tree: 91f61ce0ca13613cd6328df8971bd67712ac462e [path history] [tgz]
  1. background/
  2. public/
  3. runner/
  4. standalone/
  5. tests/
  8. connect_params.h
  10. connect_util.h
  11. manifest.json
  12. native_runner.h
  13. native_runner_delegate.h
  14. OWNERS
  17. service_manager.h
  19. switches.h

Service Manager User Guide

What is the Service Manager?

The Service Manager is a tool that brokers connections and capabilities between and manages instances of components, referred to henceforth as “services”.

The Service Manager performs the following functions:

  • Brokering connections between services, including communicating policies such as capabilities (which include access to interfaces), user identity, etc.
  • Launching and managing the lifecycle services and processes (though services may also create their own processes and tell the Service Manager about them).
  • Tracks running services, and provides an API that allows services to understand what’s running.

The Service Manager presents a series of Mojo interfaces to services, though in practice interacting with the Service is made simpler with a client library. Currently, there is only a client library written in C++, since that meets the needs of most of the use cases in Chrome.


Mojo Recap

The Mojo system provides two key components of interest here - a lightweight message pipe concept allowing two endpoints to communicate, and a bindings layer that allows interfaces to be described to bind to those endpoints, with ergonomic bindings for languages used in Chrome.

Mojo message pipes are designed to be lightweight and may be read from/written to and passed around from one process to the next. In most situations however the developer won’t interact with the pipes directly, rather with a generated types encapsulating a bound interface.

To use the bindings, a developer defines their interface in the Mojo IDL format, mojom. With some build magic, the generated headers can then be included and used from C++, JS and Java.

It is important to note here that Mojo Interfaces have fully qualified identifiers in string form, generated from the module path and interface name: “**module.path.InterfaceName**”. This is how interfaces are referenced in Service Manifests, and how they will be referenced throughout this document.

This would be a good place for me to refer to this in-depth Mojo User Guide, which spells all of this out in great detail.


A Service is any bit of code the Service Manager knows about. This could be a unique process, or just a bit of code run in some existing process.

The Service Manager disambiguates services by their Identity. Every service has its own unique Identity. From the Service Manager’s perspective, a service’s Identity is represented by the tuple of the its Name, UserId and Instance Name. The Name is a formatted string that superficially represents a scheme:host pair, but actually isn’t a URL. More on the structure of these names later. The UserId is a string GUID, representing the user the service is run as. The Instance Name is a string, typically (but not necessarily) derived from the Name, which can be used to allow multiple instances of a service to exist for the same Name,UserId pair. In Chrome an example of this would be multiple instances of the renderer or the same profile.

A Service implements the Mojo interface shell.mojom.Service, which is the primary means the Service Manager has of communicating with its service. Service has two methods: OnStart(), called once at when the Service Manager first learns about the service, and OnConnect(), which the Service Manager calls every time some other service tries to connect to this one.

Services have a link back to the Service Manager too, primarily in the form of the shell.mojom.Connector interface. The Connector allows services to open connections to other services.

A unique connection from the Service Manager to a service is called an “instance,” each with its own unique identifier, called an instance id. Every instance has a unique Identity. It is possible to locate an existing instance purely using its Identity.

Services define their own lifetimes. Services in processes started by other services (rather than the Service Manager) may even outlive the connection with the Service Manager. For processes launched by the Service Manager, when a service wishes to terminate it closes the Service pipe with the Service Manager and the Service Manager destroys its corresponding instance and asks the process to exit.

A simple Service example

Consider this simple application that implements the Service interface:

#include “mojo/public/c/system/main.h”
#include “services/shell/public/cpp/application_runner.h”
#include “services/shell/public/cpp/connector.h”
#include “services/shell/public/cpp/connection.h”
#include “services/shell/public/cpp/identity.h”
#include “services/shell/public/cpp/service.h”

class Service : public shell::Service {
  Service() {}
  ~Service() override {}

  // Overridden from shell::Service:
  void OnStart(const shell::Identity& identity) override {
  bool OnConnect(shell::Connection* connection) override {
    return true;

MojoResult ServiceMain(MojoHandle service_request_handle) {
  return shell::ServiceRunner(new Service).Run(service_request_handle);


  “manifest_version”: 1,
  “name”: “mojo:app”,
  “display_name”: “Example App”,
  “capabilities”: {}


service(“app”) {
  sources = [ “” ]
  deps = [ “//base”, “//mojo/shell/public/cpp” ]
  data_deps = [ “:manifest” ]

service_manifest(“manifest”) {
  name = “app”
  source = “app_manifest.json”

What does all this do? Building the app target produces two files in the output directory: app/app.library and app/manifest.json. app.library is a DSO loaded by the Service Manager in its own process when another service connects to the “mojo:app” name. This is not the only way (nor even the most likely one) you can implement a Service, but it’s the simplest and easiest to reason about.

