Create an OAuth Server

A guide on creating an OAuth server, both OAuth 1 and OAuth 2, in a flavor of Flask with the help of Flask-OAuthlib.

I've searched the whole internet on how to create an OAuth server or provider, but failed every time. Sometimes it was the language that stopped me, and sometimes it was something that didn't even work.

And one day, I found Flask-OAuthProvider, which was a great piece of work. But it only implements the OAuth 1 server, and I need the OAuth 2 part at that time. This was the first time I met OAuthlib.

OAuthlib is the future of OAuth for Python.

A quote from Kenneth Reitz, and I can't agree more. It is really great and RFC-aware. However, it is undervalued with fewer than 450 stars on GitHub. The code of OAuthlib is well written, so is the documentation, and so is the test cases. You should star it. Everything is perfect, except its fame. That's why I sent a pull request to, making it known by the world.

OAuthlib is far more brilliant than rauth. It is a generic, spec-compliant library, without any specific HTTP request library. It focuses on the definition of RFCs.

Sponsored by

This blog post is sponsored by Auth0.

If you want to quickly add secure authentication to Flask, feel free to check out Auth0's Python API SDK and free plan at


It has been 6 months since I started this project named as Flask-OAuthlib, which is a successor of Flask-OAuthProvider and Flask-OAuth.

With the great work of OAuthlib, I finished the client part in 4 days, and made it a replacement of Flask-OAuth. It is well designed with a good intention for compatability of the non-standard oauth servers. If you are still using Flask-OAuth, I recommend you take this project into account.

I completed the OAuth 2 provider part at version 0.2.0, OAuth 1 provider at version 0.3.0. And now this project has moved to version 0.4.0. So I think it is the right time to write some introduction now.

Thanks for the help of Ib Lundgren who is the maintainer of OAuthlib. Thanks for the contribution of Randy Topliffe and Mackenzie B. Thompson. You can find them on the authors list.

Terminology & Knowledge

There are knowledge and terminologies that you should know. We will build a server in Flask web framework, it is okay even if you haven't used Flask. You can still learn something that worth the time.

Since you are going to build an OAuth server, you may need some knowledge on these terminologies.

  • client: also known as application, for example Twitter for iPhone is a client
  • resource owner: it is usually the user of a website, for example me on Twitter:
  • access token: this is the key for a client to get resource from a resource owner

There are differences between OAuth 1 and OAuth 2. A client will need some temporary tokens for exchanging the final access tokens. They do have their own terminologies.

OAuth 1

OAuth 1 needs more temporary tokens, it has a request token, a verifier, a timestamp and a nonce.

  • request token: designed for exchanging the final access token
  • verifier: designed for verifying the current authenticated user
  • timestamp: a timestamp of current request
  • nonce: a random token that makes current request unique

All these messy things are designed for authentication and security.

OAuth 2

OAuth 2 is much easier, we do need only one grant token for exchanging the final access token.

OAuth 2 requires SSL over the connection for security, it simplifies the way for getting access token. However, SSL is also suggested on OAuth 1 in your final production.

Writing a Server

We need a normal server with a user system before starting the OAuth part. Any site which has OAuth service has a user system.

Since this is just a demo, we will not create something that big. Let's think about it, we need a user system, we need it because we want to identify the current user. But we can skip the registration part.

This is a basic, simple, yet functional server:

# coding: utf-8

from flask import Flask
from flask import session, request
from flask import render_template, redirect
from flask_sqlalchemy import SQLAlchemy

app = Flask(__name__, template_folder='templates')
app.debug = True
app.secret_key = 'secret'
    'SQLALCHEMY_DATABASE_URI': 'sqlite:///db.sqlite',
db = SQLAlchemy(app)

class User(db.Model):
    id = db.Column(db.Integer, primary_key=True)
    username = db.Column(db.String(40), unique=True)

def current_user():
    if 'id' in session:
        uid = session['id']
        return User.query.get(uid)
    return None

