Emil Lerch

Husband, Father, Technologist, Cloud Architect

AngularJs HTML5 routing and IE9

We seem to be pushing the limits of AngularJS, and we’ve only started using it. The framework is very promising but definitely very new and a little rough in some areas.

We’d like to avoid hash urls in our solutions. The backend can respond to our routes just fine, and our backend framework is able to serve up the correct content (not necessarily the same content) for any area of the application. Using HTML5 mode and the history.pushState api, we can get clean URLs and no 404 errors on refresh…awesome.

Enter, IE9 (top light blue line). Our current browser standards are IE9+, Desktop/Android Chrome, FF, and IOS Safari. All browsers support history.pushState except IE9. The browser has had a recent significant drop in usage, but we can’t ignore it quite yet.

At first, we thought we could set $locationProvider.html5Mode(true) and it would either a) break in IE9 calling a function that didn’t exist (but we could define as window.location.assign(url)), or b) do a browser-based redirect based on window.location.assign.  Well, RTFM:  what it does is actually relatively painful.  It falls back to hashbang syntax.  This is similar to history.js, and IMHO, is broken in the same way as that library.  Now you have URLs you can’t share between browsers without crazy (and slow) workarounds.

I tried to work around the problem by providing a history.pushState implementation.  This fooled Angular into thinking it was compliant, but caused some redirect loops and ultimately didn’t work out.  Next, I tried first intercepting routeChangeStart and calling event.preventDefault to no avail, then locationChangeStart also without success (I’m informed this does work, but for some reason I didn’t see it, at least not in IE9).

Finally, it hit me…since we’re not programmatically changing locations (just using anchor tags), we could simply determine if pushState is available and perform the following functions if it is not:

  1. Avoid defining any routes with the route provider
  2. Take our <script id=‘whateverroutewearecurrentlyon’ type=‘text/ng-template’/> that is automatically generated on the backend for the current URL and manually add it to the ng-view element.
  3. Remove the ng-view attribute (for completeness) and add an ng-controller attribute pointing to the controller for the current route.
  4. Disable any pre-loading for pages other than the one on which we reside.

This technique can only work in a pretty specific set of circumstances, but I think a properly designed backend system should be able to meet the criteria:

  1. Any URL used by history.pushState actually generates appropriate content from the server.
  2. The server at any URL provides the page layout and the application code.  Providing the current page content in the script tag is nice (that’s what we do) but it’s not strictly required (#2 above could be done via Ajax).
  3. The application code is light enough that you (and your users) can put up with full page loads in non-compliant browsers until users upgrade.  I wouldn’t want to try this technique on gmail. ;-)

I reject Quora on principal, but at least now we have an answer to “Can we develop an AngularJS application which supports IE 7+ but does not have hash or hashbang urls?”.