This service doesn’t do much. Its implementation of OnStart() is empty, and its implementation of OnConnect just returns true to allow the inbound connection to complete. Let’s study the parameters to these methods though, since they’ll be important as we begin to do more in our service.

OnStart Parameters
const shell::Identity& identity

This is the identity this service is known to the Service Manager as. It includes the service’s Name, User ID and Instance Name.

OnConnect Parameters
shell::Connection* connection

This is a pointer to an object that encapsulates the connection with a remote service. The service uses this object to learn about the service at the remote end, to bind interfaces from it, and to expose interfaces to it. The “Connection” concept is implemented under the hood by a pair of shell.mojom.InterfaceProviders - this is the physical link between the service that give the Connection its utility. The Connection object is owned by the caller of OnConnect, and will outlive the underlying pipes.

The service can decide to block the connection outright by returning false from this method. In that scenario the underlying pipes will be closed and the remote end will see an error and have the chance to recover.

Before we add any functionality to our service, such as exposing an interface, we should look at how we connect to another service and bind an interface from it. This will lay the groundwork to understanding how to export an interface.


Once we have a Connector, we can connect to other services and bind interfaces from them. In the trivial app above we can do this directly in OnStart:

void OnStart(const shell::Identity& identity) override {
  scoped_ptr<shell::Connection> connection = 
  mojom::SomeInterfacePtr some_interface;

This assumes an interface called “mojo.SomeInterface” with a method “Foo()” exported by another Mojo client identified by the name “mojo:service”.

What is happening here? Let’s look line-by-line…

scoped_ptr<shell::Connection> connection = 

This asks the Service Manager to open a connection to the service named “mojo:service”. The Connect() method returns a Connection object similar to the one received by OnConnect() - in fact this Connection object binds the other ends of the pipes of the Connection object received by OnConnect in the remote service. This time, the caller of Connect() takes ownership of the Connection, and when it is destroyed the connection (and the underlying pipes) is closed. A note on this later.

mojom::SomeInterfacePtr some_interface;

This is a shorthand from the mojom bindings generator, producing an instantiation of a mojo::InterfacePtrmojom::SomeInterface. At this point the InterfacePtr is unbound (has no pipe handle), and calling is_bound() on it will return false. Before we can call any methods, we need to bind it to a Mojo message pipe. This is accomplished on the following line:


Calling this method allocates a Mojo message pipe, binds the client handle to the provided InterfacePtr, and sends the server handle to the remote service, where it will eventually (asynchronously) be bound to an object implementing the requested interface. Now that our InterfacePtr has been bound, we can start calling methods on it:


Now an important note about lifetimes. At this point the Connection returned by Connect() goes out of scope, and is destroyed. This closes the underlying InterfaceProvider pipes with the remote client. But Mojo methods are asynchronous. Does this mean that the call to Foo() above is lost? No. Before closing, queued writes to the pipe are flushed.

Implementing an Interface

Let’s look at how to implement an interface now from a client and expose it to inbound connections from other clients. To do this we’ll need to implement OnConnect() in our Service implementation, and implement a couple of other interfaces. For the sake of this example, we’ll imagine now we’re writing the “mojo:service” client, implementing the interface defined in this mojom:


module mojom;

interface SomeInterface {

To build this mojom we need to invoke the mojom gn template from //mojo/public/tools/bindings/mojom.gni. Once we do that and look at the output, we can see that the C++ class mojom::SomeInterface is generated and can be #included from the same path as the .mojom file at some_interface.mojom.h. In our implementation of the mojo:service client, we’ll need to derive from this class to implement the interface. But that’s not enough. We’ll also have to find a way to bind inbound requests to bind this interface to the object that implements it. Let’s look at a snippet of a class that does all of this:

class Service : public shell::Service,
                public shell::InterfaceFactory<mojom::SomeInterface>,
                public mojom::SomeInterface {

  // Overridden from shell::Service:
  bool OnConnect(shell::Connection* connection) override {
    return true;

  // Overridden from shell::InterfaceFactory<mojom::SomeInterface>:
  void Create(shell::Connection* connection,
              mojom::SomeInterfaceRequest request) override {
    bindings_.AddBinding(this, std::move(request));

  // Overridden from mojom::SomeInterface:
  void Foo() override { /* .. */ }

  mojo::BindingSet<mojom::SomeInterface> bindings_;

