JavaScript Async - Microtasks
Written by Ian Elliot   
Sunday, 26 November 2017
Article Index
JavaScript Async - Microtasks
Node.js Task Functions


Although it isn’t part of the standard, some browsers have implemented a maximum number of microtasks that will be serviced in one go. This does free the UI every now and again, but you will still find it difficult to do anything.

Obviously generating 10,000 thens isn’t a very good idea and this sort of problem is unlikely to actually occur in practice. If it does you need to rethink the way you are doing the job. The problem is that there are other ways that the same thing can occur – chained Promises and combined Promises using all, say, can all add multiple microtasks to the queue that keep the UI thread busy without an opportunity to service tasks. It is important to know that breaking up a process into multiple microtasks does not keep the UI responsive.



Node.js setImmediate & nextTick

Node.js has two useful functions which can create tasks and microtasks.

The setImmediate function will queue a task just like setTimeout, but without any timing restrictions. It has been implemented in Edge and IE 10 and later, but it has been removed from Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

For example:

   function () {
     console.log("Set Task");

adds the function to the task queue and it will be executed as fast as possible, but after any microtasks.

Where it is supported it is faster than postMessage as a way of queuing a task, but it is only safe to use in Node.js.

As well as a task queue, Node.js has a microtask queue that is used for the same things as in a modern browser. In addition it has the process.nextTick function which can be used to queue a microtask:

  function () {
     console.log("Set Microtask");

In the case of node.js you can also use the process.maxTickDepth to set the number of consecutive microtasks that will be processed before a task is.

There is no support for nextTick in any browser, but:


does the same job.

What have we learned? 

  • The dispatch queue is slightly more complex in a modern browser and supports two types of entry – task and microtask.

  • Tasks correspond to the classical entity placed on the event queue – click events, timer events and so on.

  • Microtasks were invented to allow a quicker response for some types of event.

  • The microtask queue is maintained separately from the task queue, and before the next task is taken from the queue all of the microtasks are serviced and the microtask queue is emptied.

  • Page updates only occur between tasks.

  • You can use Promise.resolve().then(function(){…}); to add a microtask to the queue.

  • Because all microtasks are processed before the next task, Promises and microtasks in general are not fully async.

  • It is possible to put so many microtasks in the queue that the UI becomes unresponsive. To stop this JavaScript engines limit the number of microtasks that can be serviced at once.

  • Node.js provides the setImmediate function to add a task to the queue without any delay. This is not supported by browsers.

Now Available as a Book:

 JavaScript Async


You can buy it from: Amazon


  1. Modern JavaScript (Book Only)
  2. Events,Standard & Custom
  3. The Callback
      extract - The Callback & The Controller
  4. Custom Async - setTimeout, sendMessage & yield
      extract - Custom Async
      extract - Avoiding State With Yield 
  5. Worker Threads
      extract - Basic Worker ***NEW
      extract - Advanced Worker Threads 
  6. Consuming Promises 
  7. Producing Promises
      extract - The Revealing Constructor Pattern
    extract - Returning Promises
    extract - Composing Promises
  8. The Dispatch Queue
      extract - Microtasks
  9. Async & Await
      extract -  Basic Async & Await
      extract -  DoEvents & Microtasks
  10. Fetch, Cache & Service Worker
      extract - Fetch  
      extract - Cache
    extract -  Service Workers

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Last Updated ( Monday, 27 November 2017 )