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Bullet (discontinued)

This project is discontinued and has been archived. It has not been updated in a few years and I am no longer using it nor do I have the time to maintain it. If you are using it and would like me to promote a fork or alternative based on Bullet, please send me an email and I will oblige. Thanks for your interest!

The old README continues below.

Bullet is a Cowboy handler and associated Javascript library for maintaining a persistent connection between a client and a server.

Bullet abstracts a general transport protocol similar to WebSockets. Bullet will use a WebSocket if possible but will fallback to other transports when necessary. If the client supports EventSource connections then Bullet will use EventSource to send messages from the server to the client and XHR for messages from the client to the server. If EventSource is not available then Bullet will use XHR for both directions, using long-polling for server-to-client messages.

A common interface is defined for both client and server to easily facilitate the handling of such connections. Bullet additionally takes care of reconnecting automatically whenever a connection is lost, and also provides an optional heartbeat which is managed on the client side.

Dispatch options

Similar to any other handler, you need to setup the dispatch list before you can access your Bullet handlers. Bullet itself is a Cowboy HTTP handler that translates some of the lower-level functions into a simplified higher-level interface.

The dispatch options for a Bullet handler looks as follow:

{[<<"path">>, <<"to">>, <<"bullet">>], bullet_handler,
    [{handler, my_stream}]}

Simply define this in your dispatch list and your handler will be available and handled by Bullet properly.

The third element in the tuple ([{handler, my_stream}]) will be passed to init/4 as Opts, you can add your own options and get them using lists:keyfind, for example if we define our handler as:

{[<<"path">>, <<"to">>, <<"bullet">>], bullet_handler,
    [{handler, my_stream}, {channel, "my channel"}]}

you can retrieve the channel value as follows:

init(_Transport, Req, Opts, _Active) ->
    {channel, Channel} = lists:keyfind(channel, 1, Opts),
    {ok, Req, #state{channel=Channel}}.

Cowboy handler

Similar to websocket handlers, you need to define 4 functions. A very simple bullet handler would look like the following:

-export([init/4, stream/3, info/3, terminate/2]).

init(_Transport, Req, _Opts, _Active) ->
    {ok, Req, undefined_state}.

stream(Data, Req, State) ->
    {reply, Data, Req, State}.

info(_Info, Req, State) ->
    {ok, Req, State}.

terminate(_Req, _State) ->

Of note is that the init/4 and terminate/2 functions are called everytime a connection is made or closed, respectively, which can happen many times over the course of a bullet connection's life, as Bullet will reconnect everytime it detects a disconnection.

Note that you do not need to handle a heartbeat server-side, it is automatically done when needed by the Bullet client as explained later in this document.

You might have noticed the odd Active argument to init/4. It indicates what type of connection we have. When Active == once, we have a temporary connection that only allows one reply before terminating. When Active == true, the connection allows any number of replies. You can use this information to inform your session process that it should send only 1 message, in the case of Active == once, or that it can send messages whenever in the case of Active == true.

You would typically use init/4 to inform your session process that it can send you messages. In the same manner you can use terminate/2 to inform it that the connection is going down.

Bullet handlers should only contain transport related code, logic should be done in your session process if any, or other parts of your application. Bullet processes should be considered temporary as you never know when a connection is going to close and therefore lose your State.

Client-side javascript

Bullet requires the jQuery library to be used. Initializing a bullet connection is quite simple and can be done directly from a document.ready function like this:

    var bullet = $.bullet('ws://localhost/path/to/bullet/handler');
    bullet.onopen = function(){
        console.log('bullet: opened');
    bullet.ondisconnect = function(){
        console.log('bullet: disconnected');
    bullet.onclose = function(){
        console.log('bullet: closed');
    bullet.onmessage = function(e){
    bullet.onheartbeat = function(){

Use the WebSocket (ws:) form for your bullet URLs and Bullet will change the URL as needed for non-WebSocket transports.

Use the standard (http:) form for your bullet URLs and Bullet will only try non-WebSocket transports.

The $.bullet function takes an optional second 'options' object. The following properties are supported:

Name Default Description
disableWebSocket false Never make WebSocket connections.
disableEventSource false Never make EventSource connections.
disableXHRPolling false Never fallback to XHR long polling.

Note that if EventSource is enabled and chosen as the underlying transport, XHR will be used for client-to-server messages.

Bullet works especially well when it is used to send JSON data formatted with the jQuery JSON plugin.

bullet.send($.toJSON({type: 'event', data: 'hats!'}));

When receiving JSON you would typically receive a list of events, in which case your onmessage handler can look like this, assuming you previously defined a handlers function array for all your events:

    bullet.onmessage = function(e){
        var obj = $.parseJSON(;
        for (i = 0; i < obj.length; i++){