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Datalayer.js is an open-source datalayer, tagmanager, and "frontend middleware" - originally created for GaleriaKaufhof. It follows a "developer first" philosophy, is fully test-driven and acts as a thin data proxy between the frontend space in the browser and any third parties, which can be provided as plugins. It is event-driven, based on a customizable data model with a virtual type system and aims at standardizing and simplifying the process of 3rd party integration into modern websites.

NOTE: this is still a pre-release version, we are actively working on the first stable relase (which is planned for Q4/2018)

How does it work?

The Datalayer "collects" data from the website (i.e. it gets passed from different parts of your application) and aggregates it to one data object. Then the plugin loader starts loading the plugins based on a given rule configuration. Plugins will receive events which contain specific data and can take that data and offer it to third parties as desired. One example is the "page-loaded" event that passes the previously aggregated data object to the plugin. That's the big picture. (TODO: add link to details)


The basic usage is pretty simple. For convenience, we imagine that you have some existing codebase where you want to add the datalayer as new feature. So, first install datalayer.js from npm.

npm install datalayerjs

From there you can import the module into your codebase. Datalayer.js comes as UMD module and supports a variety of different import styles. But nowadays the most common scenario should likely be to use ES6's import statement. This example also assumes that we want to import some dummy plugins from a local module.

import datalayer from 'datalayerjs';
import {
} from './myCustomPlugins';

After including the datalayer.js module we perform the basic setup and tell datalayer.js which plugins to load. This happens by calling the initialize method on the global instance. Alternatively, you might also import the Datalayer class directly and manage your own instance, if you need to.

  // load plugins according to their own ruleset
  plugins: [
    new SomeAnalyticsPlugin({ myTrackServer: '//test/foo' }),
    new SomeConversionPlugin({ mySpecialAttr: 'foo-123' }),

The plugins option is the recommended way to load plugins. You simply pass a list of plugins to be loaded and initialize them right away, using their constructor. This should cover the most common usecases, for more details check out the Plugins Documentation section.


The default way of communicating with datalayer.js relies on a small Javascript API. Sending events to the datalayer is as easy as calling the broadcast method from somewhere within your code.

datalayer.broadcast('page-loaded', {
    "name":"My homepage"

There are also other ways of communicating with the datalayer, most notably the one provided by the methodQueue extension. It allows you to access the datalayer.js API by using a global Array-like object named _d7rq (which translates to "datalayerqueue" ;) ..). Refer to the extension documentation for more details.


Extensions provide more, really powerful ways of interacting with the datalayer. The are activated through the use method on the datalayer object like this:

import { metadata } from 'datalayerjs';

A very common usecase is the metadata extension which aggregates "rendertime" data (and events) from the markup and passes it to the datalayer. The following metatag would result in the global page object being immediately available to the datalayer and its plugins (e.g. as argument to the initialized event or when calling datalayer.getData):

<meta name="d7r:data" content='{
  page: {
    type: "homepage",
    name: "My Homepage",
}' />

Be sure to check the extensions folder for additional information on available extensions!

Javascript API

Communication with datalayer.js happens through it's Javascript API. The module itself contains one default export with the name datalayer. That object contains the following public methods (NOTE: with the methodQueue extension you can access all of the described public API methods via the method queue pattern):

initialize(options:Object): Promise

Initialize the current datalayer instance with the given options and return a Promise (the same as returned by whenReady). It is mandatory to call this once before the datalayer can be used. It validates the data, scans the DOM and loads the requested plugins. It accepts the following options:

data: Object

An object with globally available data used to initialize the datalayer. The provided data will be available for all plugins throughout the current application lifecycle by calling the getData method on the global datalayer instance. To validate the data you can use the validateData option.

plugins: <Array:datalayer.Plugin>

An array with plugin instances to be used by the datalayer.

  plugins: [{
    new AnalyticsPlugin({ accountId: 12345 }),

validateData: Function(data: Object)

A function that can be used to validate the global data after plugins are loaded but before the initialized event is sent. The function receives the global data as only argument and is expected to throw an Error when the data is invalid. In such case the Error has to contain the error description as string. When the function throws, it causes the initialized event to be omitted and instead an initialize-failed event to be sent. Also the whenReady Promise gets rejected with the thrown Error.

  plugins: [new TestPlugin()],
  validateData: (data) => {
    if (! || ! {
      throw new Error('Mandatory global data is missing');

whenReady(): Promise

This is the main entry point if you want to use any datalayer.js functionality outside of plugins. It is resolved when the initialize call is finished and all configured plugins are loaded based on the provided ruleset. If a failure occurs during validation this Promise gets rejected with the respective error object. You can bind to the returned Promise at any time during the app lifecycle to access the API. The datalayer's global data object is passed as only argument to the resolve callback.

