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The Manifest

In a typical application or site built with webpack, there are three main types of code:

  1. The source code you, and maybe your team, have written.
  2. Any third-party library or "vendor" code your source is dependent on.
  3. A webpack runtime and manifest that conducts the interaction of all modules.

This article will focus on the last of these three parts, the runtime and in particular the manifest.


As mentioned above, we'll only briefly touch on this. The runtime, along with the manifest data, is basically all the code webpack needs to connect your modularized application while it's running in the browser. It contains the loading and resolving logic needed to connect your modules as they interact. This includes connecting modules that have already been loaded into the browser as well as logic to lazy-load the ones that haven't.


So, once your application hits the browser in the form of an index.html file, some bundles, and a variety of other assets, what does it look like? That /src directory you meticulously laid out is now gone, so how does webpack manage the interaction between all of your modules? This is where the manifest data comes in...

As the compiler enters, resolves, and maps out your application, it keeps detailed notes on all your modules. This collection of data is called the "Manifest" and it's what the runtime will use to resolve and load modules once they've been bundled and shipped to the browser. No matter which module syntax you have chosen, those import or require statements have now become __webpack_require__ methods that point to module identifiers. Using the data in the manifest, the runtime will be able to find out where to retrieve the modules behind the identifiers.

The Problem

So now you have a little bit of insight about how webpack works behind the scenes. "But, how does this affect me?", you might ask. The simple answer is that most of the time it doesn't. The runtime will do its thing, utilizing the manifest, and everything will appear to just magically work once your application hits the browser. However, if you decide to improve your projects performance by utilizing browser caching, this process will all of a sudden become an important thing to understand.

By using content hashes within your bundle file names, you can indicate to the browser when the contents of a file has changed thus invalidating the cache. Once you start doing this though, you'll immediately notice some funny behavior. Certain hashes change even when their contents apparently does not. This is caused by the injection of the runtime and manifest which changes every build.

See the manifest section of our Managing Built Files guide to learn how to extract the manifest, and read the guides below to learn more about the intricacies of long term caching.

Further Reading