React Christmas

Module Federation: Micro-frontends with webpack 5

A 5 minute read written by
Hege Haavaldsen
05.12.2020

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In this article, we will look at one of webpack's exciting new features, Module Federation. This feature will allow dynamic code reloading from another project at runtime. Using module federation will enable sharing code from other projects with only a little tweaking in your webpack config. It can make a website consisting of multiple frontend applications appear as one seamless SPA. Neat, huh?

webpack is a module bundler. Its main purpose is to bundle JavaScript files for usage in a browser, yet it is also capable of transforming, bundling, or packaging just about any resource or asset.

In webpack 5, a new exciting feature was released. Module Federation, a webpack plugin enabling dynamic code loading from multiple webpack builds at runtime. It supports dependency sharing, i.e.:

Application A, importing code from application B, will attempt to use its own dependencies before downloading payloads from B. Nevertheless, A will download the dependencies from B if they are missing from A.

This way of sharing code between webpack applications opens up a sea of possibilities. For instance, you may use react components from other projects while receiving updates, both during build and runtime. Moreover, if your website consists of many applications, you can have a dedicated app to load and route between all projects. Another use case is to incorporate a design system at runtime. Since you are fetching the components from a different origin at runtime, you can get the latest version from your design system without rebuilding and deploying.

Example

I am more of a learning by doing kind of gal, so let us have a look at an example to see how it is done. We will create a Christmas calendar using module federation. For illustrative purposes, we will be using two separate npm projects:

  • calendar-container: Contains the calendar component.
  • calendar-card: Contains the calendar card component.

We will use module federation to import components from calendar-cardinto the calendar-container during runtime.

The wonderful thing about module federation is that we can easily outsource the development of various card components to fellow programmers, and reap the fruits of their efforts later on.

The complete example can be found here!

Figure of example architecture

App 1: The Container

Let's start by creating our first application, calendar-container. calendar-container will be a simple react application containing a title and a container that, later on, will render the calendar cards. The application will run on localhost:3001.

// calendar-container/src/App

import React from 'react';

const App = () => {	
	return (
		<main>
			<h1>Christmas Calendar</h1>
			<p> Here we will put content from calendar-card </p>		 
		</main>
	);
};

export default App;

App 2: Calendar Window

Next, we will create the CalendarCard-component in an application we call calendar-card. Initially, you will only see the day of the month the window is hiding. If you click the card, it will tell you how many days there are until Christmas. This application will run on localhost:3002.

// calendar-card/src/CalendarCard

import  React, { useState } from  'react';

const  CalendarCard = ({ dayOfDecember }) => {
	const [isClicked, setIsClicked] = useState(false);
	const  daysUntilChristmas = 24 - dayOfDecember;
	
	return (
		<div  onClick={() =>  setIsClicked(!isClicked)}>	
			{isClicked ? (
				<p>{daysUntilChristmas} days until Christmas 🎅</p>
			) : (
				<p>{dayOfDecember}</p>
			)}
		</div>
	);
};
export  default  CalendarCard;

Module federation

Now that we have created the calendar container and the calendar card in separate applications, we are ready to set up the module federation to share code between the applications. This is done in each app's webpack.config.js utilizing webpack's ModuleFederation-plugin.

We need to expose the CalendarCard-component that we want to import into the calendar-container-application. This is done in calendar-card's webpack.config.js. We need to add the ModuleFederationPlugin to the list of plugins. In the config, we need to give the app a filename, letting the module federation know to emit a remote entry. Then we must expose the component we want to use, in our case, the CalendarCard-component. Finally, we will add react and react-dom to the list of shared dependencies. That way, calendar-container will use its own react and react-dom dependencies if available. If one of the dependencies is not available, module federation will provide a fallback dependency from calendar-card anyway.

// calendar-card/webpack.config.js 

const  HtmlWebpackPlugin  =  require('html-webpack-plugin');
const  ModuleFederationPlugin  =  require("webpack/lib/container/ModuleFederationPlugin");

module.exports = {
	// other webpack config 
	plugins: [
		new  HtmlWebpackPlugin({ template: "./public/index.html" }),
		new  ModuleFederationPlugin({
			name: "calendar_card",
			filename: "remoteEntry.js",
			exposes: {
				"./CalendarCard": "./src/CalendarCard" 
			},
			shared: [ "react", "react-dom" ]
		})
	]	
}

Now that the CalendarCard is exposed, we need to tell calendar-container where to find it. This is done in calendar-container's webpack.config.js. The set up is similar to calendar-card, but we let webpack know that it is expecting a remote module called calendar_card. This is done in the remotes-field. Here, we also specify the location of the remote entry, which is http://localhos:3002/remoteEntry.js. As no other project is importing code from calendar-container - yet - there is no need to expose anything in this application. We need to list the shared dependencies in calendar-container as well, to let calendar-card know it will not need to provide them as fallback dependencies.

// calendar-container/webpack.config.js  

const  HtmlWebpackPlugin  =  require('html-webpack-plugin');
const  ModuleFederationPlugin  =  require("webpack/lib/container/ModuleFederationPlugin");

module.exports = {
	// other webpack config 
	plugins: [
		new  HtmlWebpackPlugin({ template: "./public/index.html" }),
		new  ModuleFederationPlugin({
			name: "calendar_container",
			filename: "remoteEntry.js",
			remotes: { calendar_card: "calendar_card@http://localhost:3002/remoteEntry.js" },
			shared: [ "react", "react-dom" ]
		})
	]	
}

Putting it all together

We need an async way to load the application, this can be done by moving all the code from index.js into a new file bootstrap.js. We do this in both applications:

// src/bootstrap

import React from 'react';
import ReactDOM from 'react-dom';
import App from './App'; 

ReactDOM.render(<App />, document.getElementById('calendar-container'));

Then we dynamically import the content in index.js:

// src/index.js
import('./bootstrap')

Now we are ready to import the CalendarCard-component from calendar-card:

// calendar-container/src/App

import React from 'react';

const CalendarCard = React.lazy(() =>  import('calendar_card/CalendarCard'));

const App = () => {
	const  calendarCards = Array.from(Array(24).keys());
	return (
		<main>
			<h1>This is the calendar-container app</h1>
			<div>
				{calendarCards.map((day) => (
					<React.Suspense
						fallback={<p>Loading content from calendar-card...</p>}
						key={day}
					>
						<CalendarCard  dayOfDecember={day + 1}  />
					</React.Suspense>
				))}
			</div>
		</main>
	);
};
export default App;

And voilà! We have a Christmas calendar that imports code from a separate application at runtime!

In this article, we took a quick look at webpack 5's Module Federation feature, enabling runtime code sharing between applications. This is an exciting new feature that can assist in building micro-frontends and cross-platform code sharing.

We made a simple Christmas calendar showcasing some Module Federation based features. There are still other features to explore. The next step could be to share code in both directions, or perhaps create several applications and add routing between them in a container app.

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