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Cristofer
Cristofer

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Beacon API

Modern browsers are increasingly venturing into the native interaction with the hardware, they offer us an small, but helpful list of APIs to have fun.

Some of them have a more native interactions, and some of them are more like utilities that can help developers.

This is the case for the Beacon API

The Problem

It's very likely you'll find yourself, at some point of your web developer career, working with analytics. This type of scripts often need to do something (eg. reporting) when the document triggers an unload event, normally would be a call to a server maybe to let know that a user just left the page just before checkout (ouch!)

The first piece of code that comes to my mind when I encounter this scenario looks like this:

window.onunload = function userLeave() {
  // Do the http request to my analytics server
}
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Well, turns out that browsers, ignore asynchronous http calls that happen during an unload event.

Again, first solution that comes to my mind: let's make it synchronous. Well, although it works, doing a synchronous action inside the unload event will force the browsers to wait until this event has completely finish, therefore the next page will feel slow to load.

There are other techniques to handle this scenario, but they all involves a bad code practice and affect the user navigation

Send a Beacon! πŸ—ΌπŸ—Ό

To solve this issue, the browsers offers us the Beacon API.

The navigator object has a method called sendBeacon(), this method receives 2 parameters: url and options.

The url parameter represents the url of the server you want to send the request, and the options parameter (optional) can be a simple String, or if you want to send more complex data, you could also pass an ArrayBufferView, Blob, DOMString, or FormData.

This function schedules an http POST request using the parameters you passed in (url and options), it returns true if the http call was successfully scheduled, returns false otherwise

window.onunload = function userLeave() {
  const crashData = new FormData()
  const url = 'https://my-analytics-server/'

  crashData.append('userID', '123');

  navigator.sendBeacon(url, crashData)
}
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  • Beacon requests use only HTTP POST and do not require a response.

  • Beacon requests are guaranteed to be initiated before the page unloads.

You should check out all the examples from the docs to see how this can help you in many other cases!

Thanks for reading 🀚

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