Cache busting via params

Cache busting via params

We want to cache bust on production deploys, but not waste a bunch of time off the bat figuring out a system for doing so. My thought was to apply a param to the end of css and js files with the current version number:

Two questions: Will this effectively break the cache? Will the param cause the browser to then never cache the response from that url since the param indicates that this is dynamic content?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

The param ?v=1.123 indicates a query string, and the browser will therefore think it is a new path from, say, ?v=1.0. Thus causing it to load from file, not from cache. As you want.

And, the browser will assume that the source will stay the same next time you call ?v=1.123 and should cache it with that string. So it will remain cached, however your server is set up, until you move to ?v=1.124 or so on.

Solution 2:

Two questions: Will this effectively break the cache?

Yes. Even Stack Overflow use this method, although I remember that they (with their millions of visitors per day and zillions of different client and proxy versions and configurations) have had some freak edge cases where even this was not enough to break the cache. But the general assumption is that this will work, and is a suitable method to break caching on clients.

Will the param cause the browser to then never cache the response from that url since the param indicates that this is dynamic content?

No. The parameter will not change the caching policy; the caching headers sent by the server still apply, and if it doesn’t send any, the browser’s defaults.

Solution 3:

It is safer to put the version number in the actual filename. This allows multiple versions to exist at once so you can roll out a new version and if any cached HTML pages still exist that are requesting the older version, they will get the version that works with their HTML.

Note, in one of the largest versioned deployments anywhere on the internet, jQuery uses version numbers in the actual filename and it safely allows multiple versions to co-exist without any special server-side logic (each version is just a different file).

This busts the cache once when you deploy new pages and new linked files (which is what you want) and from then on those versions can be effectively cached (which you also want).

Solution 4:

As others have said, cache busting with a query param is usually considered a Bad Idea ™, and has been for a long time. It’s better to reflect the version in the file name. Html5 Boilerplate recommends against using the query string, among others.

That said, of the recommendations I have seen which cited a source, all seem to take their wisdom from a 2008 article by Steve Souders. His conclusions are based on the behaviour of proxies at the time, and they may or may not be relevant these days. Still, in the absence of more current information, changing the file name is the safe option.

Solution 5:

It will bust the cache once, after the client has downloaded the resource every other response will be served from client cache unless:

  1. the v parameter is updated.
  2. the client clears their cache

Solution 6:

In general this should be fine, but it’s possible for this to not work if there is an intermediate cache (a proxy) that is configured to ignore the request parameters.

For example, if you are serving static content through Akamai CDN, it can be configured to ignore request parameters to prevent cache busting using this method.