Been following this thread a bit, and thought there's a unique characteristic of CouchDB here that's being overlooked that should allow us to address this problem in potentially a unique way.

There's basically 2 camps (dare I say religions) here:
1) Traditional DB folks CouchDB's _users is special an should be reserved for "applications as clients" and that end users should be stored differently and separately.  Most clients that connect to the db will some application that will manage data access.  App logic will decide who gets to read/write - not the user who is actually connecting to the DB; their the conductor. 
2) App developers: Who just want an HTTP API to save user info, utilize for authentication, session management, and access control - they don't want to rebuild this for every app, and certainly aren't interested in having to write an additional server-side tier to make this work securely. Real people use apps, real people are the ones who actually have where with all to fill out a form and place it into some storage area, read some bit of privileged or non-privileged info, etc... they don't really give a rip about some middle-man user who's logic decides if they have the right credentials to access.

CouchDB is a unique product: It can act as both a HTTP application server and an indexed document store. I can't think of another solution that does this so elegantly. Because of this, I think _users should be treated differently than a traditional DB that uses JDBC/Named Pipe/ODBC/pick your db connectivity poison to access the DB. Ultimately, in both camps, users are being used to restrict the level of access to documents.  CouchDB for the most part allows simple apps to 'eliminate the middle tier', which is what the traditional db camp is trying, i think, to argue is less secure, and thus one needs to mimic the middle tier and use isolation of data to protect that _users db. The reality the way the CouchDB user model, IMHO can actually be more secure, because the same user who is connecting to the app via web, can be the exact same user that reads/writes to the document store... no more middle tier application with god like powers having to mediate user permissions.

CouchDB, for the most part is very orthogonally designed.  Configuration / Users / Replication / Document DB are all essentially stored/treated in the same manner (or at least shares a common API) that is more or less schema-less (config is a tad different in that it persists to an INI file). The _users db should continue to follow the same schema-less design it has been; documents to be used for authentication should need to follow nothing more than a duck typed convention any extra data should just be treated as noise to parts of the core app that don't need it. If you want to store additional info in user document, go for it - authentication should just ignore it - its not hurting anyone, really.

Those arguing about making the _users db holy by hiding it completely and limiting what you can store in the object breaks the fantastic orthogonality that CouchDB enjoys today.

My vote? Continue keeping CouchDB orthogonal, in fact make it even more so! IMHO - I think being able to store additional data that can be retrieved via userCtx would be good; however I think there should be a flag that is used when querying to include the extra data,(like include_docs=true, but maybe full_userCtx=true)?.  As an app developer - you shouldn't need access to all of the users additional attributes for every request.  That is potentially a lot of extra data (equates to memory use/etc) that would go unused on probably 90% of the requests made.  The middle tier / traditional db guys & gals are happy - they can still do their own thing through god and demi-god apps and manage access via their middle-tier (god help them!); and the CouchApp guys & gals can go on with their own thing and leverage built in _users functionality within CouchDB and get them access to the additional userCtx as needed in their list/show/etc functions (heck they are already double-dipping on the appserver / db combo).


Jim Klo
Senior Software Engineer
Center for Software Engineering
SRI International
t. @nsomnac

On Aug 30, 2012, at 8:13 AM, Gabriel Mancini wrote:

I think this can be flexible to offer some aditional information as
optional feature in userCtx.
and with possibility to create a design document with validation login and
use this info to auth/reject the user.
this way we can trigger an 403 http error. this is more "REST" approach i

On Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 9:14 AM, john.tiger <>wrote:

On 08/30/2012 05:28 AM, Robert Newson wrote:

In CouchDB 1.2.0 mandatory filters have been added when accessing _users
such that no user can see another users document. So, you can allow signup
(jquery.couch.js includes such a function) safely.

As for expanding the userCtx, it's not something we're rejecting out of
hand or to annoy you. The userCtx object is provided to allow authorization
decisions and the CouchDB security model is that these decisions are made
on the user's name and/or the user's roles. Any additional information in
there could also be used for authorization purposes which would alter the
security model. Now, that might not be a bad thing, but it's not something
to be done lightly.

Further, practical points to consider. The name and roles are needed
often and so they are stored in an in-memory cache. The larger you make
userCtx, the less caching will be possible and performance will suffer. If
you then further consider a sharded CouchDB system (after the BigCouch
merge) then the user information you need, on a cache miss, might be on
another machine.

