Spec: Common Fields

In the Segment Spec all the API calls have a common structure, and a few common fields.

However, not all destinations accept all fields included in the Spec. Not sure which fields a destination accepts? Refer to the destination’s documentation page, or check out the open-source destination code on Github.

Structure

Every API call has the same core structure and fields. These fields describe user identity, timestamping and mechanical aides like API version.

Here’s an example of these common fields in raw JSON:

{
  "anonymousId": "507f191e810c19729de860ea",
  "context": {
    "active": true,
    "app": {
      "name": "InitechGlobal",
      "version": "545",
      "build": "3.0.1.545",
      "namespace": "com.production.segment"
    },
    "campaign": {
      "name": "TPS Innovation Newsletter",
      "source": "Newsletter",
      "medium": "email",
      "term": "tps reports",
      "content": "image link"
    },
    "device": {
      "id": "B5372DB0-C21E-11E4-8DFC-AA07A5B093DB",
      "advertisingId": "7A3CBEA0-BDF5-11E4-8DFC-AA07A5B093DB",
      "adTrackingEnabled": true,
      "manufacturer": "Apple",
      "model": "iPhone7,2",
      "name": "maguro",
      "type": "ios",
      "token": "ff15bc0c20c4aa6cd50854ff165fd265c838e5405bfeb9571066395b8c9da449"
    },
    "ip": "8.8.8.8",
    "library": {
      "name": "analytics.js",
      "version": "2.11.1"
    },
    "locale": "en-US",
    "location": {
      "city": "San Francisco",
      "country": "United States",
      "latitude": 40.2964197,
      "longitude": -76.9411617,
      "speed": 0
    },
    "network": {
      "bluetooth": false,
      "carrier": "T-Mobile US",
      "cellular": true,
      "wifi": false
    },
    "os": {
      "name": "iPhone OS",
      "version": "8.1.3"
    },
    "page": {
      "path": "/academy/",
      "referrer": "",
      "search": "",
      "title": "Analytics Academy",
      "url": "https://segment.com/academy/"
    },
    "referrer": {
      "id": "ABCD582CDEFFFF01919",
      "type": "dataxu"
    },
    "screen": {
      "width": 320,
      "height": 568,
      "density": 2
    },
    "groupId": "12345",
    "timezone": "Europe/Amsterdam",
    "userAgent": "Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 9_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/601.1.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/9.0 Mobile/13B143 Safari/601.1"
  },
  "integrations": {
    "All": true,
    "Mixpanel": false,
    "Salesforce": false
  },
  "messageId": "022bb90c-bbac-11e4-8dfc-aa07a5b093db",
  "receivedAt": "2015-12-10T04:08:31.909Z",
  "sentAt": "2015-12-10T04:08:31.581Z",
  "timestamp": "2015-12-10T04:08:31.905Z",
  "type": "track",
  "userId": "97980cfea0067",
  "version": 2
}

In more detail these common fields for every API call are:

Field Type Description
anonymousId optional if userID is set instead String A pseudo-unique substitute for a User ID, for cases when you don’t have an absolutely unique identifier. A userId or an anonymousId is required.
See the Identities docs for more details.
context optional Object Dictionary of extra information that provides useful context about a message, but is not directly related to the API call like ip address or locale See the Context field docs for more details.
integrations optional Object Dictionary of destinations to either enable or disable See the Destinations field docs for more details.
messageId implicit String Automatically collected by Segment, a unique identifier for each message that lets you find an individual message across the API.
receivedAt implicit Date Automatically set by Segment, the timestamp of when a message is received by Segment It is an ISO-8601 date string. See the Timestamps fields docs for more detail.
sentAt optional Date Timestamp of when a message is sent to Segment, used for clock skew correction It is set automatically by the Segment tracking libraries. It is an ISO-8601 date string. See the Timestamps fields docs for more detail.
timestamp optional Date Timestamp when the message itself took place, defaulted to the current time by the Segment Tracking API, as a ISO-8601 format date string. If the event just happened, leave it out and we’ll use the server’s time. If you’re importing data from the past, make sure you to provide a timestamp.See the Timestamps fields docs for more detail.
type implicit String Type of message, corresponding to the API method: 'identify', 'group', 'track', 'page', 'screen' or 'alias'.
userId optional if anonymousID is set instead String Unique identifier for the user in your database. A userId or an anonymousId is required. See the Identities docs for more details.
version implicit Number Version of the Tracking API that received the message, automatically set by Segment.

Beyond this common structure, each API call adds a few specialized top-level fields.

Context

Context is a dictionary of extra information that provides useful context about a datapoint, for example the user’s ip address or locale. Context is a complete and explicit specification, so properties outside the spec are ignored. You should only use Context fields for their intended meaning.

Field Type Description
active Boolean Whether a user is active

This is usually used to flag an .identify() call to just update the traits but not “last seen.”
app Object dictionary of information about the current application, containing name, version and build.

This is collected automatically from our mobile libraries when possible.
campaign Object Dictionary of information about the campaign that resulted in the API call, containing name, source, medium, term and content.

