In large, internet-scale web apps, the ability to limit API calls from the client side enables us to create scalable web apps.

Not only does it make the front end appear quicker and more responsive, but it also protects our back end by reducing the amount of work that our back end needs to perform. That way, our back end can serve more client consumers on the front end.

What Is a Cache?

A Cache is a component that transparently stores data so that future requests can be served more quickly. It is safe to cache data that doesn’t need to be recomputed often, whereas fetching new data would result in duplicated data.

The more requests we can serve from cache, the more our overall system performance increases.

Traditionally, caching servers, such as Memcache, can be served on the same system that’s serving the content to clients or on remote systems. Choosing between options comes down to server size and traffic.

Depending upon the volatility of the content, we can focus our efforts on storing cached content in long-term storage (e.g., storing it on disk or for the short term and only keeping it in memory).

Caching works like a big key-value store. There’s a key that points to a cached piece of content. When the content is requested, if the key is found in the cache and is available (i.e., we get a cache hit), then the related content will be served.

If the key is not (i.e., we get a cache miss), then the caching server will need to know how to fetch the data, store it, and return it back to the original requester of the data.

In this section, we’ll discuss caching strategies within Angular, from how to set up memcache (lightly) for server-side content to using Angular’s built-in caching mechanisms. There are good libraries that will handle it for us.

Angular Caching

Angular offers caching as a feature out of the box for built-in services and gives us the ability to use the same mechanisms to cache our own custom content.

Introducing the $cacheFactory

The $cacheFactory is the service that generates cache objects for all Angular services. Internally, the $cacheFactory creates a default cache object, even if we don’t create one explicitly.

To create a cache object, we use the $cacheFactory and create a cache by ID:

var cache = $cacheFactory('myCache');

Here, we’ve defined a cache with the ID myCache. The $cacheFactory function can take up to two arguments:

cacheId (string)

The cacheId is the name of ID of the cache that we’re creating. It can be referenced by the get() method by the name of the cache.

options (object)

The options specify how the cache will behave. Currently, the options object can take a key:

The capacity describes the maximum number of cache key-value pairs the cache will store and keep at any given time.

The $cacheFactory() method returns a cache object.

Cache Object

The cache object itself has the following methods that we can use to interact with the cache.


The info() method returns the ID, size, and options of the cache object.


The put() method allows us to put a key (string) of any JavaScript object value into the cache.

cache.put("hello", "world");

The put() method returns the value of the cache that we put in.


The get() method gives us access to the cache value for a key. If the key is found, it returns the value, whereas if it is not found, it returns undefined.


The remove() function removes a key-value pair from the cache, if it’s found. If it’s not found, then it just returns undefined.


The removeAll() function resets the cache and removes all cached values.


The destroy() method removes all references of this cache from the $cacheFactory cache registry.

Caching through $http

Angular’s $http service creates a cache with the ID $http (surprise, right?). Enabling the $http request to use this default cache object is simple: The $http method(s) allow us to pass a cache parameter.

Default $http Cache

The default $http cache can be particularly useful when our data doesn’t change very often. We can set it like so:

  method: 'GET',
  url: '/api/users.json',
  cache: true
// Or, using the .get helper
$http.get('/api/users.json', {
  cache: true

Now, every request that is made through $http to the URL /api/users.json will be stored in the default $http cache. The key for this request in the $http cache is the full-path URL.

By passing the true parameter in the $http options, we’re telling the $http service to use the default cache. It’s useful to use the default cache if we don’t want to mess with the cache all that often.

We can, however, manipulate the default $http cache if we need to (e.g., if another request we make without caching notifies us of a delta change, we can clear the request in the default $http request).

To reference the $http default request, we simply fetch the cache through the $cacheFactory by ID:

var cache = $cacheFactory.get('$http');

With the cache in hand, we can do all the normal operations we need and want to do on it, such as retrieve the cached responses, clear items from the cache, or blow away all cached references:

// Fetch the cache for the previous request
var usersCache =
// Delete the cache entry for the 
// previous request
// Start over and remove the entire cache

Although we can reference the default cache, it is sometimes more useful to have more control over the cache and create rules around how the cache behaves. We’ll need to create a new cache to use with our requests.

Custom Cache

Telling our $http requests to make requests through our own custom cache is simple. Instead of passing a boolean true with the request, we can pass the instance of the cache.

var myCache = $cacheFactory.get('myCache');
  method: 'GET',
  url: '/api/users.json',
  cache: myCache
// Or, using the .get helper
$http.get('/api/users.json', {
  cache: myCache

Now, instead of using the default cache, $http will use our custom cache.

Setting Default Cache for $http

Although it is easy, it’s not convenient to need to pass an instance of the cache every time we want to make an $http request, especially if we’re using the same cache for every request.

We can set the cache object that $http uses by default through the $httpProvider in a .config() method on our module.

Note that in this config block we have to inject both $httpProvider and $cacheFactory.

angular.module('myApp', [])
.config(function($httpProvider, $cacheFactory) {
    $httpProvider.defaults.cache =
      $cacheFactory('myCache', {capacity: 20});

The $http service will no longer use the default cache it creates for us; it will use our own cache, which is effectively now a Least Recently Used (LRU) cache.

An LRU cache keeps only the latest number of caches based upon the capacity of the cache. That is, in our cache that has a capacity of 20, the first 20 requests will be cached, but when the 21st comes in, the least recently requested item will be deleted from the cache. The cache itself takes care of maintaining the details about what to maintain and what to remove.

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