  .then((data) => {
    // access global data in datalayer (data is fully aggregated and available at this point)
    // broadcast some event
    datalayer.broadcast('something-happened', { foo: 'bar' });

broadcast(name:string, [data:any]): void

Broadcast the given event with the name defined by name and the optional data object to all plugins. Important: Plugins that are not yet loaded (or get loaded somewhen in the future) will receive all events once they are loaded. This is an intentional design decision to ensure that no data is lost. The plugin's handleEvent method recieves a timestamp so the plugin can decide whether to react to events happening in the past (@TODO!).

// broadcast event to all loaded plugins
datalayer.broadcast('something-happened', { foo: 'bar' })

getData(): Object

Returns the global data as one big object. Important: If the function is called prior to initialization it will throw an error. Always wrap this call into a whenReady Promise if calling it from outside a plugin's lifecycle.

getPluginByID(id:string): Object

Get plugin with the given id and return it. If the plugin is unknown, the function returns null. Important: If the function is called prior to initialization it will throw an error. Always wrap this call into a whenReady Promise if calling it from outside a plugin's lifecycle.

parseDOMNode(element:HTMLElement): void

Parse the given DOM node and it's children and hand them over to the extensions for further logic and processing. Important: If you asynchronously add markup to your page (e.g. after AJAX calls, lazy loading, etc.) and that markup may contain any datalayer.js-relevant data, then you HAVE TO call parseDOMNode and pass it the newly added element - after adding it to the DOM! Otherwise the contained information won't be processed.

log(...args): void

Convenience function that uses the currently active logger to generate log output. The same function is equally available inside the Plugin class, which uses the same logger behind the scenes. You can use the logger extension to make the logging output visible in the console or replace the internal with your own logging mechanism.

use(extension:Function): Datalayer

Enable a given extension to be used by the datalayer. Check the Extensions section for more info.


What are Models? Models are a fundamental part of any datalayer.js-driven website. They are the foundation for implementing and validating your data, without being mandatory from a technical perspective. They are, however, a very important cornerstone for collaboration between developers, business departments and digital analysts. Simply put, such a model just defines what data is expected on which page.

A "model" in terms of datalayer.js is a single JSON document that defines at least two things: all available page types for a website and all virtual type definitions that are used by those page types. Types are defined using Apache Avro.

Technically seen the model is nothing more than a big JSON object with a few different properties, as described in the next sections. You are also not limited to the available data types. Instead you are completely free (and even encouraged) to use your own type definitions instead of the default ones. But be warned - even if it has no real technical relevance it is maybe the most important part of your entire datalayer structure. If you get things wrong here, you'll miss something later. Of course you are free to extend the model at any time. But it will cause developer effort and discussion, so plan well ;) ..


The data expected by datalayer.js is defined by a set of conventions. These are based on a simple yet flexible, virtual type system, called a model. A page with a type of category for example might expect an object of type CategoryData holding information about the category. The model definition provides the schema that defines data and event patterns for your entire website. It ultimately defines which data ends up in your datalayer and what you can provide to third parties. Although, first and foremost, it is nothing more than a convention that guides other people (developers, analysts, marketers, product management, etc.) in understanding what data to expect (or provide) where. You can think of it as the single source of truth regarding the data provided to datalayer.js.

The types property in the model file contains schema definitions of the available data types that can be used throughout the rest of the model (namely the pages and events definitions). It is using Apache Avro to describe types so it can be parsed and processed, e.g. to automatically validate consistency of provided data on a website (we will eventually provide a validator for that purpose). Type definitions can become quite huge JSON structures

  "types": [
      "name": "DALPageData",
      "type": "record",
      "fields": [
        { "name": "id", "type": "string" },
      "name": "DALCategoryData",
      "type": "record",
      "fields": [
        { "name": "id", "type": "string" },
        { "name": "name", "type": "string" },
        { "name": "totalHits", "type": "int" },
        { "name": "eans", "type": "array", "items": "string" },
        { "name": "aonrs", "type": "array", "items": "string" },
        { "name": "productIds", "type": "array", "items": "string" },
        { "name": "variantIds", "type": "array", "items": "string" },


The pages property in the model describes which data is expected for the individual pagetypes. A pagetype can be described as a generic, "single purpose" type of page like a homepage, a productlist or a productdetail. As a rule of thumb you could say: if there is a dedicated template for a certain kind of page, then it should get it's own pagetype in the datalayer, too. On bigger websites this can easily become a list of tenth (or even hundreds) of different pagetypes. At Galeria Kaufhof we have a combination of webshop, corporate website, external websites and many more. We ended up having around a hundred different page types and even more events.

