Communication Between Backbone.js And PHP

Backbone.js is a Javascript framework known as MV* (Model, View and stuff). This framework has the Backbone.sync function to perform CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations. In order for a model object to perform these operations, it should have a property named ‘url’. The ‘sync’ function receives 3 arguments: method, model and options. Model objects also have functions that call the ‘sync’ functions, these functions are: ‘fetch’, ‘save’ and ‘destroy’. The function Save does both Create and Update operation: If the property idAttribute is defined, and the idAttribute is set, ‘save’ sends an update request, otherwise it sends a ‘create’ request. The content type of the request is ”application/json”.

How Does The Server Know What Request Type It Receives?

The client-side developer specifies one ‘url’ only per model. The server-side program can determine the type by checking the value of $_SERVER[‘REQUEST_MOTHED’]:

  • ‘GET’ – a read (or fetch) request.
  • ‘POST’ – a create(save a new model) request.
  • ‘PUT’ – an update(save existing model’s detail) request.
  • ‘DELETE’ – a delete(destroy) request.

What To Send and How To Read?

Backbone.sync uses AJAX to send requests to the server. What you have to pass is the method and model. You better not skip the 3rd arguments, options, which contains at least two member:

  • ‘success’ – a function called when the server processes the request successfully.
  • ‘error’ – a function called when the server fails to process the request.

For example:

Backbone.sync(‘GET’, myModel, {

success: function(resp){

// process the response


error: function(resp){

// Recover or print an error message.



If you call Backbone.sync from an object don’t use ‘this” inside the success and error function as a reference to your object.

For example, if you call ‘sync’ from a view, write ‘myView=this;’ before your call to the ‘sync’ function.

Read Requests

If you send a ‘fetch’ request, specify ‘data’ in the ‘options’ argument, for example:


data: {‘attr1′:’value1’, ‘attr2′:’value2’, … , ‘attrN’:”valueN’},





In the Server Side

The request attributes are taken from $_GET or $_REQUEST, as usual.

Save Requests

Send the attributes and the options.

For example:, {





In The Server Side

The data should be read from the file “php://input”, a filename used for reading data from the request body. The content is a string, and should be parsed, but since the incoming request data is JSON encoded, you should use the PHP method “json_decode”.

For example:

$post_vars = json_decode(file_get_contents(‘php://input’), true);

Destroy Requests

This time, you should set the ‘data’ member of the options argument to a JSON string. For example:

Backbone.sync(‘delete’, myModel,{
data: JSON.stringify(myModel),  // This time the developer encodes the data.

success: function(model, resp) {



error: function(){


} );

In The Server Side

Read the data from ‘php://input’ and decode it using json_decode. For example:

$post_vars = json_decode(file_get_contents(‘php://input’), true);

Anyways …

You can make sure you read the data correctly by sending the contents of ‘$_SERVER’, $post_vars and ‘$_REQUEST’ to the error_log. To print an array use json_encode.

Sending a Response To the Client

The response is everything the server side application prints to the standard output. You should print your response data encoded into JSON, as follows:

echo json_encode(responsedata);

Reading a Response

The response returned from the server is the first argument passed to the ‘succss’ callback function. It is not a model object, and you should get values from there using the method ‘get(attr-name’ or the member ‘attributes’.

For example:

{success: function(msg){
switch (msg.get(‘status’)){  // Get the value of the attribute ‘status’ in the server’s response.

To debug your code, you can use ‘alert(JSON.stringify(msg));’.


When you write for the web, you may want to send data to another server or to a client. A common way to transfer that data is in XML format. The data will then be processed using SAX, DOM or XPath. Every language support it.

If what you want is to define a variable, an object or an array in Javascript, you can use the JSON extension. JSON is an acronym for ‘Java Script Object Notation’. In Javascript you can use it as follows:

var myObject=<?php echo json_encode($php_object); >;

Here no parsers are required.

Here’s an example of using it in PHP:

class my_class {
  public $prop1;
  public $prop2;

  function __construct(){

$obj=new my_class();
echo json_encode($obj);

The output looks like:

In addition to encoding, a JSON string can be decoded into an object in a language other than Javascript. Thus, you can pass data in the JSON format to any program supporting JSON, and, as you can see in, most languages used today support it.

The ability to encode varibles into JSON and decode it back in any language is not the only reason why JSON can replace XML. If you go to, you can see links in the bottom referring to other sites. For example, JSONPath, that allows you to access a member just like XPath. JSONPath is available in PHP and Javascript.