HTTP Server APIs

As of Deno 1.9 and later, native HTTP server APIs were introduced which allow users to create robust and performant web servers in Deno.

The API tries to leverage as much of the web standards as is possible as well as tries to be simple and straight forward.

ℹ️ These APIs were stabilized in Deno 1.13 and no longer require --unstable flag.

Listening for a connection

In order to accept requests, first you need to listen for a connection on a network port. To do this in Deno, you use Deno.listen():

const server = Deno.listen({ port: 8080 });

ℹ️ When supplying a port, Deno assumes you are going to listen on a TCP socket as well as bind to the localhost. You can specify transport: "tcp" to be more explicit as well as provide an IP address or hostname in the hostname property as well.

If there is an issue with opening the network port, Deno.listen() will throw, so often in a server sense, you will want to wrap it in the try ... catch block in order to handle exceptions, like the port already being in use.

You can also listen for a TLS connection (e.g. HTTPS) using Deno.listenTls():

const server = Deno.listenTls({
  port: 8443,
  certFile: "localhost.crt",
  keyFile: "localhost.key",
  alpnProtocols: ["h2", "http/1.1"],
});

The certFile and keyFile options are required and point to the appropriate certificate and key files for the server. They are relative to the CWD for Deno. The alpnProtocols property is optional, but if you want to be able to support HTTP/2 on the server, you add the protocols here, as the protocol negotiation happens during the TLS negotiation with the client and server.

ℹ️ Generating SSL certificates is outside of the scope of this documentation. There are many resources on the web which address this.

Handling connections

Once we are listening for a connection, we need to handle the connection. The return value of Deno.listen() or Deno.listenTls() is a Deno.Listener which is an async iterable which yields up Deno.Conn connections as well as provide a couple methods for handling connections.

To use it as an async iterable we would do something like this:

const server = Deno.listen({ port: 8080 });

for await (const conn of server) {
  // ...handle the connection...
}

Every connection made would yielded up a Deno.Conn assigned to conn. Then further processing can be applied to the connection.

There is also the .accept() method on the listener which can be used:

const server = Deno.listen({ port: 8080 });

while (true) {
  try {
    const conn = await server.accept();
    // ... handle the connection ...
  } catch (err) {
    // The listener has closed
    break;
  }
}

Whether using the async iterator or the .accept() method, exceptions can be thrown and robust production code should handle these using try ... catch blocks. Especially when it comes to accepting TLS connections, there can be many conditions, like invalid or unknown certificates which can be surfaced on the listener and might need handling in the user code.

A listener also has a .close() method which can be used to close the listener.

Serving HTTP

Once a connection is accepted, you can use Deno.serveHttp() to handle HTTP requests and responses on the connection. Deno.serveHttp() returns a Deno.HttpConn. A Deno.HttpConn is like a Deno.Listener in that requests the connection receives from the client are asynchronously yielded up as a Deno.RequestEvent.

To deal with HTTP requests as async iterable it would look something like this:

const server = Deno.listen({ port: 8080 });

for await (const conn of server) {
  (async () => {
    const httpConn = Deno.serveHttp(conn);
    for await (const requestEvent of httpConn) {
      // ... handle requestEvent ...
    }
  })();
}

The Deno.HttpConn also has the method .nextRequest() which can be used to await the next request. It would look something like this:

const server = Deno.listen({ port: 8080 });

while (true) {
  try {
    const conn = await server.accept();
    (async () => {
      const httpConn = Deno.serveHttp(conn);
      while (true) {
        try {
          const requestEvent = await httpConn.nextRequest();
          // ... handle requestEvent ...
        } catch (err) {
          // the connection has finished
          break;
        }
      }
    })();
  } catch (err) {
    // The listener has closed
    break;
  }
}

Note that in both cases we are using an IIFE to create an inner function to deal with each connection. If we awaited the HTTP requests in the same function scope as the one we were receiving the connections, we would be blocking accepting additional connections, which would make it seem that our server was "frozen". In practice, it might make more sense to have a separate function all together:

async function handle(conn: Deno.Conn) {
  const httpConn = Deno.serveHttp(conn);
  for await (const requestEvent of httpConn) {
    // ... handle requestEvent
  }
}

const server = Deno.listen({ port: 8080 });

for await (const conn of server) {
  handle(conn);
}

In the examples from this point on, we will focus on what would occur within an example handle() function and remove the listening and connection "boilerplate".

