A content script is a part of your extension that runs in the context of a particular web page (as opposed to background scripts which are part of the extension, or scripts which are part of the web site itself, such as those loaded using the <script> element).

Background scripts can access all the WebExtension JavaScript APIs, but they can't directly access the content of web pages. So if your extension needs to do that, you need content scripts.

Just like the scripts loaded by normal web pages, content scripts can read and modify the content of their pages using the standard DOM APIs.

Content scripts can only access a small subset of the WebExtension APIs, but they can communicate with background scripts using a messaging system, and thereby indirectly access the WebExtension APIs.

Loading content scripts

You can load a content script into a web page in one of two ways:

  • declaratively: using the content_scripts key in your manifest.json, you can ask the browser to load a content script whenever the browser loads a page whose URL matches a given pattern
  • programmatically: using the tabs.executeScript() API, you can load a content script into a specific tab whenever you want: for example, in response to the user clicking on a browser action.

Content script environment

DOM access

Content scripts can access and modify the page's DOM, just like normal page scripts can. They can also see any changes that were made to the DOM by page scripts.

However, content scripts get a "clean view of the DOM". This means:

  • content scripts cannot see JavaScript variables defined by page scripts
  • if a page script redefines a built-in DOM property, the content script will see the original version of the property, not the redefined version.

In Gecko, this behavior is called Xray vision.

For example, consider a web page like this:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

    <script src="page-scripts/page-script.js"></script>

The script "page-script.js" does this:

// page-script.js

// add a new element to the DOM
var p = document.createElement("p");
p.textContent = "This paragraph was added by a page script.";
p.setAttribute("id", "page-script-para");

// define a new property on the window
window.foo = "This global variable was added by a page script";

// redefine the built-in window.confirm() function
window.confirm = function() {
  alert("The page script has also redefined 'confirm'");

Now an extension injects a content script into the page:

// content-script.js

// can access and modify the DOM
var pageScriptPara = document.getElementById("page-script-para");
pageScriptPara.style.backgroundColor = "blue";

// can't see page-script-added properties
console.log(window.foo);  // undefined

// sees the original form of redefined properties
window.confirm("Are you sure?"); // calls the original window.confirm()

The same is true in reverse: page scripts can't see JavaScript properties added by content scripts.

All this means that the content script can rely on DOM properties behaving predictably, and doesn't have to worry about variables it defines clashing with variables defined in the page script.

One practical consequence of this behavior is that a content script won't have access to any JavaScript libraries loaded by the page. So for example, if the page includes jQuery, the content script won't be able to see it.

If a content script does want to use a JavaScript library, then the library itself should be injected as a content script alongside the content script that wants to use it:

"content_scripts": [
    "matches": ["*://*.mozilla.org/*"],
    "js": ["jquery.js", "content-script.js"]

WebExtension APIs

In addition to the standard DOM APIs, content scripts can use the following WebExtension APIs:

From extension:

From runtime:

From i18n:

Everything from storage.

Cross-domain privileges

Content scripts get the same cross-domain privileges as the rest of the extension: so if the extension has requested cross-domain access for a domain using the permissions key in manifest.json, then its content scripts get access that domain as well.

Communicating with background scripts

Although content scripts can't directly use most of the WebExtension APIs, they can communicate with the extension's background scripts using the messaging APIs, and can therefore indirectly access all the same APIs that the background scripts can.

There are two basic patterns for communicating between the background scripts and content scripts: you can send one-off messages, with an optional response, or you can set up a longer-lived connection between the two sides, and use that connection to exchange messages.

One-off messages

To send one-off messages, with an optional response, you can use the following APIs:

  In content script In background script
Send a message chrome.runtime.sendMessage() chrome.tabs.sendMessage()
Receive a message chrome.runtime.onMessage chrome.runtime.onMessage

For example, here's a content script which listens for click events in the web page. If the click was on a link, it messages the background page with the target URL:

// content-script.js

window.addEventListener("click", notifyExtension);

function notifyExtension(e) {
  if (e.target.tagName != "A") {
  chrome.runtime.sendMessage({"url": e.target.href});

The background script listens for these messages and displays a notification using the notifications API:

// background-script.js


function notify(message) {
    "type": "basic",
    "iconUrl": chrome.extension.getURL("link.png"),
    "title": "You clicked a link!",
    "message": message.url

This example code is lightly adapted from the notify-link-clicks-i18n example on GitHub.

