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Layer Lifecycle

Every layer subclass can define certain methods that get called at certain points in its lifecycle. The layer can specify how its state is initialized and finalized, if and how it should react to property changes, and how it should draw and pick the layer. Rendering Cycles

Internally, sets up the animation loop and calls provided callbacks on initial load and for each rendered frame. When the layer list is drawn to screen, it matches the new Layer instances with the instances from the previous render call, uniquely identified by their id property. Every time you create a new layer with the same id property as a layer you rendered last time, consider the new layer instance an "update" of the old instance.

layer.state is an object that is internal to an instance of a layer. When a new layer instance is matched to an existing layer instance by id, the state object of the old layer becomes accessible to the new layer. Layers can use the state object to store persistent information cross rendering cycles.

Layer Lifecycle Stages


Initialization happens only once for each layer that is being added, i.e. a layer from the current rendering cycle whose id does not get matched with any layer in the previous cycle. layer.initializeState() is called at this stage.

At the end of initialization, layer.updateState() is called before the first render.


Updating happens when a new layer has been matched with a layer from the previous rendering cycle (resulting in new props being passed to that layer), or when context has changed and layers are about to be drawn.

layer.shouldUpdateState() is called to determine if the layer needs an update. The default implementation updates on prop and data changes, but not on viewport changes, so screen-space based layers may want to override this (see e.g. ScreenGridLayer). Under more complicated circumstances, additional checks can be supplied through the dataComparator prop.

If the layer does need to be updated, layer.updateState() is called to perform any necessary operation before the layer is rendered. This usually involves recalculating an attribute by calling state.attributeManager.invalidate and updating uniforms by calling model.setUniforms. By default, when changes, all attributes are invalidated and recalculated.

A composite layer may use compositeLayer.renderLayers() to insert one or more layers after itself. The generated layers will then be matched and updated, allowing the decomposition of the drawing of a complex data set into "primitive" layers.


Rendering happens during each rendering cycle to draw the layer to the WebGL context.

For primitive layers, layer.draw() is called at this stage, which invokes the layers' model.render calls. For composite layers, layer.renderLayers is called to genrate sublayers.


Happens when a pointer moves over or clicks on the canvas.

layer.draw() of all pickable layers are called with special uniforms to draw into an off-screen picking buffer.

When a layer is picked, layer.getPickingInfo() is called to generate the info object of information about what has been picked. This object is then passed to the onHover or onClick callbacks of the layer.

Read more about how picking works.


Happens for each layer that is being removed, i.e. a layer from the previous rendering cycle whose id did not get matched with any layer in the current cycle. layer.finalizeState() is called just before the reference to the state of that layer is released.

Comparison with React's Lifecycle

If you are familiar with React and the React component lifecycle you will quickly understand the layer lifecycle as it is based on similar ideas. In particular, experience with the React lifecycle should help you understand property change management and how to use the shouldUpdateState and updateState methods.

Still, there are a couple of notable differences between the lifecycle methods provided by the two frameworks:

  • performs preliminary analysis on certain props and context and provides a changeFlags object to your shouldUpdateState and updateState.

  •'s updateState method is called both on layer initialization and on when props or context is updated. This is different from React's willReceiveProps that is not called when the component is initially created, The model avoids requiring the same property checks to be performed twice in both the constructor and willReceiveProps.

  • separates rendering into the draw and renderLayers methods, where React just needs render.

  •'s pick and pickInfo methods have no correspondence in React's lifecycle.

Note: uses a simpler component model than React. While React backs instance with a separate component, just transfers the old layers' state objects to any new matched layers.

Note: the data prop, attribute props and the viewport context are central to layers and get special handling. React is more generic and leaves the interpretation of most props to the component.