AbortController and aborting fetch requests

Anton Ioffe - September 27th 2023 - 10 minutes read

In this ever-evolving landscape of modern web development, the ability to effectively manage and abort fetch requests is integral to optimizing your JavaScript code. Amongst a plethora of tools at your disposal, the AbortController interface stands out as an elegant, yet powerful instrument for this task.

In this in-depth article, we are going to traverse the intricacies of AbortController, it's associated properties and methods, and how it all ties in with the Fetch API and the RequestInit object interface. Not limited to just theory, the article will feature real-world code examples to reinforce your understanding. We shall unbox the Fetch API, delve into error management strategies, and introduce you to user-friendly notification systems.

Taking it a notch higher, we'll also venture into advanced techniques for aborting multiple HTTP requests in parallel, and best practices in AbortController usage. Not just that, common errors developers run into will also be discussed. So, ready to give your JavaScript skills a substantial upgrade? Let's decode the seemingly complex world of AbortController and fetch request management.

Digging deep into AbortController, its Properties, and Methods

Digging Deep into AbortController

The highlight of web application development is an efficacious handling of asynchronous operations. When dealing with fetch requests, it becomes necessary to manage control operations such as aborting a fetch request. This is when AbortController comes into play.

AbortController is a DOM interface that is capable of terminating DOM requests. It provides a way to pass a signal to communicate with a fetch operation. To construct an AbortController instance, the new keyword is used, as shown below:

const controller = new AbortController();

Properties of AbortController

The AbortController object instance comes with a vital property, namely signal. Its primary purpose is to communicate the status of the fetch operation to the request. A signal follows the lifecycle of a fetch request and is used to abort the transaction. If a fetch operation is aborted, the signal's aborted property will be set to true.

const controller = new AbortController();
console.log(controller.signal.aborted); // Initially this will output 'false'

Methods of AbortController

Once the AbortController instance is constructed, the crucial abort method can be invoked on it to abort a fetch request. It signals the fetch to terminate, subsequently setting the aborted attribute of the signal property to true:

const controller = new AbortController();
controller.abort(); // will abort the fetch request
console.log(controller.signal.aborted); // Now this will output 'true'

Now, let's take a look at how to use AbortController to abort a fetch request:

const controller = new AbortController();
const { signal } = controller;

// Start a fetch request
fetch('https://api.example.com/data', { signal })
    .then(response => response.json())
    .catch(err => console.log('Fetch aborted by user: ', err));

// Abort the fetch request

In this case, as soon as the abort() function is called, the fetch operation is aborted and the catch() block of the promise gets executed, logging the error message indicating that the fetch was aborted by the user.

However, note that implementing the abort method doesn't make all fetch requests magically abortable. Only fetch requests that have been started with the signal from AbortController.signal set in the options object can be aborted.

Frequently made mistakes

A common mistake developers often make is creating a new AbortController instance inside the fetch expression rather than establishing it beforehand and passing its signal to fetch. The incorrect and correct methods are shown below for comparison:

Wrong Way

fetch('https://api.example.com/data', { signal: new AbortController().signal });

Right Way

const controller = new AbortController();
fetch('https://api.example.com/data', { signal: controller.signal });

By understanding and employing AbortController, you can hold reins over your fetch requests and harness the superpower of aborting the requests when required.

Quick question for reflection: How would managing ongoing requests enhance your application's performance, especially in a situation with multiple heavy fetch requests?

Mastering Fetch API and RequestInit Object Interface

The Fetch API and the RequestInit Object Interface are two extremely powerful tools in a modern front-end developer’s arsenal. With the advent of modern JavaScript frameworks and libraries, network operations in JavaScript have advanced leaps and bounds beyond the classic XMLHttpRequest. One of these new network operation tools is the very versatile Fetch API. However, to fully utilize it, we need to understand the crucial role that the RequestInit object plays, particularly when it comes to aborting fetch requests.

