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Chaos Ajax - is your application ready to fail?

· 3 min read
Matej Jelluš

You are creating an application that shows data to the user - doesn't matter if he is searching for some specific thing or he is only listing everything you have. What happens if the server responds with empty array? Or with error? Will your application show only empty space or an error message?

If you want to test this kind of behavior, you can modify the back-end or you know what keyword to search to get an empty response. But there is a better approach.

Chaos Ajax

The Chaos Ajax is a small script that mocks XHR so it knows when you are doing ajax request and it modifies the response from time to time, so you have to thing about it in advance. This means you should always implement catch / fail method.

Empty response

For example you want to have page where user can list and search for people from Star Wars. There is an API you can use for this.

And now let's change the API response :

urls: {
'': {
responseText: '{"count":0,"results":[]}',

Because the chaosAjax is checking if the requested URL starts with our URL, this applies on search too. So if user is searching for Anakin, your code could look like:

.then((response) => {return response.text(); })
.then((people) => {
// render table, or whatever

But if the user type Annakin, it returns empty array. Of course you know how to spell the name, so you never typed it wrong and you didn't implement fallback case. That means the user is going to see an empty page instead of warning that the name doesn't exist or he should check the spelling. But now, with chaosAjax running, you will see the problem almost immediately.


What if the user went away from the computer and then came back and clicked on something. Meanwhile the server logged him out, so he cannot access the data again. Will he see a login popup with warning that his token is no more valid or nothing happens and after a while he just refresh the page and see that he was logged out?

You can set the chaosAjax to return 401 Unauthorized from time to time and see if your application throws a popup or not.

defaultResponse: {
responseText: '{error:{code:1,message:"Auth token is not valid!"}}',
status: 401,


I think there are lot of other examples where you can use this. It sounds funny to add a script to your own page that should break its functionality, but when you get used to it, your applications become more robust and you will be able to sleep well.

Of course do not include this script in production!

Did you like this post? Was it helpful? I am always learning and trying new technologies. When I struggle with something and finally manage to solve it, I share my experience.