Offline Google Analytics Made Easy

So you've got a progressive web app, complete with a service worker that allows it to work offline. Great! You've also got existing Google Analytics set up for your web app, and you don't want to miss out on any analytical insights coming from usage that occurs while offline. But if you try to send data to Google Analytics while offline, those requests will fail and the data will be lost.

The solution, it shouldn't surprise you to learn, is service workers! Specifically, it's adding code to your service worker to store Google Analytics requests (using IndexedDB) and retry them later when there's hopefully a network available. We shared code to handle this logic as part of the open source Google I/O web app, but realized this was a useful pattern, and copying and pasting code can be fragile.

Today, we're happy to announce that everything you need to handle offline Google Analytics requests within your service worker has been bundled up into an npm package: npm install --save-dev sw-offline-google-analytics

Using sw-offline-google-analytics

From within your existing service worker code, add the following:

// This code should live inside your service worker JavaScript, ideally
// before any other 'fetch' event handlers are defined:

// First, import the library into the service worker global scope:
importScripts('path/to/offline-google-analytics-import.js');

// Then, call goog.offlineGoogleAnalytics.initialize():
// See https://github.com/GoogleChrome/sw-helpers/tree/master/packages/sw-offline-google-analytics#googofflinegoogleanalyticsinitialize
goog.offlineGoogleAnalytics.initialize();

// At this point, implement any other service worker caching strategies
// appropriate for your web app.

That's all there is to it!

What's going on under the hood?

sw-offline-google-analytics sets up a new fetch event handler in your service worker, which responds to requests made to the Google Analytics domain. (The library ignores non-Google Analytics requests, giving your service worker's other fetch event handlers a chance to implement appropriate strategies for those resources.) It will first attempt to fulfill the request against the network. If the user is online, that will proceed as normal.

If the network request fails, the library will automatically store information about the request to IndexedDB, along with a timestamp indicating when the request was initially made. Each time your service worker starts up, the library will check for queued requests and attempt to resend them, along with some additional Google Analytics parameters:

  • A qt parameter, set to the amount of time that has passed since the request was initially attempted, to ensure that the original time is properly attributed.
  • Any additional parameters and values supplied in the parameterOverrides property of the configuration object passed to goog.offlineGoogleAnalytics.initialize(). For example, you could include a custom dimension to distinguish requests that were resent from the service worker from those that were sent immediately.

If resending the request succeeds, then great! The request is removed from IndexedDB. If the retry fails, and the initial request was made less than 24 hours ago, it will be kept in IndexedDB to be retried the next time the service worker starts. You should note that Google Analytics hits older than four hours are not guaranteed to be processed, but resending somewhat older hits "just in case" shouldn't hurt.

sw-offline-google-analytics also implements a "network first, falling back to cache" strategy for the actual analytics.js JavaScript code needed to bootstrap Google Analytics.

There's more to come!

sw-offline-google-analytics is part of the larger sw-helpers project, which is a collection of libraries meant to provide drop-in enhancements to existing service worker implementations.

Also part of that project is sw-appcache-behavior, a library that implements caching strategies defined in an existing AppCache manifest inside of a service worker. It's intended to help you migrate from AppCache to service workers while maintaining a consistent caching strategy, at least initially.

If you have other library ideas, we'd love to hear from you. So please file a request in the issue tracker!