Application Lifecycle

In order to meet common needs of applications running on CE devices, Cobalt implements a well-defined web application lifecycle, managing resources and notifying the application as appropriate.

Application States

Starboard Application StatePage Visibility StateWindow Focused


The application is not visible, and will receive no input, but is running. Only possible to enter as the start state. May transition to Started or Suspended at any time.

Expectations for the web application

Initialize as much as possible to get to an interactive state. There is no official signal for an application that has finished preloading.

Expectations for the porter

For applications that can be preloaded, the platform should send kSbEventTypePreload as the first Starboard event instead of kSbEventTypeStart. src/starboard/shared/starboard/ subclasses can opt-in to already implemented support for the --preload command-line switch.

The platform should then send kSbEventTypeStart when the application is first brought to the foreground. In Linux desktop (linux-x64x11), this can be done by sending a SIGCONT to the process that is in the Preloading state.

If the platform wants to only give applications a certain amount of time to preload, they can send kSbEventTypeSuspend to halt preloading and move to the Suspended state. In Linux desktop, this can be done by sending SIGUSR1 to the process that is in the Preloading state.


The application is running, visible, and interactive. The normal foreground application state. May be the start state, can be entered from Preloading, or Paused.

May only transition to Paused. In Linux desktop, this happens anytime the top-level Cobalt X11 window loses focus. Linux transition back to Started when the top-level Cobalt X11 window gains focus again.


The application may be fully visible, partially visible, or completely obscured, but it has lost input focus, so will receive no input events. It has been allowed to retain all its resources for a very quick return to Started, and the application is still running. May be entered from or transition to Started or Suspended.


The application is not visible, and, once Suspended, will not run any code. All graphics and media resources will be revoked until resumed, so the application should expect all images to be lost, all caches to be cleared, and all network requests to be aborted. The application may be terminated in this state without notification.

Expectations for the web application

The application should shut down playback, releasing resources. On resume, all resources need to be reloaded, and playback should be reinitialized where it left off, or at the nearest key frame.

Expectations for the porter

The platform Starboard implementation must always send events in the prescribed order - meaning, for example, that it should never send a kSbEventTypeSuspend event unless in the Preloading or Paused states.

Currently, Cobalt does not manually stop JavaScript execution when it goes into the Suspended state. In Linux desktop, it expects that a SIGSTOP will be raised, causing all the threads not to get any more CPU time until resumed. This will be fixed in a future version of Cobalt.

Implementing the Application Lifecycle (for the porter)

Most porters will want to subclass either starboard::shared::Application (in src/starboard/shared/starboard/ or starboard::shared::QueueApplication (in src/starboard/shared/starboard/, as these are reference classes that rigorously implement the Starboard application lifecycle. They are optional, and platforms can directly dispatch events to SbEventHandle(), but it is then up to them to ensure that events are always sent in the correct state as specified in the Starboard documentation.

starboard::shared::Application guarantees the correct ordering by implementing a small state machine that ignores invalid application state transitions, and inserts any necessary transitions to make them valid. For example, you can call starboard::shared::Application::Suspend(), and if you are in Paused, it will just dispatch a kSbEventTypeSuspend event. But if you call Suspend() in the Started state, it will dispatch kSbEventTypePause and then kSbEventTypeSuspend events. If you call Suspend() in the Suspended state, it just does nothing.

To control starting up in the Preloading state, Application subclasses must override two functions:

class MyApplication : public shared::starboard::QueueApplication {
  // [ ... ]
  bool IsStartImmediate() override;
  bool IsPreloadImmediate() override;
  // [ ... ]

To start up in the Preloading state, IsStartImmediate() should return false and IsPreloadImmediate() should return true.

To start up in the Starting state (which is the default), IsStartImmediate() should return true and IsPreloadImmediate() will not be called.

To delay starting up until some later event, IsStartImmediate() and IsPreloadImmediate() should both return false. No initial event will be automatically sent to the application, and it is then up to the porter to dispatch a kSbEventTypeStart or kSbEventTypePreload event as the first event. This is useful if you need to wait for an asynchronous system activity to complete before starting Cobalt.

To support the --preload command-line argument:

  bool IsStartImmediate() override { return !HasPreloadSwitch(); }
  bool IsPreloadImmediate() override { return HasPreloadSwitch(); }