The Fetch API in Different Environments

The Fetch API provides an interface for fetching resources, in a way that is both more powerful and flexible than XMLHttpRequest. It returns a Promise that resolves to the Response object representing the response to the request, once it’s available.

However, one key thing to remember is that the Fetch API isn’t always available in all environments. It is a web API and not a language specification. That means it's not available in non-browser environments like Node.js by default, although there are now npm packages like node-fetch and cross-fetch that allow Fetch-like behavior in Node.

Note: Always verify if Fetch is supported in your target environments, or use polyfills if necessary.

Understanding RequestInit Object and Signal Property

When invoking the fetch() function, it is possible to pass in an optional second parameter. This is the RequestInit object, an object that allows you to customize the characteristics of the request you’re making.

One crucial property of the RequestInit object is the signal property. This is not a mere flag. Rather, it’s an instance of AbortSignal, a class that’s part of the AbortController API.

Typically, you would create an instance of the AbortController and access its signal property as follows, though we are not getting into the details of the controller in this section:

let controller = new AbortController();
let signal = controller.signal;

This signal object can then be passed to the fetch function:

fetch(url, { signal })

The signal from an AbortController can be tied to one or more fetch operations and later used to abort the fetch operation.

Constructing and Manipulating Fetch API Requests

To create a fetch request, you can pass the Request constructor, or simply a URL string to the fetch() function. The former offers greater customization and control.

Here is how you construct a fetch request using the Request constructor:

let req = new Request(url, { method: 'GET', signal });

You can then fetch as follows:


In this example, an optional object specifying the type of request (GET in this case) and the signal are passed to the Request constructor. Note that this doesn't immediately send out the request - it is merely prepared.

Now you have understood the connection between the Fetch API, the RequestInit object and the significance of the signal property related to the AbortSignal. In the next sections, we will delve into the specifics of aborting Fetch requests using these tools and what possible pitfalls to avoid.

Error Management and User-friendly notifications

In the realm of modern web development, competent error management and constant user feedback are indispensable tools. When executing fetch API operations utilizing AbortController, it's crucial to ensure that errors are aptly handled and that user-friendly notifications are generated.

Types of Errors

The Fetch API operation throws two common types of errors on interaction with AbortController - TypeError and AbortError.

  1. TypeError: This error primarily occurs when there is an issue with the network, such as when the request cannot reach the server.

  2. AbortError: This error arises when a fetch request is programmatically terminated using an abort() method.

Consequently, it's essential to build catch blocks that would efficiently handle these types of errors.

The Catch Block

The catch block is the central hub for error handling in JavaScript promise chains, and the Fetch API is no different. A catch block catches any error that is thrown in a fetch operation. To handle both TypeError and AbortError, we can distinguish between these inside a catch block.

fetch('myUrl', options)
.then(response => response.json())
.catch(err => {
    // Checking error type
    if (err.name === 'AbortError') {
        console.error('Fetch request was aborted');
    } else {
        console.error('Fetch encountered an error', err);

In the catch block, we distinguish TypeError from AbortError by inspecting the name field of error. The console.error() function is a placeholder here. In an actual application, error handling code would replace, not log, the error.

User-friendly Error Messages

The error management ain't complete without notifying users in a way that's not intimidating but informative. For an improved user experience, we need to present errors in a friendly way.

By checking the type of error, it's possible to customize the message sent to the end-user. You can use a simple if/else block inside the catch block for this purpose.

Below is a brief example of how this could be done:

fetch('myUrl', options)
.then(response => response.json())
.catch(err => {
    let errorMessage;
    if (err.name === 'AbortError') {
        errorMessage = 'Your request was cancelled. Please try again later';
    } else {
        errorMessage = 'The server could not be reached. Please check your network connection';
    // Assuming there's a function displayErrorMessage which renders error in DOM

Within this code block, the displayErrorMessage() function could render the error message on the web page or to a notification component.