HTTP Requests and Responses

HTTP requests and responses in Deno are essentially the inverse of web standard Fetch API . The Deno HTTP Server API and the Fetch API leverage the Request and Response object classes. So if you are familiar with the Fetch API you just need to flip them around in your mind and now it is a server API.

As mentioned above, a Deno.HttpConn asynchronously yields up Deno.RequestEvents. These request events contain a .request property and a .respondWith() method.

The .request property is an instance of the Request class with the information about the request. For example, if we wanted to know what URL path was being requested, we would do something like this:

async function handle(conn: Deno.Conn) {
  const httpConn = Deno.serveHttp(conn);
  for await (const requestEvent of httpConn) {
    const url = new URL(requestEvent.request.url);
    console.log(`path: ${url.pathname}`);
  }
}

The .respondWith() method is how we complete a request. The method takes either a Response object or a Promise which resolves with a Response object. Responding with a basic "hello world" would look like this:

async function handle(conn: Deno.Conn) {
  const httpConn = Deno.serveHttp(conn);
  for await (const requestEvent of httpConn) {
    await requestEvent.respondWith(
      new Response("hello world", {
        status: 200,
      }),
    );
  }
}

Note that we awaited the .respondWith() method. It isn't required, but in practice any errors in processing the response will cause the promise returned from the method to be rejected, like if the client disconnected before all the response could be sent. While there may not be anything your application needs to do, not handling the rejection will cause an "unhandled rejection" to occur which will terminate the Deno process, which isn't so good for a server. In addition, you might want to await the promise returned in order to determine when to do any cleanup from for the request/response cycle.

The web standard Response object is pretty powerful, allowing easy creation of complex and rich responses to a client, and Deno strives to provide a Response object that as closely matches the web standard as possible, so if you are wondering how to send a particular response, checkout out the documentation for the web standard Response .

HTTP/2 Support

HTTP/2 support is effectively transparent within the Deno runtime. Typically HTTP/2 is negotiated between a client and a server during the TLS connection setup via ALPN . To enable this, you need to provide the protocols you want to support when you start listening via the alpnProtocols property. This will enable the negotiation to occur when the connection is made. For example:

const server = Deno.listenTls({
  port: 8443,
  certFile: "localhost.crt",
  keyFile: "localhost.key",
  alpnProtocols: ["h2", "http/1.1"],
});

The protocols are provided in order of preference. In practice, the only two protocols that are supported currently are HTTP/2 and HTTP/1.1 which are expressed as h2 and http/1.1.

Currently Deno does not support upgrading a plain-text HTTP/1.1 connection to an HTTP/2 cleartext connection via the Upgrade header (see: #10275 ), so therefore HTTP/2 support is only available via a TLS/HTTPS connection.

Serving WebSockets

ℹ️ This APIs was stabilized in Deno 1.14 and no longer requires the --unstable flag.

Deno can upgrade incoming HTTP requests to a WebSocket. This allows you to handle WebSocket endpoints on your HTTP servers.

To upgrade an incoming Request to a WebSocket you use the Deno.upgradeWebSocket function. This returns an object consisting of a Response and a web standard WebSocket object. The returned response should be used to respond to the incoming request using the respondWith method. Only once respondWith is called with the returned response, the WebSocket is activated and can be used.

Because the WebSocket protocol is symmetrical, the WebSocket object is identical to the one that can be used for client side communication. Documentation for it can be found on MDN .

Note: We are aware that this API can be challenging to use, and are planning to switch to WebSocketStream once it is stabilized and ready for use.

async function handle(conn: Deno.Conn) {
  const httpConn = Deno.serveHttp(conn);
  for await (const requestEvent of httpConn) {
    await requestEvent.respondWith(handleReq(requestEvent.request));
  }
}

function handleReq(req: Request): Response {
  const upgrade = req.headers.get("upgrade") || "";
  if (upgrade.toLowerCase() != "websocket") {
    return new Response("request isn't trying to upgrade to websocket.");
  }
  const { socket, response } = Deno.upgradeWebSocket(req);
  socket.onopen = () => console.log("socket opened");
  socket.onmessage = (e) => {
    console.log("socket message:", e.data);
    socket.send(new Date().toString());
  };
  socket.onerror = (e) => console.log("socket errored:", e.message);
  socket.onclose = () => console.log("socket closed");
  return response;
}

WebSockets are only supported on HTTP/1.1 for now. The connection the WebSocket was created on can not be used for HTTP traffic after a WebSocket upgrade has been performed.