWorker transfers it back to the main thread.

Main thread code:

var myWorker = new ChromeWorker(self.path + 'myWorker.js');

function handleMessageFromWorker(msg) {
    console.log('incoming message from worker, msg:', msg);
    switch (msg.data.aTopic) {
        case 'do_sendMainArrBuff':
            sendMainArrBuff(msg.data.aBuf)
            break;
        default:
            throw 'no aTopic on incoming message to ChromeWorker';
    }
}

myWorker.addEventListener('message', handleMessageFromWorker);

// Ok lets create the buffer and send it
var arrBuf = new ArrayBuffer(8);
console.info('arrBuf.byteLength pre transfer:', arrBuf.byteLength);

myWorker.postMessage(
    {
        aTopic: 'do_sendWorkerArrBuff',
        aBuf: arrBuf // The array buffer that we passed to the transferrable section 3 lines below
    },
    [
        arrBuf // The array buffer we created 9 lines above
    ]
); 

console.info('arrBuf.byteLength post transfer:', arrBuf.byteLength);

Worker code

self.onmessage = function (msg) {
    switch (msg.data.aTopic) {
        case 'do_sendWorkerArrBuff':
                sendWorkerArrBuff(msg.data.aBuf)
            break;
        default:
            throw 'no aTopic on incoming message to ChromeWorker';
    }
}

function sendWorkerArrBuff(aBuf) {
    console.info('from worker, PRE send back aBuf.byteLength:', aBuf.byteLength);    

    self.postMessage({aTopic:'do_sendMainArrBuff', aBuf:aBuf}, [aBuf]);

    console.info('from worker, POST send back aBuf.byteLength:', aBuf.byteLength);
}

Output logged

arrBuf.byteLength pre transfer: 8                              bootstrap.js:40
arrBuf.byteLength post transfer: 0                             bootstrap.js:42

from worker, PRE send back aBuf.byteLength: 8                  myWorker.js:5:2

incoming message from worker, msg: message { ... }             bootstrap.js:20
got back buf in main thread, aBuf.byteLength: 8                bootstrap.js:12

from worker, POST send back aBuf.byteLength: 0                 myWorker.js:7:2

byteLength goes to 0 as it is transferred. To see a full working example of this Firefox demo add-on see here: GitHub :: ChromeWorker - demo-transfer-arraybuffer

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
WHATWG HTML Living Standard
The definition of 'Worker.postMessage()' in that specification.
Living Standard No change from Web Workers.
Web Workers
The definition of 'Worker.postMessage()' in that specification.
Editor's Draft Initial definition.

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari (WebKit)
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) 10.0 [1] (Yes) (Yes)
Feature Android Firefox Mobile (Gecko) Firefox OS (Gecko) IE Phone Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) 10.0 [1] (Yes) (Yes)

[1] Internet Explorer does not support Transferable objects.

See also

  • The Worker interface it belongs to.

Document Tags and Contributors

 Contributors to this page: Potch, chrisdavidmills, Noitidart, teoli, jfirebaugh, kscarfone
 Last updated by: Potch,