This maps directly to the common UTM campaign parameters.
device Object Dictionary of information about the device, containing id, advertisingId, manufacturer, model, name, type and version.
ip String Current user’s IP address.
library Object Dictionary of information about the library making the requests to the API, containing name and version.
locale String Locale string for the current user, for example en-US.
location Object Dictionary of information about the user’s current location, containing city, country, latitude, longitude, region and speed.
network Object Dictionary of information about the current network connection, containing bluetooth, carrier, cellular and wifi
os Object Dictionary of information about the operating system, containing name and version
page Object Dictionary of information about the current page in the browser, containing hash, path, referrer, search, title and url. This is automatically collected by Analytics.js.
referrer Object Dictionary of information about the way the user was referred to the website or app, containing type, name, url and link
screen Object Dictionary of information about the device’s screen, containing density, height and width
timezone String Timezones are sent as tzdata strings to add user timezone information which might be stripped from the timestamp, for example America/New_York
groupId String Group / Account ID.

This is useful in B2B use cases where you need to attribute your non-group calls to a company or account. It is relied on by several Customer Success and CRM tools.
traits Object Dictionary of traits of the current user

This is useful in cases where you need to track an event, but also associate information from a previous identify call. You should fill this object the same way you would fill traits in an identify call.
userAgent String User agent of the device making the request

Context Fields Automatically Collected

Below is a chart that shows you which context variables are populated automatically by our iOS, Android and analytics.js libraries.

Other libraries only collect context.library, any other context variables must be sent manually.

Context Field Analytics.js Analytics-ios Analytics-android
app.name  
app.version  
app.build  
campaign.name    
campaign.source    
campaign.medium    
campaign.term    
campaign.content    
device.type    
device.id  
device.advertisingId  
device.adTrackingEnabled  
device.manufacturer  
device.model  
device.name    
library.name
library.version
ip*
locale  
location.latitude      
location.longitude      
location.speed      
network.bluetooth    
network.carrier  
network.cellular  
network.wifi  
os.name  
os.version  
page.path    
page.referrer    
page.search    
page.title    
page.url    
screen.density    
screen.height  
screen.width  
traits  
userAgent  
timezone  
  • IP Address is not collected by our libraries, but instead filled in by our servers when it receives a message for client side events only.
  • Our Android library collects screen.density with this method.

Integrations

A dictionary of destination names that the message should be sent to. 'All' is a special key that applies when no key for a specific destination is found.

Integrations defaults to the following:

{
  All: true,
  Salesforce: false,
}

This is because Salesforce has strict limits on API calls, and we don’t want to run over your limits by accident.

Sending data to the rest of our destinations is opt-out so if you don’t specify the destination as false in this object, it will be sent to rest of the destinations that can accept it.

Timestamps

Every API call has four timestamps, originalTimestamp, timestamp, sentAt and receivedAt. They’re used for very different purposes.

All timestamps are ISO-8601 date strings.

Timestamp Overview

Timestamp Calculated Description
originalTimestamp Time on the client device when call was invoked
OR
The timestamp value manually passed in through server-side libraries.
Used by Segment to calculate timestamp.

Note: originalTimestamp is not useful for analysis since it’s not always trustworthy as it can be easily adjusted and affected by clock skew.
sentAt Time on client device when call was sent
OR
sentAt value manually passed in.
Used by Segment to calculate timestamp.

Note: sentAt is not useful for analysis since it’s not always trustworthy as it can be easily adjusted and affected by clock skew.
receivedAt time on Segment server clock when call was received Used by Segment to calculate timestamp, and used as sort key in Warehouses.

Note: For max query speed, receivedAt is the recommended timestamp for analysis when chronology does not matter as chronology is not ensured.
timestamp Calculated by Segment to correct client-device clock skew using the following formula:
receivedAt - (sentAt - originalTimestamp)
Used by Segment to send to downstream destinations, and used for historical replays.

Note: Recommended timestamp for analysis when chronology does matter.

originalTimestamp

The originalTimestamp tells you when call was invoked on the client device or the value of timestamp that you manually passed in.

Note: The originalTimestamp timestamp is not useful for any analysis since it’s not always trustworthy as it can be easily adjusted and affected by clock skew.

sentAt

The sentAt timestamp specifies the clock time for the client’s device when the network request was made to the Segment API. For libraries and systems that send batched requests, there can be a long gap between a datapoint’s timestamp and sentAt. Combined with receivedAt, we can use sentAt to correct the original timestamp in situations where a user’s device clock cannot be trusted (mobile phones and browsers). The sentAt and receivedAt timestamps are assumed to occur at the same time (maximum a few hundred milliseconds), and therefore the difference is the user’s device clock skew, which can be applied back to correct the timestamp.

Note: The sentAt timestamp is not useful for any analysis since it’s tainted by user’s clock skew.

receivedAt

The receivedAt timestamp is added to incoming messages as soon as they hit our API. It’s used in combination with sentAt to correct clock skew, and also to aid with debugging libraries and systems that deliver events in batches.

The receivedAt timestamp is most important as the sort key in our Warehouses product. Use this for max query speed when retrieving data from your Warehouse!

Note: Chronological order of events is not ensured with receivedAt.

timestamp

The timestamp timestamp specifies when the datapoint occurred, corrected for client-device clock skew. This is the timestamp that is passed to downstream destinations and used for historical replays. It is important to use this timestamp for importing historical data to the API.

The timestamp field is settable from our server-side libs or if passing info directly to the HTTP endpoints.

This page was last modified: 03 Apr 2020


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