@app.route('/', methods=('GET', 'POST'))
def home():
    if request.method == 'POST':
        username = request.form.get('username')
        user = User.query.filter_by(username=username).first()
        if not user:
            user = User(username=username)
        session['id'] =
        return redirect('/')
    user = current_user()
    return render_template('home.html', user=user)

if __name__ == '__main__':

And this is the template of home.html:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  {% if user %}
    <p>You are {{ user.username }}</p>
  {% else %}
    <p>You are not authenticated</p>
  {% endif %}

  <p>Type any username:</p>
  <form method="post" action="/">
    <input type="text" name="username">
    <input type="submit">

You can download these files from this commit#6cfb8db. And I will continue working on this repo, browser the revisions for more details.

Creating OAuth 1 Server

Before implementing the actual OAuth part, we need to define an OAuth 1 Client. A client requires client_key, client_secret, redirect_uris, default_redirect_uri and default_realms. Find more in the Documentation.

All clients are bound to a developer (developer is a user). The developer need to fill a form and describe the application. In this simple demo, we will skip this part. It will create a client when you visit /client.

from flask import jsonify
from import gen_salt

class Client(db.Model):
    client_key = db.Column(db.String(40), primary_key=True)
    client_secret = db.Column(db.String(55), index=True, nullable=False)

    # creator of the client
    user_id = db.Column(db.ForeignKey(''))
    user = db.relationship('User')
    _realms = db.Column(db.Text)
    _redirect_uris = db.Column(db.Text)

    def redirect_uris(self):
        if self._redirect_uris:
            return self._redirect_uris.split()
        return []

    def default_redirect_uri(self):
        return self.redirect_uris[0]

    def default_realms(self):
        if self._realms:
            return self._realms.split()
        return []

def client():
    user = current_user()
    if not user:
        return redirect('/')
    item = Client(
    return jsonify(

You can find the whole new code at commit#2cafa62. Now, run the script and visit /client.

Implement OAuth 1 Provider

It is time to create a provider now. However, before we initialize a provider, we need to update the configuration.

    'OAUTH1_PROVIDER_KEY_LENGTH': (10, 100),

Because we are developing on a local machine, it would be easier for us to implement it over HTTP. This is why we set OAUTH1_PROVIDER_ENFORCE_SSL to False. After this, we can create a provider:

from flask_oauthlib.provider import OAuth1Provider
oauth = OAuth1Provider(app)

def load_client(client_key):
    return Client.query.filter_by(client_key=client_key).first()

Check code at commit#78f6cf5.

There will be lots of code, and they would flush this article. In this case, I would keep them in a repo, and create a revision every time a milestone finished. You need to follow the links to view the changes.

The next step is creating request token and verifier, we did this by following the documentation of Request Token and Verifier.

Like request token and verifier, we mix timestamp and nonce together. Find out how we create timestamp and nonce. This is done with the help of documentation on Timestamp and Nonce.

We will finish all the data models when access token is created.

The next big thing is the handlers - how we handle the authorization flow, the request token and access token. Check commit#55664c4.

In this commit, we implemented all required handlers. And we also fixed some bugs, added a logger for debugging. There was a change in /client handler, we added a redirect uri data to the model, and we would use it later.

Now that we have finished the authorization part of OAuth 1 server, we need a client to verify it. We created a client with Flask-OAuthlib itself at commit#f8b1d09.

Let's have a game. Start your provider server with:

$ python

We visit and fill a username. And then we visit, take the client key and client secret, and modify our script with the key and secret. Now, we can start the client server with:

$ python

We visit http://localhost:8000/, everything should work correctly. We will be redirected to a confirm page, if we choose yes, client will obtain a pair of access token and secret. If anything wrong happens, don't hesitate to tell me. You can also debug it yourself. We enabled the logging for Flask-OAuthlib so that you can debug easily.

The last part of this tutorial on OAuth 1 is protecting user resources. It is easy with a decorator require_oauth:

def me(req):
    user = req.user
    return jsonify(username=user.username)


def me():
    user = request.oauth.user
    return jsonify(username=user.username)

This req parameter is an oauth request object, it contains many useful data. You can learn more about it at Protect Resource.