Communication is key to any application's success. Do you allocate time to review error messages for user-friendliness and clarity? Are all exceptions handled, or is there a potential for an unhandled exception to disrupt the user experience? Could custom error classes make your error management more effective? Do you have any tips for creating user-friendly error messages?

Advanced Techniques for Aborting HTTP Requests

First and foremost, for senior-level developers, it's a common practice to manage multiple HTTP requests in parallel. Asynchronous programming, in essence, relies heavily on this principle. However, one complexity that arises often is the need to abort multiple HTTP fetch requests. In this section, we'll delve into how this can be achieved with the AbortController object, while discussing the performance considerations and limitation that may come along.

Dealing Multiple AbortControllers

In this advanced scenario, the complexity lies mainly in being able to manage multiple AbortController instances in parallel. The most common approach is to create a new AbortController for each fetch request and then store the references in an array or a similar data structure to control their abortion simultaneously.

Here’s an example:

let controllers = [];
for (let i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
    let controller = new AbortController();
    fetch(`https://example.com/api/v1/data-${i}`, { signal: controller.signal })
        .catch(error => console.error(error));


To abort all the requests, we iterate through our controllers array and call abort() on each one:

controllers.forEach(controller => controller.abort());

Notice that we create new AbortController instances for each fetch request to individually manage their abortion.

Avoiding Duplicate AbortController for Same Fetch

However, one of the architectures that developers sometimes mistakenly adopt involves reusing a single AbortController for multiple fetch requests. This might lead to unexpected behavior because aborting one request will lead to aborting all requests associated with the reused controller.

let controller = new AbortController();
for (let i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
    fetch(`https://example.com/api/v1/data-${i}`, { signal: controller.signal })
        .catch(error => console.error(error));

Preserving general principles of encapsulation and isolation, we can confirm that it's more efficient and safer to generate an individual AbortController for each fetch request.

Performance and Limitations

Using the AbortController mechanism is quite efficient in terms of memory allocation and doesn’t consume many processing resources. Nonetheless, there are few minor things you should be aware of:

  1. Abortion doesn’t stop the server. If the server initiates some processing based on the fetch request, that server-side operation isn't impacted by the client-side abort operation.
  2. Aborted fetch request doesn’t free the associated data immediately. Even though the fetch is aborted, it doesn't immediately stop consuming memory.
  3. AbortController doesn't play well with older browsers. If you’re working on a project that requires broad browser compatibility, you might have to use polyfills or still rely on traditional callbacks and other mechanisms.

In summary, managing multiple fetch requests with individual AbortController instances ensures better control, isolation, and encapsulation when aborting HTTP requests.

A thought-provoking question is: How would your design choices change when dealing with a high-performance application that frequently aborts fetch requests? (Hint: consider fetch abortion patterns, controller management, and GC considerations).


This article dives into the topic of aborting fetch requests using the AbortController interface in JavaScript. It explores the properties and methods of AbortController and explains how it can be used to effectively manage and terminate fetch operations. The article also covers advanced techniques for aborting multiple HTTP requests in parallel and provides best practices for using AbortController. Additionally, it discusses common mistakes that developers make when implementing AbortController and provides tips for avoiding those errors.

One key takeaway from this article is the importance of effectively managing and aborting fetch requests in modern web development. The AbortController interface provides a powerful tool for accomplishing this task, allowing developers to control and terminate fetch operations when necessary. By understanding and using AbortController, developers can optimize their JavaScript code and enhance the performance of their applications.

A challenging technical task related to this topic would be to create a function that aborts multiple fetch requests simultaneously using multiple AbortController instances. The task would require the developer to create an array of AbortControllers, initiate multiple fetch requests with these controllers, and then implement a function to abort all of the requests at once. This task would test the developer's understanding of AbortController and their ability to effectively manage and control multiple fetch requests in parallel.

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