Let’s study what’s going on, starting with the obvious - we derive from mojom::SomeInterface and implement Foo(). How do we bind this implementation to a pipe handle from a connected service? First we have to advertise the interface to the client through the inbound connection. This is accomplished in OnConnect():


This adds the mojom.SomeInterface interface name to the inbound Connection object’s InterfaceRegistry, and tells the InterfaceRegistry to consult this object when it needs to construct an implementation to bind. Why this object? Well in addition to Service and SomeInterface, we also implement an instantiation of the generic interface InterfaceFactory. InterfaceFactory is the missing piece - it binds a request for SomeInterface (in the form of a message pipe server handle) to the object that implements the interface (this). This is why we implement Create():

bindings_.AddBinding(this, std::move(request));

In this case, this single instance binds requests for this interface from all connected clients, so we use a mojo::BindingSet to hold them all. Alternatively, we could construct an object per request, and use mojo::Binding.


While the code above looks like it should work, if we were to type it all in, build it and run it it still wouldn’t. In fact, if we ran it, we’d see this error in the console:

Capabilities prevented connection from: mojo:app to mojo:service

The answer lies in an omission in one of the files I didn’t discuss earlier, the manifest.json, specifically the empty “capabilities” dictionary.

You can think of an interface (and its underlying client handle) as a capability. If you have it, and it’s bound, you can call methods on it and something will happen. If you don’t have a bound InterfacePtr, you (effectively) don’t have that capability.

At the top level, the Service Manager implements the delegation of capabilities in accordance with rules spelled out in each service’s manifest.

Each service produces a manifest file with some typical metadata about itself, and a “capability spec”. A capability spec describes classes of capabilities offered by the service, classes of capabilities and individual capabilities consumed by the service. Let’s study a fairly complete capability spec from another service’s manifest:

"capabilities": {
  "provided": {
    "web": ["if1", "if2"],
    "uid": []
    “god-mode”: [“*”]
  "required": {
    "*": { "classes": ["c1", "c2"], "interfaces": ["if3", "if4"] },
    "mojo:foo": { "classes": ["c3"], "interfaces": ["if5"] }

At the top level of the capabilities dictionary are two sub-dictionaries.

Provided Capability Classes

The provided dictionary enumerates the capability classes provided by the service. A capability class is an alias, either to some special behavior exposed by the service to remote services that request that class, or to a set of interfaces exposed by the service to remote services. In the former case, in the dictionary we provide an empty array as the value of the class name key, in the latter case we provide an array with a list of the fully qualified Mojo interface names (module.path.InterfaceName). A special case of array is one that contains the single entry “*”, which means “all interfaces”. In the example above, when another service connects to this one and requests the “god-mode” class in its manifest, it can connect to all interfaces exposed by this service.

Required Capabilities

The required dictionary enumerates the capability classes and interfaces required by the service. The keys into this dictionary are the names of the services it intends to connect to, and the values for each key are “capability specs” that describe the capability classes and individual interfaces that this class needs to operate correctly. Here again, an array value for the “interfaces” key in the capability spec consisting of a single “” means the service needs to bind all interfaces exposed by that service. Additionally, a “” key in the “required” dictionary allows the service to provide a capability spec that must be adhered to by all applications it connects to.

Note that a service need not enumerate every interface it provides in the provided dictionary. This is done effectively at runtime when the service calls AddInterface() on inbound connections. The service merely describes groups of interfaces in capability classes as an ergonomic measure. Without capability classes, services would have to explicitly state every interface they intended to bind, which would make the manifests very cumbersome to author.

Armed with this knowledge, we can return to app_manifest.json from the first example and fill out the capability spec:

  “manifest_version”: 1,
  “name”: “mojo:app”,
  “display_name”: “Example App”,
  “capabilities”: {
    “required”: {
      “mojo:service”: [],

If we just run now, it still won’t work, and we’ll see this error:

Connection CapabilitySpec prevented binding to interface mojom.SomeInterface
connection_name: mojo:service remote_name: mojo:app

The connection was allowed to complete, but the attempt to bind mojom.SomeInterface was blocked. We need to add that interface to the array in the manifest:

“required”: {
  “mojo:service”: [ “mojom.SomeInterface” ],

Now everything should work.

(Note that we didn’t write a manifest for mojo:service. We’d need to do that too, though for this example we wouldn’t have to describe mojom.SomeInterface in the provided section of its capability spec, since it wasn’t part of a class. Connecting services like mojo:app just need to state that interface.)


