13th November 2020

Fetch: Abort

As we know, fetch returns a promise. And JavaScript generally has no concept of “aborting” a promise. So how can we cancel an ongoing fetch? E.g. if the user actions on our site indicate that the fetch isn’t needed any more.

There’s a special built-in object for such purposes: AbortController. It can be used to abort not only fetch, but other asynchronous tasks as well.

The usage is very straightforward:

The AbortController object

Create a controller:

let controller = new AbortController();

A controller is an extremely simple object.

  • It has a single method abort(),
  • And a single property signal that allows to set event liseners on it.

When abort() is called:

  • controller.signal emits the "abort" event.
  • controller.signal.aborted property becomes true.

Generally, we have two parties in the process:

  1. The one that performs an cancelable operation, it sets a listener on controller.signal.
  2. The one that cancels: it calls controller.abort() when needed.

Here’s the full example (without fetch yet):

let controller = new AbortController();
let signal = controller.signal;

// The party that performs a cancelable operation
// gets "signal" object
// and sets the listener to trigger when controller.abort() is called
signal.addEventListener('abort', () => alert("abort!"));

// The other party, that cancels (at any point later):
controller.abort(); // abort!

// The event triggers and signal.aborted becomes true
alert(signal.aborted); // true

As we can see, AbortController is just a means to pass abort events when abort() is called on it.

We could implement same kind of event listening in our code on our own, without AbortController object at all.

But what’s valuable is that fetch knows how to work with AbortController object, it’s integrated with it.

Using with fetch

To become able to cancel fetch, pass the signal property of an AbortController as a fetch option:

let controller = new AbortController();
fetch(url, {
  signal: controller.signal
});

The fetch method knows how to work with AbortController. It will listen to abort events on signal.

Now, to abort, call controller.abort():

controller.abort();

We’re done: fetch gets the event from signal and aborts the request.

When a fetch is aborted, its promise rejects with an error AbortError, so we should handle it, e.g. in try..catch.

Here’s the full example with fetch aborted after 1 second:

// abort in 1 second
let controller = new AbortController();
setTimeout(() => controller.abort(), 1000);

try {
  let response = await fetch('/article/fetch-abort/demo/hang', {
    signal: controller.signal
  });
} catch(err) {
  if (err.name == 'AbortError') { // handle abort()
    alert("Aborted!");
  } else {
    throw err;
  }
}

AbortController is scalable

AbortController is scalable, it allows to cancel multiple fetches at once.

Here’s a sketch of code that fetches many urls in parallel, and uses a single controller to abort them all:

let urls = [...]; // a list of urls to fetch in parallel

let controller = new AbortController();

// an array of fetch promises
let fetchJobs = urls.map(url => fetch(url, {
  signal: controller.signal
}));

let results = await Promise.all(fetchJobs);

// if controller.abort() is called from elsewhere,
// it aborts all fetches

If we have our own asynchronous tasks, different from fetch, we can use a single AbortController to stop those, together with fetches.

We just need to listen to its abort event in our tasks:

let urls = [...];
let controller = new AbortController();

let ourJob = new Promise((resolve, reject) => { // our task
  ...
  controller.signal.addEventListener('abort', reject);
});

let fetchJobs = urls.map(url => fetch(url, { // fetches
  signal: controller.signal
}));

// Wait for fetches and our task in parallel
let results = await Promise.all([...fetchJobs, ourJob]);

// if controller.abort() is called from elsewhere,
// it aborts all fetches and ourJob

Summary

  • AbortController is a simple object that generates abort event on it’s signal property when abort() method is called (and also sets signal.aborted to true).
  • fetch integrates with it: we pass signal property as the option, and then fetch listens to it, so it becomes possible to abort the fetch.
  • We can use AbortController in our code. The "call abort()" → “listen to abort event” interaction is simple and universal. We can use it even without fetch.
Tutorial map

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