The pagetype definition uses the datatypes declared via the types property. There is one special pagetype called *. It stands for "any page throughout the entire website". Usually it is used to provide common information like page or site specifics.

  "pages": {
    "*": {
      "page": { "type:": "DALPageData" }
    "homepage": {},
    "search": {
      "search": { "type:": "DALSearchData" }
    "category": {
      "category": { "type": "DALCategoryData" },
      "search": { "type": "DALSearchData", "mandatory": false }
    "productdetail": {
      "product": { "type:": "DALProductData" },


Event tracking is mandatory for deeper customer journey analysis, so you will likely have various events that shall be propagated to your datalayer. Common events might be "product-added-to-cart", "login-form-submitted" or "layer-opened", depending on how fine-grained you want to analyze the user behaviour.

The events property in the model holds a description of all events available on your website and how their parameter signature should be. As already seen for the pages, the events use the same datatypes that have been defined using the types property.

  "events": {
    "page-loaded": ["DALGlobalData"],
    "product-added": [{"product":"DALProductData"}]


Datalayer.js provides a modular architecture where logic is encapsulated in plugins. Plugins provide a set of predefined lifecycle methods and can access the global data that is aggregated by the datalayer. They can also send their own events, although that is a rather uncommon case.

Loading and Configuring Plugins

Plugins are defined by creating a new instance of their class. Most plugins are configured be passing a configuration object to their constructor on instantiation.

const plugin = new ExamplePlugin({ key: 'value' });

If you want to define custom loading rules you can additionally pass an optional callback function as second argument. That way the usual shouldReceiveEvent mechanism is ignored. This is particularly useful for loading plugins depending on certain runtime conditions (e.g. the availability of a given marketing channel's cookie, specific URL parameters and so on).

const plugin = new ExamplePlugin(
  { key: 'value' },
  (data) => === 'checkout-completed',

Plugin Lifecycle

The plugins have a very simple (yet flexible) lifecycle. After construction, where a plugin solely receives configuration and internal properties, it waits for events to happen. Events are handled using the handleEvent method which takes a name and an (optional) data parameter.

The only two "factory" events are the initialized and initialize-failed events. The initialized event is automatically fired by the datalayer during initialization. It receives the global data object as passed to datalayer.initialize and aggregated from the loaded extensions. A possible handleEvent call, handling a initialized, could look like this:

handleEvent(name, data) {
  switch (name) {
    case 'intialized': {
      // ...

It is kind of common practice to fire page-loaded events from within the embedding application and build up your website tracking flow around this. The mechanics how and when you fire your page-loaded events can vary heavily depending on whether you have a classical, server-rendered website or a single-page application.

For single-page apps (SPAs) the lifecycle methods are extremely crucial. (TODO)


Technically seen, plugins are very simple Javascript classes, providing a constructor and a handleEvent method as only mandatory interface. They extend the Plugin class which provides a few utility methods and the abstract basics. The following example illustrates the basic structure of a plugin.

import { Plugin } from 'datalayerjs';
class SomePlugin extends Plugin {
  constructor(config, rules) {
    super('SomePlugin', config, rules);
  handleEvent(name, data) {
    // react on specific events sent by the datalayer and handle them
    // in any way the 3rd party requires
    if (name === 'initialized') {
      // perform any kind of setup here, e.g. add 3rd party script tag to DOM
    } else if (name === 'page-loaded') {
      // send some tracking event for specific pagetype
      someTool.track('pageload', name)


The core of datalayer.js can be easily extended with new functionality. The process is somewhat similar to other middleware libraries like e.g. express and works by adding extensions through the use method on the datalayer instance. The extension then automatically connects to certain event hooks and receives data and broadcasts.

Using extensions

Usage example for one of the factory extensions, enabling the "event annotations" feature.

import datalayer, { annotations } from 'datalayerjs';

Extension API

Creating your own extensions is pretty easy. It just requires a simple module with the following structure.

export default (config = {
  customKey: 'value',
}) => class ExampleExtension {
  constructor(datalayer) {
    this.datalayer = datalayer;
    // init prerequisites
    // ...
  // handle addPlugin calls (e.g. useful to extend global data)
  beforeAddPlugin(plugin) {}
  // handle initialize event (e.g. useful to extend global data)
  beforeInitialize(data) {}
  // handle element scan (called before/after scanElementFor*)
  beforeParseDOMNode(element) {}

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