I'm writing JavaScript (Node.js) code that calls the Stack Exchange API. One part of the API is that it may return a non-zero value for backoff, which essentially means "wait n seconds before making another API call like that".

If it matterns, I'm using Axios for my HTTP requests.

A simple function to call the API might look like this:

function getAnswer(id) {
    // call the SE API
    // return the answer identified by 'id'

However, that doesn't handle backoff. Also, getAnswer(...) might be called several times in a row, and the first time it gets called, it returns a backoff of ten seconds. Even if that happens, I'd still like the other calls to it to (eventually) return a value (i.e., they wait until it's backed off enough to actually "go").

One way to do this would be some type of queue, where a function iterates through the queue, one call at a time, and checks backoff before waiting. But, that would involve creating an entire new thread for that, and would have to constantly check, so that isn't very efficient.

I've looked at a few libraries - one used requests (which is deprecated), and so caused issues. I don't recall why the other one didn't meet my needs.

We can assume the latest stable release of Node.js, and I don't care about supporting older Node.js versions, so newer features are fair-game, if they make this easier.

Regardless, what's a good way to implement code that can handle backoff in node.js?

1 Answer 1


I think a simple singleton that keeps track of the backoff should be enough.

I assume you do use the fetch API or any other async capable module. But the approach is also feasible with just Promises and/or callbacks.

The design of your App will require that you only have one instance that makes the calls to the API.

The general idea is to have one instance that keeps track of the received backoff values (in my implementation I simply add them up). On the next call the get method will first deal with waiting for as many seconds as requested, before making the actual call. Given that JavaScript doesn't like to wait we async/await/Promise our selves with a setTimeout that gets resolved, eventually. Important is to note that we check after waiting again if all backoffs are honered because while we were sleeping other pending network promises might have been resolved, urging for backoffs as well.

In this implementation it is possible to schedule GET calls while a backoff sleep is in progress, leading to these calls to sleep for the same amount and then all call out in quick succession. I didn't bother to cater for that as that is more of a throttling concern. That can be solved similarly in this same class.

Here is the (class like) function that does the work:


// create only one of these (aka a Singleton)
function StackApi() {

    // How much backoff is needed
    let backoff = 0;

    // awaitable sleep
    function sleep(seconds) {
        return new Promise((resolve)=> {
            setTimeout(resolve, seconds * 1000);

    async function get(url) {

        // if we need to backoff
        while (backoff > 0) {
            // sleep it, async, other backoffs might happen
            const currentBackoff = backoff;
            await sleep(backoff);
            backoff -= currentBackoff;
        // fetch 
        const response = await fetch(url);
        const json = await response.json();
        // check for backoff
        if (json.backoff) {
            // increase backoff to be honered by next caller
            if (backoff < 0) {
                backoff = json.backoff;
            } else {
                backoff += json.backoff;
        // handle errors
        // cache results
        return json;

    return {
        get: get

const instance = new StackApi();

export default instance;

And this is how you would use it:


import api2 from './StackApi.js'

var baseUrl = 'https://api.stackexchange.com/2.3/posts?order=desc&sort=creation&site=stackoverflow&key=[bring your own key]';

var maxpage = 10;
async function getAnswersPerPage(page) {
    api2.get(baseUrl + "&page=" + page)
        .then( async (data)=> {
            console.log('recv: ', (data.items?.length) ?? -1);
            if (data.has_more && maxpage > 0) {
               await getAnswersPerPage(page + 1);

console.log('waiting for results' )

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