Connection-based messaging

Sending one-off messages can get cumbersome if you are exchanging a lot of messages between a background script and a content script. So an alternative pattern is to establish a longer-lived connection between the two contexts, and use this connection to exchange messages.

Each side has a runtime.Port object, which they can use to exchange messages.

To create the connection:

Once each side has a port, the two sides can exchange messages using runtime.Port.postMessage() to send a message, and runtime.Port.onMessage to receive messages.

For example, as soon as it loads, this content script:

  • connects to the background script, and stores the Port in a variable myPort
  • listens for messages on myPort, and logs them
  • sends messages to the background script, using myPort, when the user clicks the document
// content-script.js

var myPort = chrome.runtime.connect({name:"port-from-cs"});
myPort.postMessage({greeting: "hello from content script"});

myPort.onMessage.addListener(function(m) {
  console.log("In content script, received message from background script: ");

document.body.addEventListener("click", function() {
  myPort.postMessage({greeting: "they clicked the page!"});

The corresponding background script:

  • listens for connection attempts from the content script
  • when it receives a connection attempt:
    • stores the port in a variable named portFromCS
    • sends the content script a message using the port
    • starts listening to messages received on the port, and logs them
  • sends messages to the content script, using portFromCS, when the user clicks the add-on's browser action
// background-script.js

var portFromCS;

function connected(p) {
  portFromCS = p;
  portFromCS.postMessage({greeting: "hi there content script!"});
  portFromCS.onMessage.addListener(function(m) {
    console.log("In background script, received message from content script")


chrome.browserAction.onClicked.addListener(function() {
  portFromCS.postMessage({greeting: "they clicked the button!"});

The inpage-toolbar-ui example uses connection-based messaging.

Communicating with the web page

Although content scripts don't by default get access to objects created by page scripts, they can communicate with page scripts using the DOM window.postMessage and window.addEventListener APIs.

For example:

// page-script.js

var messenger = document.getElementById("from-page-script");

messenger.addEventListener("click", messageContentScript);

function messageContentScript() {
    direction: "from-page-script",
    message: "Message from the page"
  }, "*");
// content-script.js

window.addEventListener("message", function(event) {
  if (event.source == window &&
      event.data.direction &&
      event.data.direction == "from-page-script") {
    alert("Content script received message: \"" + event.data.message + "\"");

For a complete working example of this, visit the demo page on GitHub and follow the instructions.

Note that any time you interact with untrusted web content on this way, you need to be very careful. WebExtensions are privileged code which can have powerful capabilities, and hostile web pages can easily trick them into accessing those capabilities.

To make a trivial example, suppose the content script code that receives the message does something like this:

// content-script.js

window.addEventListener("message", function(event) {
  if (event.source == window &&
      event.data.direction &&
      event.data.direction == "from-page-script") {

Now the page script can run any code with all the privileges of the content script.

Sharing objects with page scripts

The techniques described in this section are only available in Firefox, and only from Firefox 49 onwards.

As an add-on developer you should consider that scripts running in arbitrary web pages are hostile code whose aim is to steal the user's personal information, damage their computer, or attack them in some other way.

The isolation between content scripts and scripts loaded by web pages is intended to make it more difficult for hostile web pages to do this.

Since the techniques described in this section break down that isolation, they are inherently dangerous and should be used with great care.

We saw in DOM access that content scripts don't see changes made to the DOM by scripts loaded by web pages. This means that, for example, if a web page loads a library like jQuery, content scripts won't be able to use it, and have to load their own copy. Conversely, scripts loaded by web pages can't see changes made by content scripts.