Now that we’ve built a simple application and service, it’s time to write a test for them. The Shell client library provides a gtest base class shell::test::ServiceTest that makes writing integration tests of services straightforward. Let’s look at a simple test of our service:

#include “base/bind.h”
#include “base/run_loop.h”
#include “mojo/shell/public/cpp/service_test.h”
#include “path/to/some_interface.mojom.h”

void QuitLoop(base::RunLoop* loop) {

class Test : public shell::test::ServiceTest {
  Test() : shell::test::ServiceTest(“exe:service_unittest”) {}
  ~Test() override {}

TEST_F(Test, Basic) {
  mojom::SomeInterface some_interface;
  connector()->ConnectToInterface(“mojo:service”, &some_interface);
  base::RunLoop loop;
  some_interface->Foo(base::Bind(&QuitLoop, &loop));

The for this test file looks like any other using the test() template. It must also depend on //services/shell/public/cpp:shell_test_support.

ServiceTest does a few things, but most importantly it register the test itself as a Service, with the name you pass it via its constructor. In the example above, we supplied the name “exe:service_unittest”. This name is has no special meaning other than that henceforth it will be used to identify the test service.

Behind the scenes, ServiceTest spins up the Service Manager on a background thread, and asks it to create an instance for the test service on the main thread, with the name supplied. ServiceTest blocks the main thread while the Service Manager thread does this initialization. Once the Service Manager has created the instance, it calls OnStart() (as for any other service), and the main thread continues, running the test. At this point accessors defined in service_test.h like connector() can be used to connect to other services.

You’ll note in the example above I made Foo() take a callback, this is to give the test something interesting to do. In the mojom for SomeInterface we’d have the Foo() method return an empty response. In mojo:service, we’d have Foo() take the callback as a parameter, and run it. In the test, we spin a RunLoop until we get that response. In real world cases we can pass back state & validate expectations. You can see real examples of this test framework in use in the Service Manager’s own suite of tests, under //services/shell/tests.


By default a .library statically links its dependencies, so having many of them will yield an installed product many times larger than Chrome today. For this reason it’s desirable to package several Services together in a single binary. The Service Manager provides an interface shell.mojom.ServiceFactory:

interface ServiceFactory {
  CreateService(Service& service, string name);

When implemented by a service, the service becomes a “package” of other services, which are instantiated by this interface. Imagine we have two services mojo:service1 and mojo:service2, and we wish to package them together in a single package mojo:services. We write the Service implementations for mojo:service1 and mojo:service2, and then a Service implementation for mojo:services - the latter implements ServiceFactory and instantiates the other two:

using shell::mojom::ServiceFactory;
using shell::mojom::ServiceRequest;

class Services : public shell::Service,
                 public shell::InterfaceFactory<ServiceFactory>,
                 public ServiceFactory {
  // Expose ServiceFactory to inbound connections and implement
  // InterfaceFactory to bind requests for it to this object.

  void CreateService(ServiceRequest request,
                     const std::string& name) {
    if (name == “mojo:service1”)
      new Service1(std::move(request));
    else if (name == “mojo:service2”)
      new Service2(std::move(request));

This is only half the story though. While this does mean that mojo:service1 and mojo:service2 are now packaged (statically linked) with mojo:services, as it stands to connect to either packaged service you’d have to connect to mojo:services first, and call CreateService yourself. This is undesirable for a couple of reasons, firstly in that it complicates the connect flow, secondly in that it forces details of the packaging, which are a distribution-level implementation detail on clients wishing to use a service.

To solve this, the Service Manager actually automates resolving packaged service names to the package service. The Service Manager considers the name of a service provided by some other package service to be an “alias” to that package service. The Service Manager resolves these aliases based on information found, you guessed it, in the manifests for the package client.

Let’s imagine mojo:service1 and mojo:service2 have typical manifests of the form we covered earlier. Now imagine mojo:services, the package service that combines the two. In the application install directory rather than the following structure:


Instead we’ll have:


The manifest for the package service describes not only itself, but includes the manifests of all the services it provides. Fortunately there is some GN build magic that automates generating this meta-manifest, so you don’t need to write it by hand. In the service_manifest() template instantiation for services, we add the following lines:

deps = [ “:service1_manifest”, “:service2_manifest” ]
packaged_services = [ “service1”, “service2” ]

The deps line lists the service_manifest targets for the packaged services to be consumed, and the packaged_services line provides the service names, without the “mojo:” prefix. The presence of these two lines will cause the Manifest Collator script to run, merging the dependent manifests into the package manifest. You can study the resulting manifest to see what gets generated.

