ArcGIS RIA Developers: Tips on using cross-domain policy files – Part 1 (Intro)

If you have spent any time with Adobe Flex or Microsoft Silverlight, there is an excellent chance you have encountered errors such as “Security sandbox violation:”, or “An error occurred while trying to make a request to URI”. Or maybe you had problems where a map layer or certain Graphic images weren’t displaying. If you’ve hit one of these problems while trying to access your own content or services, it’s possible there is something wrong with your cross-domain policy file. There’s been alot of discussion on this topic in the ESRI forums and elsewhere on the internet, that’s why we wanted to shine some light on a few key things to know.

In Part 1 of this series, we give you a brief introduction to these types of files, provide a few example use cases, and show you how to make sure they have been placed in the right location on your web server.

What is a cross-domain policy file?

As a general rule, if your web application requests files and resources from the same origin (e.g. your domain name, port number and http protocol), then access is granted automatically. If you want to allow client apps to request resources from within your domain, but outside the origin, then you’ll need a cross-domain policy file. The file also determines which external domains are granted accesss to your web server. Examples of the types of resources you might want to grant access to include map services, geoprocessing services or GeoRSS. Cross-domain policy files also eliminate the need for your users to implement a proxy in order to access your website content.

Before Flex or Silverlight apps will allow a connection to a web resource, the runtime attempts to download the cross domain policy file from the web server. If one can’t be found, or there is a problem reading the file, then the runtime denies access and throws an error.  Silverlight uses a file named clientaccesspolicy.xml, and if your Silverlight app doesn’t find one it will then search for crossdomain.xml. Flash, on the other hand, only uses crossdomain.xml.

Here’s an example of a clientaccesspolicy.xml and crossdomain.xml.

What are my choices if I’m using JavaScript?

Even though this post is about Flex and Silverlight, we still wanted to mention JavaScript briefly. If you are using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, or the Google or Virtual Earth (Bing) Extensions, then you won’t be able to use a cross-domain policy file. Here’s a good basic primer by the Yahoo! Developer Network folks on using JavaScript proxies, and the SitePen blog has several posts on Dojo and cross-domain access:

What are some example use cases?

The following example is from within the same origin. Maps.swf is requesting image tiles from the same origin. This does not require a cross-domain policy file:

Application host location:
     Map tile location:

And, here is an example that does require a cross-domain policy file. Your application is requesting a GeoRSS file from a sub-domain on your website:

Application host location:
     GeoRSS file location:
Location of policy file:

Or, you’re testing your app in Visual Studio, and it’s trying to access your Bing geocoder token file which is on a test web server:

Application host location:  http://localhost:3782/maps.aspx
Bing Proxy file location: http://testserver/vetoken.ashx
     Location of policy file: http://testserver/clientaccesspolicy.xml

Your application is accessing a REST endpoint that exists on a different domain:

Application host location:
ArcGIS Server REST endpoint:
Location of policy file:

Adobe’s Flash Player 10 Security Whitepaper also notes the following about HTTPS, “By default, content loaded with a protocol other than HTTPS cannot access content that was loaded with HTTPS, even if from the same domain. The reverse direction is allowed; HTTPS content may access content loaded with other protocols from the same domain”.

Where do I place my cross-domain policy file?

In the majority of cases where there are problems with cross-domain access, you are most likely missing a cross domain policy file, or it may simply be located in the wrong directory. If you are just getting started, we recommend placing the file in its’ default location: your web server’s root directory. Included below is a screenshot showing the right location for these files on a Windows web server. If the file is placed incorrectly, such as in your application’s directory, you will get errors when trying to access content.

How do I figure out where my root directory is?

In IIS 5 and 6:

In Apache 2.2.x search for httpd.conf. Or if you are using Windows:

That’s it for Part 1. Stay tuned to this blog for Part 2.

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About the author

I spend a ton of time outdoors and when not on a mountain somewhere I'm a Sr. Product Engineer for the ArcGIS API for JavaScript. I work on 3rd party JavaScript frameworks, mobile, and other cool mapping-related goodies.


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