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[whatwg] localStorage + worker processes

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2009 09:11:13 +0000 (UTC)
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0903232325280.25082@hixie.dreamhostps.com>

I've updated the specs as follows:

 - removed localStorage from Web Workers for now.

 - extended the implicit lock mechanism that we had for storage to also 
   cover document.cookie, and made the language more explicit about how 
   it works.

 - added navigator.releaseLock().


On Fri, 20 Mar 2009, Jeremy Orlow wrote:
>
> Anyhow, the very first example in the spec ( 
> http://dev.w3.org/html5/workers/#a-background-number-crunching-worker) 
> shows work that's being done in a infinite loop with postMessage being 
> called when each prime is found.  If you called localStorage anywhere 
> within that loop (say, to periodically save all primes found), you would 
> not be able to safely call window.localStorage in any other worker or 
> the web page.  This is because the "task that started the script" never 
> ends. And this its 'lock' (on other scripts using local storage) will 
> never be released.

I've removed localStorage from the Web Workers spec for now.


On Fri, 20 Mar 2009, Jonas Sicking wrote:
> 
> I do think it would be great if workers had access to some type of 
> structured storage. However I agree that the fact that both the main 
> thread and workers have synchronous access to the same storage is not 
> acceptable since that means that we're violating the 
> shared-nothing-message-passing design that makes workers not have to 
> deal with locks and other traditional multithread hazards.

Agreed. The Database API seems well-suited for this, though.


On Fri, 20 Mar 2009, Drew Wilson wrote:
>
> One alternative I'd like to propose is to remove access to localStorage 
> for dedicated workers, and give SharedWorkers access to localStorage, 
> but have that storage be partitioned by the worker name (i.e. the worker 
> can access it, but it's not shared with web pages or any other workers 
> and so you don't have any synchronicity issues).

That's an interesting idea, and would be relatively easy to do. Do people 
think it is worth it?


On Fri, 20 Mar 2009, Aaron Boodman wrote:
>
> I think the best option is to make access to localstorage asynchronous 
> for workers. This reduces the amount of time a worker can hold the 
> localstore lock so that it shouldn't be a problem for normal pages. It 
> sucks to make such a simple and useful API aync though.

I don't think making it async helps here, since the problem isn't that it 
is synchronous, but that workers don't return quickly (by design).


On Sat, 21 Mar 2009, Aaron Boodman wrote:
>
> Actually, I don't believe that it is required that the callback run 
> asynchronously. All the callback is used for is establishing the lock 
> lifetime explicitly, and we assume that this will usually make the lock 
> lifetime short. So we can block while we wait for it to become 
> available. This is just like the behavior today without workers.

Nothing is to stop someone from just having a long callback, though.


On Sat, 21 Mar 2009, Jonas Sicking wrote:
> 
> As I understand the current API (on main window) to be defined, as soon 
> as someone accesses the .localStorage property, the implementation is 
> supposed to acquire a lock. This lock would be held on to until that 
> script returns to the event loop for that thread.
> 
> So if javascript in another window, running in another thread or 
> process, tries to access .localStorage for the same origin, the 
> .localStorage getter would try to acquire the same lock and block until 
> the first thread releases the lock.

Right.


On Sat, 21 Mar 2009, Jonas Sicking wrote:
> 
> The problem with synchronously grabbing the lock is that we can only 
> ever have one feature that uses synchronous locks, otherwise we'll risk 
> dead-locks.

Indeed. This is a problem with the current API for localStorage in windows 
as well.

I've made the spec explicitly have a single shared lock for all features 
that need locking (currently just .cookie and .localStorage).


On Sun, 22 Mar 2009, Michael Nordman wrote:
> 
> Given an async api, would it be possible to store values into 
> localStorage at onunload time? I expect that could be a useful time to 
> use this API.
> 
> function onunload() {
>   getLocalStorage(function(storage) {
>     // Will this ever execute?
>   });
> }
> 
> Locking the storage until script completion isn't really necessary in 
> many cases. Maybe we're over engineering this? Suppose immutability 
> across calls was generally not guaranteed by the existing API. And we 
> add an async getLocalStorage(callback) which does provide immutability 
> for the duration of the callback if that is desired.

The problem is that people will walk into race conditions without 
realising it, and they are amongst the hardest problems to debug.


On Sun, 22 Mar 2009, Drew Wilson wrote:
>
> The problem is that .length is basically useless without some kind of
> immutability guarantees.

Indeed.


On Sun, 22 Mar 2009, Drew Wilson wrote:
> 
> That's why I'm proposing that the most reasonable implementation is just 
> to have a simple lock like I describe above

This is what I've done.


