Push Notifications

Overview

The Gmail API provides server push notifications that let you watch for changes to Gmail mailboxes. You can use this feature to improve the performance of your application. It allows you to eliminate the extra network and compute costs involved with polling resources to determine if they have changed. Whenever a mailbox changes, the Gmail API notifies your backend server application.

Initial Cloud Pub/Sub Setup

The Gmail API uses the Cloud Pub/Sub API to deliver push notifications. This allows notification via a variety of methods including webhooks and polling on a single subscription endpoint.

Prerequisites

In order to complete the rest of this setup, make sure you fulfill the Cloud Pub/Sub Prerequisites and then set up a Cloud Pub/Sub client.

Create a topic

Using your Cloud Pub/Sub client, create the topic that the Gmail API should send notifications to. The topic name can be any name you choose under your project (i.e. matching projects/myproject/topics/*, where myproject is the Project ID listed for your project in the Google Developers Console).

We recommend that you use a single topic for all Gmail API push notifications for your application, due to Cloud Pub/Sub limits on the number of topics.

Create a subscription

Follow the Cloud Pub/Sub Subscriber Guide to set up a subscription to the topic that you created. Configure the subscription type to be either a webhook push (i.e. HTTP POST callback) or pull (i.e. initiated by your app). This is how your application will receive notifications for updates.

Grant publish rights on your topic

Cloud Pub/Sub requires that you grant Gmail privileges to publish notifications to your topic.

To do this, you need to grant publish privileges to serviceAccount:gmail-api-push@system.gserviceaccount.com. You can do this using the Cloud Pub/Sub Developer Console permissions interface following the resource-level access control instructions.

Getting Gmail mailbox updates

Once the initial Cloud Pub/Sub setup is finished, configure Gmail accounts to send notifications for mailbox updates.

Watch request

To configure Gmail accounts to send notifications to your Cloud Pub/Sub topic, simply use your Gmail API client to call watch() on the Gmail user mailbox similar to any other Gmail API call. To do so, provide the topic name created above and any other options in your watch() request, such as labels to filter on. For example, to be notified any time a change is made to the Inbox:

Protocol

POST "https://www.googleapis.com/gmail/v1/users/me/watch"
Content-type: application/json

{
  topicName: "projects/myproject/topics/mytopic",
  labelIds: ["INBOX"],
}

Python

request = {
  'labelIds': ['INBOX'],
  'topicName': 'projects/myproject/topics/mytopic'
}
gmail.users().watch(userId='me', body=request).execute()

Watch response

If the watch() request is successful you will receive a response like:

{
  historyId: 1234567890
  expiration: 1431990098200
}

with the current mailbox historyId for the user. All changes after that historyId will be notified to your client. If you need to process changes prior to this historyId, refer to the sync guide.

Additionally, a successful watch() call should cause a notification to immediately be sent to your Cloud Pub/Sub topic.

If you receive an error from the watch() call, the details should explain the source of the problem, which is typically with the setup of the Cloud Pub/Sub topic and subscription. Refer to the Cloud Pub/Sub documentation to confirm that the setup is correct and for help with debugging topic and subscription issues.

Renewing mailbox watch

You must re-call watch() every 7 days or else you will stop receiving updates for the user. The watch() response also has an expiration field with the timestamp for the watch expiration.

Receiving notifications

Whenever a mailbox update occurs that matches your watch, your application will receive a notification message describing the change.

Here is an example webhook notification to your server:

POST https://yourserver.example.com/yourUrl
Content-type: application/json

{
  message:
  {
    // This is the actual notification data, as base64url-encoded JSON.
    data: "eyJlbWFpbEFkZHJlc3MiOiAidXNlckBleGFtcGxlLmNvbSIsICJoaXN0b3J5SWQiOiAiMTIzNDU2Nzg5MCJ9",

    // This is a Cloud Pub/Sub message id, unrelated to Gmail messages.
    message_id: "1234567890",
  }

  subscription: "projects/myproject/subscriptions/mysubscription"
}

The HTTP POST body is JSON and the actual Gmail notification payload is in the message.data field. That message.data field is a base64url-encoded string that decodes to a JSON object containing the email address and the new mailbox history ID for the user:

{"emailAddress": "user@example.com", "historyId": "9876543210"}

You can then use history.list() to get the change details for the user since their last known historyId, as per the sync guide.

Refer to the Cloud Pub/Sub Subscriber Guide for more details on the notification format or for using the Cloud Pub/Sub pull() method.

Responding to notifications

All notifications need to be acknowledged as per the Cloud Pub/Sub Subscriber Guide. If using webhook delivery, then responding successfully (e.g. HTTP 200) will acknowledge it. If using pull() then you must then follow up with an acknowledge() call.

If the notifications are not acknowledged (e.g. your webhook callback returns an error or times out), Cloud Pub/Sub will retry the notification at a later time.

Stopping mailbox updates

To stop receiving updates on a mailbox, call stop() and all new notifications should stop within a few minutes.

Limitations

Max notification rate

Each Gmail user being watched has a maximum notification rate of 1 event/sec. Any user notifications above that rate will be dropped. Be careful when handling notifications to be sure not to trigger another notification, and thereby start a notification loop.

Reliability

Typically all notifications should be delivered reliably within a few seconds; however in some extreme situations notifications may be delayed or dropped. Make sure to handle this possibility gracefully, so that the application still syncs even if no push messages are received. For example, fall back to periodically calling history.list() after a period with no notifications for a user.

Cloud Pub/Sub Limitations

The Cloud Pub/Sub API also has its own limitations, specifically detailed in its pricing and quotas documentation.

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