Making a Chat App with Erlang, Rebar, Cowboy and Bullet

this is a continuation of the post about erlang, cowboy and rebar.

let' start by adding the bullet dep:

{sub_dirs, ["rel"]}.

{deps, [
    {cowboy, "1.0.0", {git, "", {tag, "1.0.0"}}},
    {bullet, "0.4.1", {git, "", {tag, "0.4.1"}}}

now get the deps:

./rebar get-deps

add bullet as a dependency on

{application, disrupt,
  {description, ""},
  {vsn, "1"},
  {registered, []},
  {applications, [
  {mod, { disrupt_app, []}},
  {env, []}

register our bullet handler with cowboy:

start(_StartType, _StartArgs) ->
    {ok, ChannelPid} = disrupt_channel:new(),
    Dispatch = cowboy_router:compile([
        {'_', [
               {"/chat", bullet_handler, [{handler, disrupt_chat_handler}, {channel, ChannelPid}]},
               {"/ui/[...]", cowboy_static, {priv_dir, disrupt, "assets",
                                             [{mimetypes, cow_mimetypes, all}]}}
    {ok, _} = cowboy:start_http(http, 100, [{port, 8080}], [
        {env, [{dispatch, Dispatch}]}

the important lines are:

{ok, ChannelPid} = disrupt_channel:new(),

were we create a new chat channel that will be passed to all disrupt_chat_handler instances here:

{"/chat", bullet_handler, [{handler, disrupt_chat_handler}, {channel, ChannelPid}]},

also note that I changed the path of the ui to /ui/... instead of it being at the root.

add the js libs we need to use bullet (yes, I could use bower, but let's keep it simple):

mkdir priv/assets/vendor
mkdir priv/assets/js
cp deps/bullet/priv/bullet.js priv/assets/vendor
wget -O priv/assets/vendor/jquery.js

we create a really simple chat page at index.html:

<!doctype html>
  <meta charset="utf-8">
  <script src="vendor/jquery.js"></script>
  <script src="vendor/bullet.js"></script>
  <script src="js/app.js"></script>
   body{ font-family: helvetica; color: #333; background-color: #fefefe;
    margin-left: 25%; width: 50%; }
   p, textarea{ padding: 0; }
   p, button, textarea{ width: 100%; margin: 1em 0; }
   label{ float: left; width: 45%; }
   input{ width: 50%; float: right; }
   input, textarea{ border: 1px solid #ddd; }
  <label for="input">Nickname</label>
  <input type="text" id="nick" value="anonymous"/>
  <textarea id="output" cols="80" rows="25"></textarea>
  <label for="input">Input</label>
  <input type="text" id="input"/>
  <button id="send">Send</button>

add code to handle the chat app on priv/assets/js/app.js:

/*globals $, document, window*/
function disruptApp(document, window, $) {
    'use strict';
    var input = document.getElementById('input'),
        output = document.getElementById('output'),
        nickInput = document.getElementById('nick'),
        send = document.getElementById('send'),


    function sendMessage(text) {
        var nick = getNick();
        connection.send(nick + ': ' + text);

    function onSendClicked() {
        var text = input.value.trim();

        if (text !== '') {

        input.value = '';

    function getNick() {
        var nick = nickInput.value.trim();

        if (nick === '') {
            return 'anonymous';
        } else {
            return nick;

    function notify(text) {
        var date = (new Date()).toLocaleString();
        output.innerHTML = output.innerHTML + '[' + date + '] ' + text + '\n';

    function onData(data) {

    send.addEventListener('click', onSendClicked);

    function start(url, options, notify, onData) {
        var connection = $.bullet(url, options);

        connection.onopen = function(){

        connection.onclose = connection.ondisconnect = function(){

        connection.onmessage = function(e){
            if ( === 'pong'){
            } else {

        connection.onheartbeat = function(){

        return connection;

    connection = start('ws://localhost:8080/chat', {}, notify, onData);

document.addEventListener("DOMContentLoaded", function() {
    'use strict';
    disruptApp(document, window, $);

we need a simple pubsub mechanism for channels, I won't explain it here in detail but you can read about erlang's gen_event behaviour which is the one that does all the work:


-export([new/0, subscribe/2, unsubscribe/2, send/2]).

-export([init/1, handle_event/2, handle_call/2, handle_info/2, code_change/3,
%% API

new() -> gen_event:start_link().

subscribe(Channel, Pid) ->
    gen_event:add_handler(Channel, {disrupt_channel, Pid}, [Pid]).

unsubscribe(Channel, Pid) ->
    gen_event:delete_handler(Channel, {disrupt_channel, Pid}, [Pid]).

send(Channel, Event) ->
    gen_event:notify(Channel, Event).

-record(state, {pid}).
%% callbacks
init([Pid]) -> {ok, #state{pid=Pid}}.

handle_event(Msg, State=#state{pid=Pid}) ->
    Pid ! Msg,
    {ok, State}.

handle_call(_, State) -> {ok, ok, State}.

handle_info(_, State) -> {ok, State}.

code_change(_OldVsn, State, _Extra) -> {ok, State}.

terminate(_Reason, _State) -> ok.

the important part from the code above is the fact that we store the pid of the bullet handler on the gen_event instance so we can send the message back when we get notified:

handle_event(Msg, State=#state{pid=Pid}) ->
    Pid ! Msg,
    {ok, State}.

the bullet handler for the chat channel is:


-export([init/4, stream/3, info/3, terminate/2]).

-record(state, {channel}).

init(_Transport, Req, Opts, _Active) ->
    io:format("channel init ~p~n", [Opts]),
    {channel, ChannelPid} = lists:keyfind(channel, 1, Opts),
    disrupt_channel:subscribe(ChannelPid, self()),
    {ok, Req, #state{channel=ChannelPid}}.

stream(<<"ping">>, Req, State) ->
    io:format("ping received~n"),
    {reply, <<"pong">>, Req, State};

stream(Data, Req, State=#state{channel=ChannelPid}) ->
    io:format("message received ~s~n", [Data]),
    disrupt_channel:send(ChannelPid, {msg, self(), Data}),
    {ok, Req, State}.

info({msg, _Sender, Data}, Req, State) ->
    io:format("msg received ~p~n", [Data]),
    {reply, Data, Req, State}.

terminate(_Req, #state{channel=ChannelPid}) ->
    io:format("unsubscribing from channel~n"),
    disrupt_channel:unsubscribe(ChannelPid, self()),

we subscribe on init, unsubscribe on terminate, when we receive a ping message we reply it only to the sender with pong, if we receive something else we send the message to the channel so it gets sent to all subscribers, that get the message on the info function where they send it to the browsers.


rm -rf rel/disrupt && ./rebar compile generate


./rel/disrupt/bin/disrupt console

open http://localhost:8080/ui/index.html in two or more browsers and chat!



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