The $httpBackend service is definitely one of my top 10 AngularJS features. It makes TDD incredibly easy, especially if you're testing directives as a whole. For instance, if you have a directive that makes an HTTP request:

angular.module('myApp', []).directive('myDirective', function() {
  return {
    scope: false,
    controller: function($scope, $http) {
      $http.get('/').then(function(res) {
        $ = res;

You can stub out requests on a per-test basis with the $httpBackend service, as long as you include the ngMockE2E module.

describe('MyDirective', function() {
  it('makes an http request', function(done) {
    var injector = angular.injector(['myApp', 'ngMockE2E']);
    var rootScope = injector.get('$rootScope');
    var httpBackend = injector.get('$httpBackend');
    var compile = injector.get('$compile');
    var scope = rootScope.$new();

    httpBackend.expectGET('/').respond({ hello: 'world' });
    assert.deepEqual(, { hello: 'world' });

The $httpBackend service is neat, but it has all the same limitations that AngularJS 1.x does: it's hard to use $httpBackend in Node.js or with React, Riot, Cycle, or any non-AngularJS toolkit. Enter superagent, an elegant chainable HTTP request builder that's fully isomorphic (or "universal" if you prefer, but I think universal sounds too vague).

Introducing superagent-httpbackend

Superagent is a great HTTP client. It's isomorphic, so you can take advantage of server-side rendering and run tests in Node.js. It's also not tied to any particular framework, so you can re-use your HTTP client logic on the server, in your web app, and even in React Native mobile apps. Superagent is also implemented to be easily pluggable, so it's easy to configure superagent to fit your needs.

However, when using superagent, I really miss $httpBackend. There are two nice stubbing plugins for superagent, superagent-mock and superagent-mocker. I don't like the former's syntax, and the latter has decent syntax but does more monkey-patching internally than I'm comfortable with. I ended up writing my own: superagent-httpbackend, which attempts to emulate $httpBackend syntax for superagent.

Much like $httpBackend, superagent-httpbackend gives you an httpBackend object that lets you stub out your server. The plugin only modifies superagent's end() function, so it should minimize conflict with other superagent plugins. I've used superagent-httpbackend successfully with superagent-promise and a couple internal plugins.

Here's an example of superagent-httpbackend in action.

const superagent = require('superagent');
const httpBackend = require('superagent-httpbackend');

let response = null;
httpBackend.expect('GET', '/hello').respond({ hello: 'world' });
superagent.get('/hello', (err, res) => {
  response = res;
assert.strictEqual(response, null);
assert.deepEqual(response.body, { hello: 'world' });

Like AngularJS' $httpBackend service, superagent-httpbackend lets you define a stubbed out backend using .expect(). When you want to trigger all the responses, you call httpBackend.flush(). Note that httpBackend.flush() is synchronous, like $httpBackend and unlike the superagent-mocker equivalent.

Why Superagent?

The number of JavaScript environments out there is growing rapidly. Nowadays you need JavaScript that not only works on Node.js and in the browser, but in Cordova apps, React Native, NativeScript, Electron, and whatever crazy JavaScript environments come out next week. Superagent runs on all of these environments with a simple require() statement. It's highly customizable, and the code is sufficiently simple that you can dig in and modify it if the plugin architecture doesn't work for you.


Check out superagent-httpbackend on npm for more docs. The syntax attempts to emulate $httpBackend, but the plugin was written with just enough functionality to help build a test suite I was working on this week. Feel free to open up any issues or pull requests on GitHub.

Did you know that superagent.then() doesn't return an actual promise? That's what superagent-promise is for. However, superagent.then() makes it possible to yield a superagent request from co. Want to learn why? Check out my ebook, "The 80/20 Guide To ES2015 Generators".

Found a typo or error? Open up a pull request! This post is available as markdown on Github
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