> and then either deny access to localStorage to dedicated workers (shared 
> workers can silo the storage as I described previously), or else just 
> enforce a limit to how long workers can hold the localStorage lock (if 
> they hold it beyond some period, they get terminated just like page 
> script that doesn't re-enter the event loop).

I've removed the localStorage API from workers.

Terminating the script like that would be really hard to debug also -- 
especially since it would end up terminating differently on different 
computers (e.g. a desktop might execute the whole initialisation code in 
the time alloted, while slower mobile devices might execute only the first 
part and the worker would be in an unstable state).


On Mon, 23 Mar 2009, Jeremy Orlow wrote:
>
> One thing that hasn't been considered yet is some sort of optional hint 
> to say "I'm done" in terms of accessing localStorage.  Maybe call it 
> localStorage.checkpoint() or localStroage.commit()?

Since this applies to more than just storage, I've put it on the Navigator 
object. I've called it releaseLock().


On Sat, 21 Mar 2009, Jonas Sicking wrote:
>
> As a side note, if we do go with this async lock acquiring, we could add 
> an API like:
> 
> getLockedFeatures(callback, 'localStore', 'cookie');
> 
> This would be an asynchronously grab locks to multiple features and only 
> call the callback once all of them have been acquired. This would allow 
> computations across data from multiple locations guaranteed to be in 
> sync. The implementation would be responsible for grabbing the locks in 
> a consistent order to prevent deadlocks.

Why would we want more than one lock? Is the potential performance gain 
worth the complexity?

The problem with going with an async approach is that it means changing 
the API, which is something we can't really do for cookie (and don't 
really want to do for localStorage, since IE8 has shipped it.) We we are 
going to need a synchronous locking mechanism anyway.


On Mon, 23 Mar 2009, Robert O'Callahan wrote:
> 
> It has to be resolved in a way that doesn't expose asynchronous cookie 
> or localStorage changes to Web developers. There is abundant evidence 
> that race conditions and synchronization are too hard for developers to 
> deal with. The spec should forbid asynchronously visible changes to 
> cookies or localStorage. In fact, it should probably simply say that all 
> script execution is serializable: always equivalent to some execution 
> you could get with a single-threaded browser that runs all scripts to 
> completion. Allowance could be made for explicit yield points if we need 
> to, e.g. alert().

Generally speaking I have tried to maintain this invariant, but I have 
failed with cookies, and with localStorage in workers.


> Some sort of implicit locking with guaranteed deadlock freedom should be 
> workable for parallel browser implementations. For example, partition 
> browser contexts into "related" subsets, where context A is related to 
> context B if a script running in context A can affect the execution of 
> an already-running script in context B. Use one lock per subset, and 
> have a script execution acquire the lock when it first touches 
> localStorage or cookies, and drop the lock when it completes (or 
> yields). Additional optimizations are possible.

I've updated the spec to require the locking mechanism that was in place 
for storage for cookies as well. This still means that one window can 
block all other windows that try to use cookies, though, so I've also 
added navigator.releaseLock() which can be called to explicitly release 
the lock that is put in place.

User agents that share event loops between origins can't actually have any 
more than one lock total. Consider a case where there are three windows 
from three different origins, A, B, and C, where C contains a couple of 
<iframe>s, and where A, B, and C are independent, but C share an event 
loop with whatever content is in its iframes. (This is the situation 
Chrome and IE are in, as I understand it, with event loops being 
per-window not per-origin, and it may be required because access to the 
frames[] hierarchy is synchronous.) Now, assume A and B have both obtained 
their respective locks, and are busy doing some long script. C is free to 
run more tasks from its event loop, which could include navigating one 
iframe to a page on either A and the other iframe to a page on B, meaning 
that the event loop of C is now beholden to two locks. If there is any 
manner in which to synchronously cause another origin to run script, this 
now means that C can attempt to obtain both locks; if we now imagine 
another window just like C that instead obtains the locks in the reverse 
order, we get deadlock.

If it can be shown that it is not ever possible for script in one origin 
to synchronously invoke script in another origin, then I guess we could 
have per-origin locks instead of a single lock.


On Sat, 21 Mar 2009, Jonas Sicking wrote:
> 
> I don't think it will be a big problem. As long as we ensure that all 
> locks are per-origin, that means that an application can only starve 
> itself [using workers]. Something that it has clear incentives not to.

It can starve itself and anyone that it is related to, which is a problem; 
but it would also, I'm sure, lead to pretty awful bugs that authors 
wouldn't understand how to fix. Are we sure we want to go there?

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 24 March 2009 02:11:13 GMT

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