At startup, the Service Manager will scan the package directory and consume the manifests it finds, so it can learn about how to resolve aliases that it might encounter subsequently.


Thus far, the examples we’ve covered have packaged Services in .library files. It’s also possible to have a conventional executable provide a Service. There are two different ways to use executables with the Service Manager, the first is to have the Service Manager start the executable itself, the second is to have some other executable start the process and then tell the Service Manager about it. In both cases, the target executable has to perform a handshake with the Service Manager early on so it can bind the Service request the Service Manager sends it.

Assuming you have an executable that properly initializes the Mojo EDK, you add the following lines at some point early in application startup to establish the connection with the Service Manager:

#include “services/shell/public/cpp/service.h”
#include “services/shell/public/cpp/service_context.h”
#include “services/shell/runner/child/runner_connection.h”

class MyClient : public shell::Service {

shell::mojom::ServiceRequest request;
scoped_ptr<shell::RunnerConnection> connection(
        &request, ScopedMessagePipeHandle()));
MyService service;
shell::ServiceContext context(&service, std::move(request));

What’s happening here? The Service/ServiceContext usage should be familiar from our earlier examples. The interesting part here happens in RunnerConnection::ConnectToRunner(). Before we look at what ConnectToRunner does, it’s important to cover how this process is launched. In this example, this process is launched by the Service Manager. This is achieved through the use of the “exe” Service Name type. The Service Names we’ve covered thus far have looked like “mojo:foo”. The “mojo” prefix means that the Shell should look for a .library file at “foo/foo.library” alongside the Service Manager executable. If the code above was linked into an executable “app.exe” alongside the Service Manager executable in the output directory, it can be launched by connecting to the name “exe:app”. When the Service Manager launches an executable, it passes a pipe to it on the command line, which the executable is expected to bind to receive a ServiceRequest on. Now back to ConnectToRunner. It spins up a background “control” thread with the Service Manager, binds the pipe from the command line parameter, and blocks the main thread until the ServiceRequest arrives and can be bound.

Like services provided from .library files, we have to provide a manifest for services provided from executables. The format is identical, but in the service_manifest template we need to set the type property to “exe” to cause the generation step to put the manifest in the right place (it gets placed alongside the executable, with the name <exe_name>_manifest.json.)

Service-Launched Processes

There are some scenarios where a service will need to launch its own process, rather than relying on the Service Manager to do it. The Connector API provides the ability to tell the Shell about a process that the service has or will create. The executable that the service launches (henceforth referred to as the “target”) should be written using RunnerConnection as discussed in the previous section. The connect flow in the service that launches the target (henceforth referred to as the driver) works like this:

base::FilePath target_path;
base::PathService::Get(base::DIR_EXE, &target_path);
target_path = target_path.Append(FILE_PATH_LITERAL(“target.exe”));
base::CommandLine target_command_line(target_path);

mojo::edk::PlatformChannelPair pair;
mojo::edk::HandlePassingInformation info;
pair.PrepareToPassClientHandleToChildProcess(&target_command_line, &info);

std::string token = mojo::edk::GenerateRandomToken();

mojo::ScopedMessagePipeHandle pipe =

shell::mojom::ServiceFactoryPtr factory;
        std::move(pipe), 0u));
shell::mojom::PIDReceiverPtr receiver;

shell::Identity target(“exe:target”,shell::mojom::kInheritUserID);
shell::Connector::ConnectParams params(target);
scoped_ptr<shell::Connection> connection = connector->Connect(&params);

base::LaunchOptions options;
options.handles_to_inherit = &info;
base::Process process = base::LaunchProcess(target_command_line, options);
mojo::edk::ChildProcessLaunched(process.Handle(), pair.PassServerHandle());

That’s a lot. But it boils down to these steps:

  1. Creating the message pipe to connect the target process and the Service Manager.
  2. Putting the server end of the pipe onto the command line to the target process.
  3. Binding the client end to a ServiceFactoryPtr, constructing an Identity for the target process and passing both through Connector::Connect().
  4. Starting the process with the configured command line.

In this example the target executable could be the same as the previous example.

A word about process lifetimes. Processes created by the shell are managed by the Service Manager. While a service-launched process may quit itself at any point, when the Service Manager shuts down it will also shut down any process it started. Processes created by services themselves are left to those services to manage.


Instances & Processes

Client lifetime strategies

Process lifetimes.

Writing tests (ShellTest) Under the Hood Four major components: Shell API (Mojom), Shell, Catalog, Shell Client Lib. The connect flow, catalog, etc. Capability brokering in the shell Userids

Finer points:

Mojo Names: mojo, exe Exposing services on outbound connections