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Chrome IPC To Mojo IPC Cheat Sheet

Threading Model

IPC

IPCs can be sent and recieved from any threads. If the sending/receiving thread is not the IO thread, there is always a hop and memory copy to/from the IO thread. Related IPCs are grouped in the same _messages.h file only for convenience, so different messages within the same file can be sent from different threads or received on different threads.

Mojo

A binding or interface pointer can only be used on one thread at a time since they're not thread-safe. However the message pipe can be unbound using either Binding::Unbind or InterfacePtr::PassInterface and then it can be bound again on a different thread. Making a method call doesn't involve a thread hop, but receiving it on a thread other than the IO thread does involve a thread hop.

Ordering between legacy IPC and Mojo IPC is guaranteed only to the IO thread at this time.

SECURITY FOLLOWUPS:
 TODO: are there any examples of type converters between mojo enums? Is this something we want to encourage? Maybe not? Also, should chrome-security do a periodic audit of things marked [Extensible]? A quick search shows that there are some things marked [Extensible] that probably don't need to be.

Declaring Messages

IPC

Messages are declared with macros like IPC_MESSAGE_ROUTED1 and IPC_MESSAGE_CONTROL2, which differentiate between control and routed messages. Messages are generally grouped together by message classes, which are defined in //ipc/ipc_message_start.h.

IPC_SYNC_MESSAGE_CONTROL0_1(ClipboardHostMsg_ReadText,
                            std::string /* result */)

IPC_MESSAGE_CONTROL1(ClipboardHostMsg_WriteText,
                     std::string /* text */)

Mojo

There is no differentiation between control and routed messages in Mojo since there are no routing IDs. Instead messages flow between two endpoints of a message pipe. Mojo messages are declared as interfaces with methods, with related methods grouped together in the same interface. A hypothetical clipboard.mojom might look like this:

interface ClipboardHost {
  ReadText() => (string text);
  WriteText(string text);
};

Receiving / Sending Messages

IPC

Messages are received via the IPC::Listener interface. Message dispatch is typically handled using helper macros:

bool ClipboardMessageFilter::OnMessageReceived(const IPC::Message& message) {
  bool handled = true;
  IPC_BEGIN_MESSAGE_MAP(ClipboardMessageFilter, message)
    IPC_MESSAGE_HANDLER(ClipboardHostMsg_ReadText, OnReadText)
    IPC_MESSAGE_HANDLER(ClipboardHostMsg_WriteText, OnWriteText)
    IPC_MESSAGE_UNHANDLED(handled = false)
  IPC_END_MESSAGE_MAP()
  return handled;
}

void ClipboardMessageFilter::OnReadText(base::string16* result) {
  // Do stuff.
}

void ClipboardMessageFilter::OnWriteText(const base::string16& result) {
  // Do other stuff.
}

Messages are sent via IPC::Sender::Send(). Typically, code will construct a message, fill out the message params, and then call the IPC sender with the message:

std::string WebClipboardImpl::ReadText() {
  std::string result;
  sender_->Send(new ClipboardHostMsg_ReadText(&result));
  return result;
}

Mojo

The Mojo IDL compiler processes the .mojom files to generate corresponding C++ bindings (as well as bindings for other languages). The C++ bindings have generated stub interfaces that a C++ implementation should override:

#include "services/clipboard/clipboard.mojom.h"

class ClipboardImpl : public Clipboard {
 public:
  void ReadText(const ReadTextCallback& callback) {
    // Do stuff.
  }
  void WriteText(const mojo::String& s) {
    // Do other stuff.
  }
};

Sending messages in Mojo is simply a matter of calling the corresponding method on the proxy:

ClipboardPtr clipboard;
render_frame->GetRemoteInterfaces()->GetInterface(
    mojo::GetProxy(&clipboard));
clipboard->WriteText("Hello World!");

Pickling Values

In IPC, messages are simply a base::Pickle. base::Pickle has some methods for reading/writing primitive types, such as uint32_t, float, and base::StringPiece. Serializing/deserializing a type that doesn't have a corresponding base::Pickle::WriteT method requires specializing the IPC::ParamTraits template. If a message parameter fails deserialization in the browser process, the child process is killed. Currently with Mojo the message pipe is closed, but we don't kill the process (http://crbug.com/607293 tracks doing that).

Mojo also has a set of primitives types that it understands how to serialize/deserialize by default, such as string, array, int, enum, etc.

TODO(dcheng): Make sure we still emphasize that we want to preserve type-safety as much as possible. If that means defining a type mapping and writing custom validators, then so be it. Doing that is much better than, say, serializing a mojo::Array of bytes and then memcpying it into a struct.

Enums (e.g. IPC_ENUM_TRAITS and friends)

IPC

IPC has several different macros for creating a boilerplate IPC::ParamTraits specialization for enums:

// Serialization/deserialization of an enum with no validation: typically
// used for enums that are actually bitfields.
IPC_ENUM_TRAITS(blink::WebDragOperation)

// Serialization/deserialization of an enum. Validates that the deserialized
// enum value isn't less than 0 and isn't greater than the last declared
// value.
IPC_ENUM_TRAITS_MAX_VALUE(ui::DragDropTypes::DragEventSource,
                          ui::DragDropTypes::DRAG_EVENT_SOURCE_LAST)

// Like the previous macro, but validates that the enum value isn't less
// than a custom minimum.
IPC_ENUM_TRAITS_MIN_MAX_VALUE(content::PageZoom,
                              content::PageZoom::PAGE_ZOOM_OUT,
                              content::PageZoom::PAGE_ZOOM_IN)

Mojo

Just declare an enum in the .mojom file.

