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Upload images to Firebase using Expo 39+ managed workflow

haydenbleasel profile image Hayden Bleasel ・3 min read

Typically, uploading images to Firebase using the JavaScript SDK is pretty straightforward. All we need to do is create a root reference to our storage:

// Get the local file
const file = fetch('...');

// Create a root reference
const storageRef = firebase.storage().ref();

// Create a folder reference
const ref = storageRef.child('images');

// Upload the file
const snapshot = await ref.put(file);

// Bob's your uncle... or some relative.
console.log('Uploaded a file!', snapshot);
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However, React Native has made some compatibility-breaking alterations to the Blob implementation, meaning we can't simply fetch the local file.

There are two ways to get around this.

The first is by reimplementing the Blob promise through a custom XMLHTTPRequest. @sjchmiela did an awesome deep dive on this on GitHub that you can read about here.

import * as ImagePicker from "expo-image-picker";
import * as firebase from 'firebase/app'

// Pick the photo
const pickerResult = await ImagePicker.launchImageLibraryAsync({
    allowsEditing: true,
    aspect: [1, 1]
});

// Implement a new Blob promise with XMLHTTPRequest
const blob: Blob = await new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
  const xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
  xhr.onload = function () {
    resolve(xhr.response);
  };
  xhr.onerror = function () {
    reject(new TypeError("Network request failed"));
  };
  xhr.responseType = "blob";
  xhr.open("GET", pickerResult.uri, true);
  xhr.send(null);
});

// Create a ref in Firebase (I'm using my user's ID)
const ref = firebase.storage().ref().child(`avatars/${user.uid}`);

// Upload blob to Firebase
const snapshot = await ref.put(blob, { contentType: "image/png" });

// Create a download URL
const remoteURL = await snapshot.ref.getDownloadURL();

// Return the URL
return remoteURL;
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The second option I mentioned on GitHub is to consider that Firebase doesn't just support blobs. It also supports Base64 images, so if you want to get around this, you can get the image with expo-file-system instead of fetch / XMLHTTPRequest.

The problem here is that Base64 images are inherently much bigger than blobs and can possibly break the file size limits of your phone, Firebase setup or network connection. Still, it's a viable solution for smaller images:

import * as FileSystem from 'expo-file-system';
import * as firebase from 'firebase/app';
import * as ImagePicker from 'expo-image-picker';

// Pick the photo
const pickerResult = await ImagePicker.launchImageLibraryAsync({
    allowsEditing: true,
    aspect: [1, 1]
});

// Fetch the photo with it's local URI
const file = await FileSystem.readAsStringAsync(pickerResult.uri, {
    encoding: FileSystem.EncodingType.Base64,
});

// Create a ref in Firebase (I'm using my user's ID)
const ref = firebase.storage().ref().child(`avatars/${user.uid}`);

// Upload Base64 image to Firebase
const snapshot = await ref.putString(file, 'base64');

// Create a download URL
const remoteURL = await snapshot.ref.getDownloadURL();

// Return the URL
return remoteURL;
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There's also a potential third option. According to @ajwhite on GitHub, fetch uses the FileReader to consume the contents of the blob, as to be compliant with fetch.

React Native has a FileReader implementation, which takes the "JS blob pointer" and resolves it natively. The native FileReaderModule take the "blob pointer" and reads its bytes, then resolves them down as a string.

As such, it's possible that using a library such as axios may not use a FileReader to extract the blob and could work. If you test this out, let me know how you go!

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