Problem: Live reloading isn't refreshing for Webpack 5

A lot of people turn to Webpack for its nifty dev experience, such as live reloading! Most commonly people use a tool like webpack-dev-server to make that happen!


While adding webpack-dev-server should out of the box allow you to have live reloading. Turns out there are some addition configurations that need to be set in order for it to understand.

It seems to be a weird bug that was introduced and a lot of people are still facing.

Here are the dependencies and versions that this happened to me on:

TL;DR: explicitly adding a target: 'web' key to your Webpack configuration in order for webpack to recognize what to build for.


So more than likely if you’re setting up your own devServer you have a command in your package.json to the effect of:

"scripts": {
  "dev": "webpack serve --open --config webpack.config.js"

And out of the gate this should:

  1. Allow for opening up the default browser with you local server page
  2. Accept your custom configuration
  3. support live reloading

While in the terminal I noticed things updating, the page wouldn’t automatically refresh. This turns out to be a small bug with how Webpack 5 operates and expects to be told its environment. In order to fix this, we have to add a target key in our webpack configuration.

So in my webpack.config.js I added:

module.exports = {  
  entry: './src/index.js',
  output: {
    path: path.resolve(__dirname, 'dist'),
    filename: 'app.bundle.js'
+  target: 'web'
  // ...

This is perplexing because of the documentation stating that Webpack’s default target should be web anyway. This seems to be something wrong also with defining a browserslist though that would align with what you’d expect Webpack to choose.

But once I added this, live reloading seems to be working fine!