June 22, 2021

Fetch: Download progress

The fetch method allows to track download progress.

Please note: there’s currently no way for fetch to track upload progress. For that purpose, please use XMLHttpRequest, we’ll cover it later.

To track download progress, we can use response.body property. It’s a ReadableStream – a special object that provides body chunk-by-chunk, as it comes. Readable streams are described in the Streams API specification.

Unlike response.text(), response.json() and other methods, response.body gives full control over the reading process, and we can count how much is consumed at any moment.

Here’s the sketch of code that reads the response from response.body:

// instead of response.json() and other methods
const reader = response.body.getReader();

// infinite loop while the body is downloading
while(true) {
  // done is true for the last chunk
  // value is Uint8Array of the chunk bytes
  const {done, value} = await reader.read();

  if (done) {

  console.log(`Received ${value.length} bytes`)

The result of await reader.read() call is an object with two properties:

  • donetrue when the reading is complete, otherwise false.
  • value – a typed array of bytes: Uint8Array.
Please note:

Streams API also describes asynchronous iteration over ReadableStream with for await..of loop, but it’s not yet widely supported (see browser issues), so we use while loop.

We receive response chunks in the loop, until the loading finishes, that is: until done becomes true.

To log the progress, we just need for every received fragment value to add its length to the counter.

Here’s the full working example that gets the response and logs the progress in console, more explanations to follow:

// Step 1: start the fetch and obtain a reader
let response = await fetch('https://api.github.com/repos/javascript-tutorial/en.javascript.info/commits?per_page=100');

const reader = response.body.getReader();

// Step 2: get total length
const contentLength = +response.headers.get('Content-Length');

// Step 3: read the data
let receivedLength = 0; // received that many bytes at the moment
let chunks = []; // array of received binary chunks (comprises the body)
while(true) {
  const {done, value} = await reader.read();

  if (done) {

  receivedLength += value.length;

  console.log(`Received ${receivedLength} of ${contentLength}`)

// Step 4: concatenate chunks into single Uint8Array
let chunksAll = new Uint8Array(receivedLength); // (4.1)
let position = 0;
for(let chunk of chunks) {
  chunksAll.set(chunk, position); // (4.2)
  position += chunk.length;

// Step 5: decode into a string
let result = new TextDecoder("utf-8").decode(chunksAll);

// We're done!
let commits = JSON.parse(result);

Let’s explain that step-by-step:

  1. We perform fetch as usual, but instead of calling response.json(), we obtain a stream reader response.body.getReader().

    Please note, we can’t use both these methods to read the same response: either use a reader or a response method to get the result.

  2. Prior to reading, we can figure out the full response length from the Content-Length header.

    It may be absent for cross-origin requests (see chapter Fetch: Cross-Origin Requests) and, well, technically a server doesn’t have to set it. But usually it’s at place.

  3. Call await reader.read() until it’s done.

    We gather response chunks in the array chunks. That’s important, because after the response is consumed, we won’t be able to “re-read” it using response.json() or another way (you can try, there’ll be an error).

  4. At the end, we have chunks – an array of Uint8Array byte chunks. We need to join them into a single result. Unfortunately, there’s no single method that concatenates those, so there’s some code to do that:

    1. We create chunksAll = new Uint8Array(receivedLength) – a same-typed array with the combined length.
    2. Then use .set(chunk, position) method to copy each chunk one after another in it.
  5. We have the result in chunksAll. It’s a byte array though, not a string.

    To create a string, we need to interpret these bytes. The built-in TextDecoder does exactly that. Then we can JSON.parse it, if necessary.

    What if we need binary content instead of a string? That’s even simpler. Replace steps 4 and 5 with a single line that creates a Blob from all chunks:

    let blob = new Blob(chunks);

At the end we have the result (as a string or a blob, whatever is convenient), and progress-tracking in the process.

Once again, please note, that’s not for upload progress (no way now with fetch), only for download progress.

Also, if the size is unknown, we should check receivedLength in the loop and break it once it reaches a certain limit. So that the chunks won’t overflow the memory.

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