The _users db exists to provide authentication/authorization services to
CouchDB, it's unfortunate that it's also a CouchDB database as well as this
leads to misconceptions. Most RDBMS's use system databases to provide a
similar service and, likewise, don't expand those things for application

from a good practice standpoint, Robert and Benoit are correct.  from a
coding standpoint, maybe someone has a ready made example of a view that
shows a check for auth/auth then a query on the associated user doc.  Then
the reverse, a post that creates a user and the user doc from the one form.
It's fairly simple stuff but would save time and effort for everyone who
is using something like this (many apps).   This "how-to" could go into the
couch guide or simply a couch how-to or cookbook wiki, something Couch


On 30 Aug 2012, at 12:06, Aliaksandr Barysiuk wrote:

We have a simple form for user registration with standard fields: fname,
lname, email, avatar url, etc. We want to have some section on the page
that shows some of these field after user successfully logged in (like
'Logged in as $fname + #lname', show avatar). Nothing special. For me
userCtx is perfect place to store such information, because logged user
always have access to it (we don't need to make any additional call). It's
simple. What is the reason to keep user information separately?

I have already discuss this question with R.Newson and i can't say that
i'm satisfied with the answers. Of course to create new user (signup) you
need to be an admin, but we cannot specify admin credential on the client
because everyone can use them, right? Other option is to open _usersdb for
reading and writing which is crazy and totally unacceptable. As a result
now we use node.js with JSONP call that sent all user info to node server
and there user entry is saved into _usersdb with admin credentials. Or we
need to write own authorization logic and use Couchdb as usual storage
which may takes a lot of time. Signup, reset password functions - usual
operations on every web site.

Conclusion: couchdb makes development of web apps very convinient. But
user management is the important part of each web app and now we HAVE to
use external system (node.js in our case). It would be great if Couchdb can
handle it without any other service.

PS. Sorry for long posts. I have a lot of thoughts to write down)


On 30/08/12 12:56, Benoit Chesneau wrote:

On Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 8:22 AM, Aliaksandr Barysiuk
<>  wrote:

I don't understand your position. Now Couchdb user management is in
rudimentary state. It even doesn't allow to create new user easily
opening access to _users db or using external service). I understand
Couchdb developers bothers more about performance, scalability etc.
But you
totally forgot about simple cases. I'm sure that a big percent of web
use user management. So what is the problem to develop convenient
authentication/authorization system? It is normal to have extra
in users db.

Well you can't put extra informations in the postgresql user database.
The question is more why do you want such extra information in this

- Is this because you don't have access to couchdb internally in your
- Because you need to be an admin to create a user? (ie lacking of a
permission to create a user for anyone)
- other? (and why in this case)

And it's also normal that people want to see this information

in session. Using roles for that just shows you that the problem
exists. And
it is not a solution 'fix this bug' since it provides easiest way do
Couchdb doesnt' provide out-of-the-box. And even you fix roles to have
strings it is not a big deal to concatenate all my data and put it as
in a role. It just adds some extra work on parsing that.

Everything is possible. But doing it the clean way is hard. I do think
that roles should be anything but roles. ie things to manage

Conclusion: I don't want to reinvent the wheel and develop own
authentication/authorization mechanism. The existing works well except
- add extra info to _users and being able to see it in the userCtx
- add signup function to Session API

Why sending a user doc isn't enough?

I'm sure these things make Couchdb better and easy to use for


On 29/08/12 23:05, Benoit Chesneau wrote:

On Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 9:54 PM, Gabriel Mancini
<>  wrote:

but can be nice have sume enable/disable behaviour for user. We could
have anything once partial updates and fetch  will be here. But it's
not the
case right now :)

- benoit

On Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 4:39 PM, Benoit Chesneau

On Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 9:24 PM, Dave Cottlehuber<>

On 29 August 2012 08:21, Benoit Chesneau<>

On Tuesday, August 28, 2012, Aliaksandr Barysiuk wrote:


We store some extra information in _users db and now we are
looking a


to populate session.userCtx with these extra values. Is it possible


Thank you


user db isn't done for that. this db exists to authenticate
users and


that. You should better save the profiles in another db. Also
there is


such things like session in couchdb by itself.


Any good reasons why we couldn't / shouldn't support something that
eases this pain? Putting in a second db simply to store some basic
profile info seems daft. And as others have found, you can store
anything you like in roles.

Well I think that storing anything in a role is a bug. We shouldn't
allow that and it should be fixed. Only a list of strings is
in the roles member. We should enforce that.

For security reasons I don't think it's good to have more data in
doc other than the login, roles, password and possibly anything
permissions ( some would argue that the users db shouldn't exist at
all). You don't protect the same the access to a user doc or a a
profile doc. And the way it is designed right now  prevent any use
this profile by others. Only the user or an admin can have access to
the doc. Which is good imo.

- benoit

Gabriel Mancini de Campos
Arquiteto de Soluções

+55 (11) 9449-1706
São Paulo - SP - Brasil

Gabriel Mancini de Campos
Arquiteto de Soluções

+55 (11) 9449-1706
São Paulo - SP - Brasil