The Care and Feeding of WebCore Modules

This document describes how WebCore's module system works and how to use it when building a new feature.


As we add more features to WebCore, the project becomes more complex. Some self-contained features, like IndexedDB and MediaStream, expose JavaScript APIs but aren't otherwise involved in the core functionality of the engine, such as layout and rendering. The module system let us reduce the complexity of the project by loosening the coupling of between these features and the rest of WebCore. Often individual modules can be enabled with an ENABLE macro, but some modules are always enabled.

Should my feature be a module?

Not all features should be implemented as modules. For example, CSS features, such as flexbox or regions, are better implemented as part of the rest of the CSS machinery in WebCore because they often are tightly integrated with layout and rendering. Other features, such as IndexedDB, do not need to be tightly integrated with the rest of WebCore and are good candidates to be modules. Typically features defined in "satellite" specifications, such as those from the WebApps working group, are good module candidates, whereas features defined in the "core" specifications, such as those from the HTML, CSS, or SVG working groups, are more likely better implemented in WebCore proper.

If you're unsure whether you should implement your feature as a module, feel free to ask when you announce your feature on webkit-dev.

Dependency diagram

The code for a module belongs in a subdirectory of the Modules directory and in a subdirectory of WebCore/platform. For example, the MediaStream module is contained in and

Keeping the code for your feature in a single directory reduces the burden that your feature places on other WebKit contributors as they develop other modules and core functionality of the engine. This dependency diagram shows how the WebAudio, MediaStream, and IndexedDB modules fit into the WebKit's dependency diagram. Notice, in particular, that WebCore proper should not have dependencies on your module.

Associating JavaScript APIs with "core" objects

Even self-contained features often need to expose JavaScript APIs on "catch-all" interfaces like DOMWindow or Navigator. If we declared these APIs in DOMWindow.idl and implemented them in DOMWindow.cpp, the complexity of DOMWindow would increase with each added feature. To avoid complexity creep in these core classes, you can declare your JavaScript API in supplemental IDL files, mirroring the partial interface syntax used in specifications. For more details, see the documentation of the Supplemental attribute.

For example, the MediaStream module uses this mechanism to add the webkitGetUserMedia API to Navigator. The API is implemented in NavigatorMediaStream.cpp, avoiding bloat in Navigator.cpp itself and helping to contain the MediaStream code in the MediaStream directory.

Associating state with "core" objects

Sometimes a module needs to associate state with a core object, such as Page or Navigator. Typically, this state doesn't interact with any of the core state and simply piggybacks on the lifetime of the core object. Rather than bloating the core objects with your feature-specific state, you can associate your feature's data with these objects using Supplementable.

For example, the Gamepad module needs to associate a GamepadList with Navigator. Notice that in the implementation of its supplemental interface, the Gamepad module declares that NavigatorGamepad inherits from Supplement<Navigator>, which lets us store a NavigatorGamepad in Navigator's m_supplements HashMap.

Last modified 11 years ago Last modified on Feb 28, 2012 12:14:55 PM