In the Web Agents guide, we describe a distributed object model where Web Agents are the objects and lanes are fields. Downlinks are bidirectionally-streaming, persistent subscriptions to lanes.

Downlinks come in many flavors, but there are only two broad downlink categories. An event downlink can subscribe to any lane and provides:

The other category of downlinks is storage-lane specific, i.e there is a one-to-one correspondence between each downlink type and a non-command lane type. Value downlinks work with value lanes, map downlinks work with map lanes, list downlinks work with list lanes, and so on. Despite the one-to-one restriction with lane types, these are the downlinks that you’ll mostly be using, as each offers:

Use event downlinks only if you wish to reuse the same reference among multiple target lane types, prevent writes from your downlink, or listen to a command lane.

There are two big things to manage when dealing with downlinks: data and connections. This guide will focus heavily on the former; we will expand on connection management in a future, more advanced article.


All downlink classes can be imported from package swim.api.downlink.


Downlinks must be instantiated against Swim refs, i.e. specific server-side or client-side objects. Although several permutations exist, the builder pattern is the same each time:

  1. Invoke downlink() against your ref for an event downlink, or downlinkFoo() for a foo downlink (e.g. downlinkMap() for a map downlink)
  2. Build the downlink’s hostUri using hostUri() (this step can only be omitted if your Swim ref is server-side, and you are targeting a lane within the same server), the downlink’s nodeUri using nodeUri(), and the downlink’s laneUri using laneUri()
  3. Override any lifecycle callback functions, which default to no-ops
  4. Optionally parametrize the downlink
  5. Optionally set the keepSynced (pull all existing data from a lane before processing new updates; defaults to false) and keepLinked (enable consistent reads from the downlink (unnecessary for write-only downlinks); defaults to true) flags
  6. Invoke open() on the downlink to initiate data flow
  7. When finished, invoke close() on the downlink to stop data flow

Lifecycle callbacks and updating lanes

Every event downlink has a customizable onEvent(V event) callback function that specifies the action to take upon every event received by the target lane.

For all other (i.e. lane-specific) downlinks, recall that every data-storing lane can be acted upon by methods specific to that lane type (e.g. set for value lanes; put, remove, drop, take, and clear for map lanes). These options also exist on correctly-configured lane-specific downlinks. Furthermore, for every such method foo, each downlink has a didFoo(Object... args) method that follows similar lifecycle semantics to onEvent(), but with more useful callback parameters. For example, every MapDownlink<K, V> has access to didUpdate(K key, V newValue, V oldValue), didRemove(K key, V oldValue), didDrop(int dropCount), didTake(int keepCount), and didClear() methods.


Unlike with lanes, which additionally offer parametrized methods, downlink parametrization requires providing ``swim.structure.Forms` through a builder pattern.


Client-side, downlinks must be issued from a ClientRuntime, but the builder syntax is otherwise identical:

// swim/basic/
package swim.basic;

import swim.api.downlink.MapDownlink;
import swim.client.ClientRuntime;
import swim.structure.Form;

class CustomClient {

  public static void main(String[] args) throws InterruptedException {

    ClientRuntime swimClient = new ClientRuntime();

    final String hostUri = "warp://localhost:9001";
    final String nodeUriPrefix = "/unit/";

    // map downlink example
    final MapDownlink<String, Integer> link = swimClient.downlinkMap()
    // Remember that downlinks can write, too!
    link.put("FromClientLink", 25);

Server-side, downlinks are explained in the Server Downlinks guide.


For details on using downlinks with JavaScript, visit the downlinks article in our frontend documentation

Furthermore, the tutorial application demonstrates using value downlinks and map downlinks issued against a Swim client instance. Note the language-level loss of parametrization, but the otherwise-identical syntax to Java.

Try It Yourself

A standalone project that combines all of these snippets and handles any remaining boilerplate is available here.