Hey Heather, it's me again.

Chrome extension: I persist

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Hey Heather. It’s me again!

Alright. I’ve had a wee bit of time to revisit the Chrome extension, and there’s just so much you can look into at each step. You could also go through it pretty quickly but the focus here is to focus. So let’s go!

Last time I went over some aspects of JSON that I didn’t understand. The next step in the Google Extension tutorial is to add instructions into the JSON file. By doing this, we’re telling the extension which files to reference and how to behave. Here’s the example they provide:

{
  "name": "Getting Started Example",
  "version": "1.0",
  "description": "Build an Extension!",
  "background": {
    "scripts": ["background.js"],
    "persistent": false
  },
  "manifest_version": 2
}

What caught me eye here was the "persistent": false. What does that mean? I have some assumptions but I don’t think I should rely on that since I’ve never built a Chrome extension and my assumptions are based on “I’ve read words before”. If we look at the documentation regarding managing events and background scripts, it specifies that persistent should be set to false and that the only time it should be persistently active is when the extension uses chrome.webRequest API because it’s incompatible with non-persistent background pages. I wonder when we could use that API? Let’s take a gander.

webRequest and me being confused

This is Google’s documentation on webRequest. Those are a lot of words. Wow! There are so many things you can do! You can fire before a redirect is about to occur with onBeforeRedirect. That is very clear. The description for the API reads:

Use the chrome.webRequest API to observe and analyze traffic and to intercept, block, or modify requests in-flight.

What does in-flight even mean? As they are happening? That would make sense.. “requests as they happen”. Is this tech jargon? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone but a pilot use that expression. And in that context it’s used literally. The sentence seems clear, but it’s not obvious that they’re talking about HTTP requests. Oh, wait. I’m an idiot. A web request is an HTTP request. How did I miss that? Derp. Moving on.

Okay, so basically what this means is “persistent” should always be false unless you are acting on one of the possible status of HTTP requests. I wonder what proportion of extensions use "persistent": true? If it’s generally set to false, would it make sense to have that set as default and just require it to be specified when true? At this point, I don’t think Google would change it. I think it would be considered a MAJOR change for the version. Unless it’s backwards compatible. But even then, it would just make a mess of things. I guess that means the answers to those questions would be moo points.

Alright. I guess the important takeaways here are:

  1. always set "persistent": false, unless you use webRequest
  2. webRequest API listens for HTTP request as they happen

That’s what I have for now.

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