However, Firefox provides some APIs that enable content scripts to:

  • access JavaScript objects created by page scripts
  • expose their own JavaScript objects to page scripts.

Xray vision in Firefox

In Firefox, part of the isolation between content scripts and page scripts is implemented using a feature called "Xray vision". When a script in a more-privileged scope accesses an object that's defined in a less-privileged scope it sees only the "native version" of the object. Any expando properties are invisible, and if any properties of the object have been redefined, it sees the original implementation, not the redefined version.

The purpose of this feature is to make it harder for the less-privileged script to confuse the more-privileged script by redefining the native properties of objects.

So for example, when a content script accesses the page's window, it won't see any properties the page script added to the window, and if the page script has redefined any existing properties of the window, the content script will see the original version.

For the full story on Xray vision, see the articles on Xray vision and Script security.

Accessing page script objects from content scripts

In Firefox, DOM objects in content scripts get an extra property wrappedJSObject. This is an "unwrapped" version of the object, which includes any changes made to that object by any page scripts.

Let's take a simple example. Suppose a web page loads a script:

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <script type="text/javascript" src="main.js"></script>

The script adds an expando property to the global window:

// main.js

var foo = "I'm defined in a page script!";

Xray vision means that if a content script tries to access foo, it will be undefined:

// content-script.js

console.log(window.foo); // undefined

In Firefox, content scripts can use window.wrappedJSObject to see the expando property:

// content-script.js

console.log(window.wrappedJSObject.foo); // "I'm defined in a page script!"

Note that once you do this, you can no longer rely on any of this object's properties or functions being, or doing, what you expect. Any of them, even setters and getters, could have been redefined by untrusted code.

Also note that unwrapping is transitive: when you use wrappedJSObject, any properties of the unwrapped object are themselves unwrapped (and therefore unreliable). So it's good practice, once you've got the object you need, to rewrap it, which you can do like this:


See the document on Xray vision for much more detail on this.

Sharing content script objects with page scripts

Firefox also provides APIs enabling content scripts to make objects available to page scripts. There are two main APIs here:


Given a function defined in the content script, exportFunction() exports it to the page script's scope, so the page script can call it.

For example, let's consider a WebExtension which has a background script like this:

Execute content script in the active tab.
function loadContentScript() {
    file: "/content_scripts/export.js"

Add loadContentScript() as a listener to clicks
on the browser action.

Show a notification when we get messages from
the content script.
chrome.runtime.onMessage.addListener((message) => {
    type: "basic",
    title: "Message from the page",
    message: message.content

This does two things:

  • execute a content script in the current tab, when the user clicks a browser action
  • listen for messages from the content script, and display a notification when the message arrives.

The content script looks like this:

Define a function in the content script's scope, then export it
into the page script's scope.
function notify(message) {
  chrome.runtime.sendMessage({content: "Function call: " + message});

exportFunction(notify, window, {defineAs:'notify'});

This defines a function notify(), which just sends its argument to the background script. It then exports the function to the page script's scope. Now the page script can call this function:

window.notify("Message from the page script!");

For the full story, see Components.utils.exportFunction.


Given an object defined in the content script, this creates a clone of the object in the page script's scope, thereby making the clone accessible to page scripts. By default, this uses the structured clone algorithm to clone the object, meaning that functions in the object are not included in the clone. To include functions, pass the cloneFunctions option.

For example, here's a content script that defines an object that contains a function, then clones it into the page script's scope:

Create an object that contains functions in
the content script's scope, then clone it
into the page script's scope.

Because the object contains functions,
the cloneInto call must include
the `cloneFunctions` option.
var messenger = {
  notify: function(message) {
      content: "Object method call: " + message

window.wrappedJSObject.messenger = cloneInto(
  {cloneFunctions: true});

Now page scripts will see a new property on the window, messenger, which has a function notify():

window.messenger.notify("Message from the page script!");

For the full story, see Components.utils.cloneInto.

Document Tags and Contributors

 Contributors to this page: wbamberg, Sheppy, freaktechnik, groovecoder, zohl, jonathanKingston
 Last updated by: wbamberg,