Background Pages

Caution: Consider using event pages instead. Learn more.

A common need for extensions is to have a single long-running script to manage some task or state. Background pages to the rescue.

As the architecture overview explains, the background page is an HTML page that runs in the extension process. It exists for the lifetime of your extension, and only one instance of it at a time is active. (Exception: if your extension uses incognito "split" mode, a second instance is created for incognito windows.)

In a typical extension with a background page, the UI — for example, the browser action or page action and any options page — is implemented by dumb views. When the view needs some state, it requests the state from the background page. When the background page notices a state change, the background page tells the views to update.


Register your background page in the extension manifest. In the common case, a background page does not require any HTML markup. These kind of background pages can be implemented using JavaScript files alone, like this:

  "name": "My extension",
  "background": {
    "scripts": ["background.js"]

A background page will be generated by the extension system that includes each of the files listed in the scripts property.

If you need to specify HTML in your background page, you can do that using the page property instead:

  "name": "My extension",
  "background": {
    "page": "background.html"

If you need the browser to start up early—so you can display notifications, for example—then you might also want to specify the "background" permission.


You can communicate between your various pages using direct script calls, similar to how frames can communicate. The extension.getViews method returns a list of window objects for every active page belonging to your extension, and the extension.getBackgroundPage method returns the background page.


The following code snippet demonstrates how the background page can interact with other pages in the extension. It also shows how you can use the background page to handle events such as user clicks.

The extension in this example has a background page and multiple pages created (with tabs.create) from a file named image.html.

// React when a browser action's icon is clicked.
chrome.browserAction.onClicked.addListener(function(tab) {
  var viewTabUrl = chrome.extension.getURL('image.html');
  var imageUrl = /* an image's URL */;

  // Look through all the pages in this extension to find one we can use.
  var views = chrome.extension.getViews();
  for (var i = 0; i < views.length; i++) {
    var view = views[i];

    // If this view has the right URL and hasn't been used yet...
    if (view.location.href == viewTabUrl && !view.imageAlreadySet) {

      // one of its functions and set a property.
      view.imageAlreadySet = true;
      break; // we're done
    function setImageUrl(url) {
      document.getElementById('target').src = url;

    Image here:

    <img id="target" src="white.png" width="640" height="480">