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The Automerge library itself is agnostic to the network layer โ€” that is, you can use whatever communication mechanism you like to get changes from one node to another. There are currently a few options, with more under development:

  • Use Automerge.getChanges() and Automerge.applyChanges() to manually capture changes on one node and apply them on another. These changes are encoded as byte arrays (Uint8Array). You can also store a log of these changes on disk in order to persist them.
  • Use Automerge.generateSyncMessage() to generate messages, send them over any transport protocol (e.g. WebSocket), and call Automerge.receiveSyncMessage() on the recipient to process the messages.

Changes interface

The getChanges()/applyChanges() API works as follows:

// On one node
let newDoc = Automerge.change(currentDoc, doc => {
// make arbitrary change to the document
let changes = Automerge.getChanges(currentDoc, newDoc)
// broadcast changes as a byte array
// On another node, receive the byte array
let changes = network.receive()
let [newDoc, patch] = Automerge.applyChanges(currentDoc, changes)
// `patch` is a description of the changes that were applied (a kind of diff)

Note that Automerge.getChanges(oldDoc, newDoc) takes two documents as arguments: an old state and a new state. It then returns a list of all the changes that were made in newDoc since oldDoc. If you only need the last change you just made, you can call Automerge.getLastLocalChange(newDoc), which is faster.

The counterpart, Automerge.applyChanges(oldDoc, changes) applies the list of changes to the given document, and returns a new document with those changes applied. Automerge guarantees that whenever any two documents have applied the same set of changes โ€” even if the changes were applied in a different order โ€” then those two documents are equal. That property is called convergence, and it is the essence of what Automerge is all about.

Automerge.merge(doc1, doc2) is a related function that is useful for testing. It looks for any changes that appear in doc2 but not in doc1, and applies them to doc1, returning an updated version of doc1.

Sync protocol

In the case that document history is quite large, and two devices are online at the same time, we want to only send the subset of changes that are relevant. The Automerge sync protocol is designed to help with this process. The Automerge sync protocol brings two documents into sync by exchanging messages between peers until both documents have the same contents. The protocol can run on top of any connection-based network link that supports bidirectional messages, including WebSocket, WebRTC, or plain TCP. It can be used in any network topology: client/server, peer-to-peer, or server-to-server sync are all supported. However, it only works for one-to-one communication between two devices; it is not suitable for broadcast or multicast communication, where one message goes to multiple recipients.

The protocol is explained in this blog post and this documentation page. It works by exchanging rounds of sync messages, which contain two parts:

  • a lossily-compressed list of changes that the sender already has (implicitly requesting any changes it does not have);
  • changes it believe the other peer needs.

On connection, each peer should start the exchange with an initial message via generateSyncMessage(doc, syncState). This first message generally does not include changes, but provides the recipient with the information it needs to determine which changes it should send. Upon receiving any message, a peer should always call receiveSyncMessage(doc, syncState, message). This will update the syncState with the information necessary to calculate what changes to send, and also cause Automerge to apply any changes it received. The developer can now call generateSyncMessage(doc, syncState) to produce the next message to a peer.

From then on, a peer should continue to call these functions until generateSyncMessage() returns a null value, indicating both peers are synchronized and no further communication is necessary.

Here are a few demos that you can use if you'd prefer to see a full working implementation.

Read below for a step-by-step walkthrough.


Automerge synchronization occurs at a per-document level. Most Automerge-based applications will be built around more than one document, so in our example code here we will assume these documents are identified by a string docId.

Throughout the example code below we're going to assume a couple of global variables exist, described here:

// global variables (but maybe don't use global variables)
const syncStates = {} // a hash of [peerId][docId] containing in-memory sync states
const docs = {} // a hash by [docId] of current documents


Every connection to a peer need its own sync state. You can initialize a new sync state using initSyncState().

syncStates[peerId][docId] = Automerge.initSyncState()

Automerge keeps track of ongoing exchanges with another peer using a syncState data structure. During synchronization, Automerge uses a probabilistic structure known as a Bloom filter to avoid having to send the full descriptions of every local change to peers. To reduce the size and cost of this structure, it is only built for changes the other peer has not already told us they have. This is described in more detail later in the Internals section.

To maintain this structure, when a peer is discovered, first create a new syncState via initSyncState(). These syncState objects can be persisted between program executions as an optimization, but it is not required. All subsequent sync operations with that peer will return a new syncState to replace the previous one.

If you've already seen a peer, you should load your old syncState for them via decodeSyncState(). This is not strictly necessary, but will reduce unnecessary computation and network traffic.

  if (data.type === 'HELLO') {
if (syncStates[peerId] === undefined) {
syncStates[peerId] = {}
syncStates[peerId][docId] = Automerge.decodeSyncState(db.getSyncState(docId, peerId))
sendMessage({ peerId: workerId, target: peerId, type: 'HELLO' })

Synchronizing with one or more peers

In general, whenever a peer creates a local change or receives a sync message from another peer, it should respond to all the peers it is connected to with its updated status. This will both confirm receipt of any data to the sending peer and also allow other peers to request any changes they may still need.

Generating new sync messages to other peers is straightforward. Simply call generateSyncMessage and, if syncMessage is not null, send it to the appropriate peer. You will also need to hold on to the returned syncState for that peer, since it keeps track of what data you have sent them to avoid sending data twice.

Here is a simple example:

function updatePeers(docId: string) {
Object.entries(syncStates).forEach(([peer, syncState]) => {
const [nextSyncState, syncMessage] = Automerge.generateSyncMessage(
syncState[docId] || Automerge.initSyncState(),
syncStates[peer] = { ...syncStates[peer], [docId]: nextSyncState }
if (syncMessage) {
docId, peerId: workerId, target: peer, syncMessage,

Receiving sync messages

Receiving sync messages requires the document, syncState, and incoming message. Pass these arguments to receiveSyncMessage(), and keep the updated results. After receiving a sync message, you should check if you need to send new sync messages to any connected peers using the code above. In our example code below this is represented by a call to updatePeers():

  const [nextDoc, nextSyncState, patch] = Automerge.receiveSyncMessage(
syncStates[peerId][docId] || Automerge.initSyncState(),
docs[docId] = nextDoc
syncStates[peerId] = { ...syncStates[peerId], [docId]: nextSyncState }


Applying and distributing local changes

When you create a local change to a document, simply call generateSyncMessage() for each peer to produce a message to send them. In general, you can use the same updatePeers() implementation for both receiving messages and creating local changes. You may want to rate limit or debounce these communications to reduce network traffic, but this isn't required.

Here's a sample implementation:

// sample message data format for sending from a renderer to a worker in a browser  
interface FrontendMessage {
docId: string
payload: Uint8Array

// Respond to messages from the frontend document
self.addEventListener('message', (event: Event) => {
const { data: FrontendMessage } = event
const { docId } = data

if (data.type === 'OPEN') {
docs[docId] = Automerge.init()

if (data.type === 'LOCAL_CHANGE') {
sendMessageToRenderer({ docId, patch })

// now tell everyone else about how things have changed

Handling disconnection

Remember to save your syncState object for a peer upon disconnection via encodeSyncState(). That might look like this:

db.storeSyncState(docId, peerId, encodeSyncState(syncStates[peerId]))