Why build Offline First apps?

In a data-first world, your web and native apps need to deliver excellent user experiences, including during network disruptions. The Offline First approach to application development puts performance first and recognizes that network downtime is a fact of life — and the only way to always satisfy users, whether users are offline, online or somewhere in between, is to build apps that are operational even when users are offline.

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Create always-on user experiences

Offline First apps enable data to be written locally first, which is faster than writing directly to cloud services. Having data on hand natively means fewer performance disruptions when networks go down.

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Enable users to work offline

Being offline shouldn’t be an error condition. Offline First apps allow your users to work offline or with limited connectivity, by retaining core app functionality at all times.

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Improve app performance

By reducing the number of requests to the cloud service. Offline First apps help your app to be more efficient with battery resources and bandwidth usage.

IBM Cloudant – powering Offline First

IBM Cloudant delivers an always-on JSON data layer for powering web, mobile and IoT apps that remain operational even when internet connections become unavailable. Cloudant’s advanced replication and syncing capabilities ensure users have a seamless experience, even during network disruptions.

Cloudant Mobile Sync – Replicate Data Seamlessly
Cloudant, built on open source Apache® CouchDB™, is designed so that CRUD and query requests go to the local replica, regardless of network state. Upon request, Cloudant’s Mobile Sync feature will keep the local replica and remote instance in sync, enabling offline functionality.

Cloudant, Hoodie and PouchDB – Offline Sync for Progressive Web Apps
Cloudant, built on the open source Apache CouchDB database, works seamlessly with Hoodie and PouchDB. Hoodie is an open source Node.js back-end for Offline First applications. PouchDB is an open source JavaScript database that works in web browsers and can sync with Cloudant.

This interoperability enables seamless data replication and syncing across any data store that implements the CouchDB Replication protocol, powering endless varieties of Offline First data architectures.

Native mobile libraries for iOS and Android
Cloudant’s native iOS and Android libraries simplify data sync for mobile apps. Cloudant’s native mobile libraries store JSON locally to devices first and, upon request and on demand, Cloudant Sync automates changes to the cloud when a connection is available.

How you can use Cloudant to build Offline First apps

Average attention spans are dwindling and users will abandon your app within seconds if it fails. Cloudant can keep apps connected to data and keep users engaged, even when network connections go down.

Offline functionality of Cloudant-powered apps is possible because all data access, insert, read, update and query run locally. So, at the request of the developer and when business logic and network conditions so allow, replication to the remote instance is possible.

Location-based features are increasingly a must-have for all apps. But when network problems disrupt access to geospatial data, any apps that rely on location-based functionality will come to a halt.

Cloudant Geospatial, which provides easy GeoJSON storage and indexing, helps ensure your app’s users can have offline access to location data. 

The technologies that power Offline First applications are increasingly open source and freely available. The result is a flourishing ecosystem of offline-capable web, mobile and IoT apps running on interoperable systems.

Cloudant is fully compatible with open source Apache CouchDB and PouchDB. As a result, your apps run well on both self-managed CouchDB and IBM-managed Cloudant environments, with PouchDB offering a free way to persist data locally for offline data access.

Integrate products with Cloudant for Offline First

Cloudant combines with other key technologies and services to bring Offline First apps to life.

IBM Cloudant + PouchDB

Cloudant is used with PouchDB (a small, in-browser version of Apache CouchDB) to enable offline data access. PouchDB behaves as a native instance of Cloudant when users are offline, and syncs with the Cloudant service when online.

IBM Cloudant + IBM MobileFirst

Cloudant can be used with the IBM MobileFirst platform to bring offline data access, robust data synchronization, text search and advanced geospatial capabilities to mobile apps.

IBM Cloudant + Watson IoT Platform

Connecting Cloudant to the Watson IoT Platform gives you a powerful and robust means to store, access and analyze your historical IoT device data, both offline and online.

Get started building Offline First apps with IBM Cloudant


Provision a fully managed Cloudant instance on IBM Bluemix Public. Cloudant is always free on the Lite plan, which includes a max of 1 GB of encrypted data storage.


The paid Standard plan offers scalable configurations by throughput capacity and data usage and starts at USD 75/mo.


Fully managed single-tenant deployments of Cloudant are available in IBM Cloud and AWS data centers, along with Bluemix Dedicated environments. Contact us for more information and pricing.


Run a fully featured Cloudant cluster in the privacy of your on-premises data center. Contact us for more information and pricing.

SQL databases aren’t good at synchronizing data, which made us think about a NoSQL approach. IBM Cloudant offers Cloudant Sync, which gave us exactly what we needed — an Offline First approach which lets our users work offline and just sync data when a connection is available.

Wes Wilson, CTO, YukonBaby

We built the app with the idea that offline was the default mode, which means that all data is placed in cache and instantly available — regardless of whether the device is connected to a network. The result is that users experience no loss of performance, functionality or data availability in offline mode.

Julien Delouvée, Associate Director, eFrontech

With Cloudant, we can offer a seamless, reliable offline experience — so our support desk sees about 90 percent fewer issues with transaction synchronization than other POS systems we’ve worked on.

Greg Nacu, Lead Software Developer, Quetzal

Resources for building Offline First with Cloudant

Offline sync for progressive web apps

IBM Developer Advocate Bradley Holt makes the case that the best answer for offline sync for progressive web apps is a combination of Apache CouchDB, Hoodie and PouchDB.

Build an Offline First iOS app

Learn how to implement Offline First design with the Location Tracker sample app, which uses the Cloudant Sync iOS library.

Offline First featured on The New Builders podcast

The voices behind the SXSW Panel From Mobile First to Offline First discuss all things online first, from progressive web apps to new design patterns.

Tutorial: understand how replication works

Tutorial: create a replication job

Connect with IBM Cloud Data Services