Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HTML5: The WebSockets prototype with Silverlight, HTML Bridges and JavaScript

Last weekend, I blogged on installing the WebSockets prototype and rebuilding the WebSockets chat server. In this post I will try to decompose the client-side chat sample to get a better feel of what's going on in the browser.

If you have installed the WebSockets prototype, you should be able to browse to http://localhost/chat/wsdemo.html and stroll through the internals with me.


The chat sample has four script dependencies:
  • jquery-1.4.2.min.js
  • json2.js
  • jquery.slws.js
  • h5utils.js

Because there is no sense in having a look inside a minified version of jQuery, I'll only look at the three others: json2.js, jquery.slws.js and h5utils.js.


This script creates a global JSON object, if it does not already exist, containing two methods: stringify and parse.

The stringify() method turns a JavaScript value into a JSON text and, oh suprise, the parse() method parses a JSON text to a JavaScript value.


This script is where the biggest part of the WebSockets prototype magic happens. This script dynamically loads a Silverlight component into your page. This Silverlight component exposes a bunch of methods through an HTML Bridge which can be used to talk to the WebSockets server.

jQuery(function ($) {
    if (!$.slws) $.slws = {};
    else if (typeof ($.slws) != "object") {
        throw new Error("Cannot create jQuery.slws namespace: it already exists and is not an object.");
    $(document).ready(function () {
        var script = document.createElement("script");
        script.src = 'js/Silverlight.js';
        var slhost = document.createElement("div");
        document.body.insertBefore(slhost, document.body.firstChild);     
        slhost.innerHTML =
        '<div align=center>' +
        '<object data="data:application/x-silverlight-2," type="application/x-silverlight-2" width="600" height="70">' +
            '<param name="source" value="ClientBin/Microsoft.ServiceModel.Websockets.xap"/>' +
            '<param name="onError" value="onSilverlightError" />' +
            '<param name="background" value="white" />' +
            '<param name="minRuntimeVersion" value="4.0.50401.0" />' +
            '<param name="autoUpgrade" value="true" />' +
            '<param name="onLoad" value="pluginLoaded" />' +
            '<a href="" style="text-decoration:none">' +
                 '<img src="" alt="Get Microsoft Silverlight" style="border-style:none"/>' +
            '</a>' +
        '</object><iframe id="_sl_historyFrame" style="visibility:hidden;height:0px;width:0px;border:0px"></iframe></div>';
    $.slws._callbacks = [];
    $.slws.ready = function (callback) {
        if (callback) {
            if ($.slws._loaded) {
            else {

When the Silverlight component has finished loading, a global WebSocketDraft object is created wrapping all the functions that are exposed through the HTML Bridge of the Silverlight component.

function pluginLoaded(sender, args) {
    var slCtl = sender.getHost();
    window.WebSocketDraft = function (url) {
        this.slws ="websocket");
        this.slws.Url = url;
        this.readyState = this.slws.ReadyState;
        var thisWs = this;
        this.slws.OnOpen = function (sender, args) {
            thisWs.readyState = thisWs.slws.ReadyState;
            if (thisWs.onopen) thisWs.onopen();
        this.slws.OnMessage = function (sender, args) {
            if (String(args.Message).charAt(0) == '"' && thisWs.onmessage)
                thisWs.onmessage({ data: String(args.Message) });
        this.slws.OnClose = function (sender, args) {
            thisWs.readyState = thisWs.slws.ReadyState;
            if (thisWs.onclose) thisWs.onclose();
    window.WebSocketDraft.prototype.send = function (message) {
        if (message.charAt(0) != '"')
            message = '"' + message + '"';
    window.WebSocketDraft.prototype.close = function() {
    $.slws._loaded = true;
    for (c in $.slws._callbacks) {


This script forces IE to acknowledge all new HTML5 elements. More on this script can be found here.

Using the WebSockets

Now we have peeked at the script dependencies, we can have a look at the actual usage of the WebSockets API.

Opening a WebSocket

Opening a connection to a WebSocket is very straightforward. Simply create a new WebSocketDraft instance and pass in the endpoint to your WebSockets server.

conn = new WebSocketDraft('ws://' + window.location.hostname + ':4502/chat');

Handling events

Events that are handled in this sample are onopen, onmessage and onclose.

conn.onopen = function () {
    state.className = 'success';
    state.innerHTML = 'Socket open';
conn.onmessage = function (event) {
    var message = JSON.parse(;
    if (typeof message == 'string') {
        log.innerHTML = '<li class="them">' + 
                        message.replace(/[<>&]/g, function (m) { return entities[m]; }) + 
                        '</li>' + log.innerHTML;
    } else {
        connected.innerHTML = message;
conn.onclose = function (event) {
    state.className = 'fail';
    state.innerHTML = 'Socket closed';

Sending a message

You can send a message using the send() method. Pass in a JSON text.

if (conn.readyState === 1) {


The Silverlight solution is a creative hack which allows us to play client-side with the WebSockets prototype until it is natively implemented by IE.

I am satisfied with the WebSocket API specifications, very simple to use. What are your thoughts on the API?

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