jQuery – Remove handlers from global AJAX functions

If you’ve used the jQuery Ajax functionality, you may be familiar with the Global Ajax Event Handlers, a nice set of functions for binding callbacks on to the various stages of an Ajax request. For instance, you can bind functions on ajaxSend and ajaxComplete, which are called when the request is sent and completely successfully, respectively, to show a “Saving…” and then “Saved” message. You could also bind a handler onto ajaxError, which is called whenever the request fails, to pop up a dialog describing what happened. This way, you don’t have to copy and paste a bunch of handling code throughout your various $.ajax calls, and instead can handle them in one centralized location.

Unfortunately, while the jQuery team provides great methods to assign handlers to these events, they don’t have any (at least, that I’ve seen), to remove those handlers from their respective events, as you can with jQuery’s .on() and .off(). While they may not have been a huge issue a few years ago, as the global handlers are reset every time the page reloads, it’s become more of a problem with the emergence of single-page applications, where the page may not necessarily refresh before loading a new page.

We ran into this problem in a site I manage that uses this architecture, where navigating to a new page would tack on an additional ajaxSend and ajaxComplete handler, without removing the old one. Since there is no clear method to remove these handlers, and I couldn’t find any solution looking around online, I started to dig into the jQuery source, hoping to find the underlying way these were stored to see if I could find a way to remove them manually. What I found was actually pretty interesting:

// Attach a bunch of functions for handling common AJAX events
jQuery.each( [ "ajaxStart", "ajaxStop", "ajaxComplete", "ajaxError", "ajaxSuccess", "ajaxSend" ], function( i, type ){
	jQuery.fn[ type ] = function( fn ){
		return this.on( type, fn );

For setting up each global event, they simply run a loop for each event name, and create a new function with that name that aliases to .on() with the function/event name as the event type. This is essentially saying at each function translates to the following:

$.fn.ajaxStart = function ( handler ) { return this.on('ajaxStart', handler); };
$.fn.ajaxStop = function ( handler ) { return this.on('ajaxStop', handler); };
$.fn.ajaxComplete = function ( handler ) { return this.on('ajaxComplete', handler); };
$.fn.ajaxError = function ( handler ) { return this.on('ajaxError', handler); };
$.fn.ajaxSuccess = function ( handler ) { return this.on('ajaxSuccess', handler); };
$.fn.ajaxSend = function ( handler ) { return this.on('ajaxSend', handler); };

Sure enough, further down in the code, I found some evidence to confirm this. Within the bowels of the $.ajax() function lies this code:

if ( fireGlobals ) {
	globalEventContext.trigger( "ajaxComplete", [ jqXHR, s ] );
	// Handle the global AJAX counter
	if ( !( --jQuery.active ) ) {

The line is question is globalEventContent.trigger("ajaxComplete", [jqXHR, s]); which uses .trigger() to force a ajaxComplete event to be fired, which will be handled by the previous .on() statement. To test my theory, I tried the following in the clean-up routine of the page, which is called whenever the user navigates to a new page:

// .ajaxComplete() and .ajaxSend() should always be attached to the document,
// so we will try to unbind them from there as well

And sure enough, it worked perfectly. The handlers were unbound on each page navigation and re-bound when the page was re-loaded. Instead of having each handler stack up until it was called hundreds of times on each ajax request.

Remember, you can also target specific functions like you would with .off().

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