// Mojo automatically validates that the received enum has a legal value!
enum PageZoom {
  OUT,
  RESET,
  IN
};

// The Extensible attribute tells Mojo to skip validation. For bitfields,
// there can be many combinations of possible values. Extensible should only be
// used for these sorts of situations.
[Extensible]
enum DragOperation {
  None = 0,
  Copy = 1,
  Link = 2,
  Generic = 4,
  Private = 8,
  Move = 16,
  Delete = 32,
};

Transport-only structs (e.g. IPC_STRUCT_BEGIN, IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER, and IPC_STRUCT_END)

IPC provides IPC_STRUCT_BEGIN, IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER, and IPC_STRUCT_END macros as a way to define simple structs that are only used as IPC message parameters.

IPC

Defining a struct with these macros looks like this today:

IPC_STRUCT_BEGIN(ViewMsg_New_Params)
  IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER(int32_t, view_id, MSG_ROUTING_NONE)
  IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER(int32_t, main_frame_routing_id, MSG_ROUTING_NONE)
  IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER(int32_t, main_frame_widget_routing_id, MSG_ROUTING_NONE)
  IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER(int64_t, session_storage_namespace_id)
  IPC_STRUCT_MEMBER(int, opener_frame_route_id, MSG_ROUTING_NONE)
IPC_STRUCT_END()

And the resulting struct can be used like this:

bool RenderViewHostImpl::CreateRenderView(int opener_frame_route_id, ...) {
  /* do stuff */

  ViewMsg_New_Params params;
  params.view_id = GetRoutingID();
  /* …fill in rest of the fieldsu2026 */
  params.opener_frame_route_id = opener_frame_route_id;

  Send(new ViewMsg_New(params));

  /* do the rest of the stuff */
}

Mojo

Structs are defined in .mojom files:

struct CompositionSegment {
  uint32 start_offset;
  uint32 end_offset;
  bool emphasized;
};

The struct can be used as a parameter type:

interface ImeInstance {
  SetCompositionText(string text, array<CompositionSegment> segments);
}

Important: while this example uses the generated mojo structs directly, this is highly discouraged: typemapping to native C++ types usually makes the code more readable, and more importantly, makes sure that the mojo structs go through data validation (e.g. the renderer is not sending the browser invalid GURLs, etc)

And using it in C++ looks like this:

static mojo::Array<arc::mojom::CompositionSegmentPtr> ConvertSegments(
    const ui::CompositionText& composition) {
  mojo::Array<arc::mojom::CompositionSegmentPtr> segments =
      mojo::Array<arc::mojom::CompositionSegmentPtr>::New(0);
  for (const ui::CompositionUnderline& underline : composition.underlines) {
    arc::mojom::CompositionSegmentPtr segment =
        arc::mojom::CompositionSegment::New();
    segment->start_offset = underline.start_offset;
    segment->end_offset = underline.end_offset;
    segment->emphasized = (underline.thick ||
        (composition.selection.start() == underline.start_offset &&
         composition.selection.end() == underline.end_offset));
    segments.push_back(std::move(segment));
  }
  return segments;
}

void ArcImeBridgeImpl::SendSetCompositionText(
    const ui::CompositionText& composition) {
  ime_instance_->SetCompositionText(base::UTF16ToUTF8(composition.text),
                                    ConvertSegments(composition));
}

Pre-defined structs (e.g. IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_BEGIN, IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_MEMBER, and IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_END)

IPC

Sometimes, IPC messages need to include structs that are already defined elsewhere. To help serialize simple structs for this case, IPC provides IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_BEGIN, IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_MEMBER, and IPC_STRUCTS_TRAITS_END. For example, given:

namespace ui {
struct FileInfo {
  base::FilePath path;
  base::FilePath display_name; // Optional.
};
} // namespace ui


IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_BEGIN(ui::FileInfo)
  IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_MEMBER(path)
  IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_MEMBER(display_name)
IPC_STRUCT_TRAITS_END()

C++ code can pass a ui::FileInfo as an IPC parameter and it Just Works™:

Mojo

There isn't really a Mojo equivalent for this. Structs that need to be sent over Mojo need to have a corresponding Mojo struct. See the custom serialization section below for more information.

Custom serialization (e.g. custom IPC::ParamTraits)

IPC

There are some C++ types that can't be serialized with existing IPC::ParamTraits specializations. Those types specialize IPC::ParamTraits directly, rather than using the macros, and use the underlying base::Pickle methods to serialize/deserialize. A simple custom IPC::ParamTraits might look like this:

template <>
struct ParamTraits<std::string> {
  typedef std::string param_type;
  static void GetSize(base::PickleSizer* sizer, const param_type& p) {
    sizer->AddString(p);
  }
  static void Write(base::Pickle* m, const param_type& p) { m->WriteString(p); }
  static bool Read(const base::Pickle* m,
                   base::PickleIterator* iter,
                   param_type* r) {
    return iter->ReadString(r);
  }
  IPC_EXPORT static void Log(const param_type& p, std::string* l);
};

Mojo

Mojo uses StructTraits specializations in conjunction with type maps to transparently map between the native type and the Mojo structs at the binding layer. It's a bit too complicated to provide a simple example here, so please see Type Mapping in C++ for how to use this feature.

Note that Mojo also has a legacy TypeConverter mechanism for going to/from Mojo types. The use of type converters is discouraged in new code. Using StructTraits simplifies client code (e.g. code can use GURL instead of url::mojom::Url) and it allows validation of the data that needs custom serialization/deserialization. The latter point is quite important, since Mojo IPCs often go from the unprivileged renderer process to the privileged browser process.

Sync messages

In general, just like with legacy IPCs it's best to avoid synchronous messages if possible. If something really must be synchronous for legacy reasons, the [Sync] IDL attribute can be used. See the documentation on Synchronous Calls for more information.

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