Now, find the final at commit#ac3b88d This commit added a tokengetter, and fixed some bugs I created. After the client obtained an access token, visit http://localhost:8000/, and you will see the information of current user.

There are more works we should do, but we will finish it right now. Since this is a simple tutorial, it will not cover any advanced skills. However, I would give some suggestions at the end of this article.

Creating OAuth 2 Server

I created OAuth 2 provider in Flask-OAuthlib before OAuth 1 provider. That means I designed the API for OAuth 2 provider first, and OAuth 1 provider shares the same API with OAuth 2 provider.

The setup of OAuth 2 server is the same as above. First, we created a basic simple server with a user system. You can find the code at commit#d1e3b6d.

Then we created a Client model and a client handler. Here are the differences, Client for OAuth 2 use client_id instead of client_key, default_scopes instead of default_realms, and it has a client type (which is public in this case). See the code at commit#3f1c8f2. We created the Client following the documentation on Client (Application).

Implement OAuth 2 Provider

The next step is the implementation for OAuth 2 Provider since we have finished all preparation works. It is the same as OAuth 1 provider, except we don't have to make any configuration. via commit#3b60b5d.

from flask_oauthlib.provider import OAuth2Provider
oauth = OAuth2Provider(app)

def load_client(client_id):
    return Client.query.filter_by(client_id=client_id).first()

Then we would create Grant Token and Access Token , and their getters and setters. It is much simpler than OAuth 1, since we don't have to create timestamp and nonce.

OAuth 2 has no Request Token. The handlers are simple too. What you need is a token handler that handles response with access token or refresh token, and an authorize handler for user to confirm the request.

def access_token():
    return None

Flask-OAuthlib has done all the tricks, you don't need to handle the data yourself. However, you can return things that matter to you. They are advanced skills, and I will not cover it here.

Changes can be found at commit#cbc3e12.

Now it is time for testing. We would create a to do the job. Here is a little trick:

import os
os.environ['DEBUG'] = 'true'


import os
os.environ['OAUTHLIB_INSECURE_TRANSPORT'] = 'true'

Remember what I have said? OAuth 2 requires SSL all the time, since we are developing on a local machine, we don't have HTTPS, As a result, it is hard to meet this requirement. Fortunately, OAuthlib has a mechanism for us to debug on HTTP, that is the environ variable DEBUG. (Which is contributed by me).

When we code, we make mistakes. You have to keep an eye on the error stack, find out what is wrong, and fix it. Yes, I did fix some bugs in this commit.

And now start the server and client and visit http://localhost:8000/. You will finally get an access token.

We do OAuth, because we want to protect some resources. This is the last part of this tutorial on OAuth 2 server. We protect them with a decorator @oauth.require_oauth, and this decorator will add an additional paramter to the handler.

def me():
    return jsonify(username=request.oauth.user.username)

The demo is finished at commit#b30339e. Check out the source code and enjoy it yourself.

References & Other Resources

I must confess that it is not easy to setup an OAuth server. You need to learn lots of concepts for understanding. This tutorial don't teach you the realms and scopes stuff - you can learn these parts from the Flask-OAuthlib documentation.

We did waste lots of time on creating the models and handlers. In fact we don't have to do such boring things. A demo is just, a demo. I don't mean to set limitations, and force you to use SQLAlchemy. There are chances that you want to use redis instead.

That's why I put the SQLAlchemy stuff in the contrib module. It is not finished yet, and I need your contribution. Find out what's going on in contrib.

And one more thing, it would be better if we put those temporary tokens in cache, for example request token, verifier, timestamp, nonce and grant token.

Remember that every link is important, if you miss one, you may miss the target. Chances are that you've already lost your patience.


This blog post is sponsored by Auth0.

If you want to quickly add secure authentication to Flask, feel free to check out Auth0's Python API SDK and free plan at