Adding a new 'managed' authentication method to Discourse

Continuing from Future Social Authentication Improvements

We are now in the process of moving all ‘associated account’ information into a single database table. This will help to significantly reduce duplicated logic, and allow quicker development in the future. For example, migrating our core twitter logic to the new system reduced the number of lines of code from 136 to just 24 :tada:.

This post isn’t designed to be a step-by-step instruction manual for adding a new authentication provider, but it will aim to provide an overview, pointing to the relevant source code where necessary.

Implementing an authenticator

Each authenticator must implement a subclass of Auth::Authenticator. To use the new shared logic, the authenticator can instead extend Auth::ManagedAuthenticator. An example of a bare-bones implementation can be found in the core Facebook authenticator:

name, enabled? and register_middleware must be overridden by implementing classes.

:information_source: Aside: for multisite compatibility, it is important that any site-specific information is supplied to omniauth in a setup lambda, rather than being fixed at the time of definition. See all core authenticators for examples of this.

All logic to link external accounts to Discourse accounts is handled by Auth::ManagedAuthenticator. This relies on the omniauth provider returning data in the format defined in their documentation. If any manipulation of this data is required, Authenticators can override the after_authenticate method, and manipulate the auth_token as required. For example, the core Twitter authenticator removes all the extra information from the token:

Data is stored in the user_associated_accounts database table. provider_uid, info, credentials and extra are all taken directly from the data returned by omniauth.

Once an Authenticator class has been defined, it needs to be registered. This must happen early in the application’s lifecycle, and can not happen within a plugin’s after_initialize method. The minimum registration can simply contain a reference to the authenticator. In a plugin, registration can be done using the auth_provider function. For example:

auth_provider authenticator:

In core, registration takes place in discourse.rb. A full list of possible AuthProvider options can be found here. Text content can be defined using these options, but it is better to provide localisable strings in client.en.yml following the standard keys. For example:

Additional ManagedAuthenticator notes by @fantasticfears

ManagedAuthenticator in details

You might need to work on something special for authentication. And you would like to know more about ManagedAuthenticator. Basically, it has several operations, options, and controls how the data will be used.

Discourse manages user information with two controllers. Users::OmniauthCallbacksController manages the payload once OAuth2 authentication is done. after_authenticate is called here. can_connect_existing_user? is also used here.
There are some private methods you can read to understand how different data fields work.

if authenticator.can_connect_existing_user? && current_user
  @auth_result = authenticator.after_authenticate(auth, existing_account: current_user)
  @auth_result = authenticator.after_authenticate(auth)

UsersController has revoke_account which uses can_revoke? and revoke. But for the revoke method to work remotely, you need to build your own implementation.

UserAuthenticator is a service class helping authenticate (verifying email confirmation or OAuth2 path) users. after_create_account is called here.

The core logic remains at after_authenticate with Auth::Result data class. We follow data structure here. extra_data will be passed to after_create_account for creating related records.

result.extra_data = {
  provider: auth_token[:provider],
  uid: auth_token[:uid],
  info: auth_token[:info],
  extra: auth_token[:extra],
  credentials: auth_token[:credentials]

It will try to match and connects to an existing account.

You might wonder why automatic account creation is possible but there is no User.create. This is done in UsersController#create.

authentication =, session)

The user is a fresh instance will be populated by session data which is prepared by the auth provider. Trust me, it’s just magic.

Migration to the new system

To provide a seamless switch to the new system, data should be migrated from the old storage location. For core authentication providers, this may be dedicated tables. For plugins, this may be plugin_store_rows, or oauth2_user_infos. The minimum data required in a user_associated_accounts row is provider_name, provider_uid and user_id. For an example migration see:

Once the ManagedAuthenticator system has been released to the stable branch with v2.2.0, we will begin migrating official authentication plugins. At this point, a plugin_store_row migration example will be added here.


@david all the work done here is super cool. Appreciate a ton. I also got a chance to play with which is super handy.

Just one caveat, the feature doesn’t play nicely(doesn’t bring up the signup popup) with ember cli on local. I was scratching my head while writing a plugin for adding and auth provider and suddenly it occured to me to use NO_EMBER_CLI=1 and it all started working.