Yesterday I had to look into a problem that was occuring in Safari with some code that I had written that was using the innerHTML property. This code works by creating some HTML using DOM functions, then adding some 3rd party HTML to one of the nodes. Though in most cases the 3rd party content is likely to be just a number, I wanted to allow for more interesting content, such as HTML entities, so I decide the simplest method would be to use innerHTML rather than parsing the content and generating the DOM nodes myself.

The code has been in use for several months without issue and has been working fine all this time in all the browsers I’ve tried it in. For some reason in this one particular scenario though, Safari was completely ignoring the attempts to set the innerHTML of the node. Setting the innerHTML and then on the following line attempting to read it was also giving an empty response. For example:

text = "foo";
node.innerHTML = text;
alert( "html="+node.innerHTML ); // Pops up message saying "html="

I tried numerous methods to fix this problem, including setting the property before and/or after adding the DOM node to the document. I also googled it which flagged up a number of related posts but these generally referred to pages that were served as XHTML (ie. pages with an .xhtml extension and MIME type application/xhtml+xml) and were not offering any solution.

One thing I did notice, though, was that if I typed into the address bar of Safari something along these lines:

javascript:node.innerHTML = "foo"

Then my change would occur, so it seemed that Safari was happy enough to set the innerHTML of the node, just not at the time I wanted it to, which led me onto my solution:

setTimeout( function() { node.innerHTML = text; }, 50 );

Yes, setting a timeout to occur in 50ms at which point the innerHTML would be set seemed to work. No idea why, and it is a bit nasty, but it was the only solution I could think of, and more importantly - it worked!

So hopefully if you see a similar problem and you need a solution, you’ll find this page and be able to make use of my dirty hack above to fix it.


Firstly - something I should have mentioned. This problem has only been occurring since we started modifying the URL of the page from within JavaScript, i.e. window.location.hash = '#foo'. We knew this didn’t work exactly as we’d hope, as the spinning status indicator stays spinning as soon as we modify the location, but we really really wanted to modify the location. Disabling the URL modifying does fix the .innerHTML problem though.

Secondly - I recently noticed further problems. I was using code exactly like that above, setting the .innerHTML property, then setting it again 50ms later. Unfortunately this can have problems too because the first attempt might work, but the second one fail, leaving you with no content again! Also I have seen it fail twice in succession, only setting the content on the third time. The horrible solution I’ve ended up with is a recursive method that sets the .innerHTML, checks to see if it was set correctly (it will be empty if not) and sets a timeout to call itself after a short pause if it didn’t work. I have put a limiting factor of 5 loops on to make sure it doesn’t run forever, and I do check whether the value you’re trying to give to the content is empty as well. The complete code for the function is as follows then:

 function setInnerHTML( element, html, count ) {

     element.innerHTML = html;

     if( ! count )
         count = 1;
     if( html != '' && element.innerHTML == '' && count < 5 ) {
         setTimeout( function() {
             setInnerHTML( element, html, count );
         }, 50 );

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