Setting up OpenID on Rails

Until last week, GlitterGallery used devise under the hood for it’s traditional authentication system. This week, I replaced that with one based on OpenID. This post covers the strategy I followed. If you’re looking forward to setting up an only-OpenID based authentication solution on your Rails application, I recommend reading this because from my experience, the available documentation is quite old and limited.

remove existing authentication system completely

If your app has no authentication at the moment, you may skip this section. If your application uses devise for authentication, check out this thread to remove devise. I don’t have experience with other auth systems, but my guess would be that removing authlogic and others should be similar.

add the new dependencies

We will work with JanRain’s library for OpenID on ruby applications, and a wrapper to make the process simpler. Add the following to your Gemfile:

gem 'ruby-openid'
gem 'open_id_authentication'

Now run bundle from inside your app directory:

$ bundle install 

add a sessions controller

The idea is that every time a user logs in to our application, we start a new session. To cover that logic, here’s what we’ll begin with:

class SessionsController < ApplicationController
  def new
    # spits out a login form to start session

  def create
    # contains the logic for handling the stuff
    # obtained from the login process

  def destroy
    # contains the logic for destroying the user
    # session (logout)

add a sessions resource to routes

We’ll now add a singleton resource to the application routes (config/routes.rb). Notice that we skip the edit functionality because we don’t need it:

resource :session, only: [:new, :create, :destroy]

add a view for the login form for new sessions

Note that I haven’t added any fancy formatting here. OpenID recommends additional formatting guidelines, so you might want to read through this.

<%= form_tag(session_url) do %>
  <%= text_field_tag "openid_identifier" %>
  <%= submit_tag 'Sign in' %>
<% end %>

create a user model

If you already have one, you’ll have to add an accessible attribute field for the identity url:

attr_accessible :identity_url

Also remember to ensure that you have performed a migration to add an identity_url column to the user’s table.

create the login logic

Alright, here comes the fun part. Here’s what I did to create the session once a user has entered his OpenID url on the login.

def create
  authenticate_with_open_id do |result, identity_url|
    if result.successful?
      # FIXME - needs normalizing before
      # checking for the identity_url
      unless user = User.find_by_identity_url(identity_url)
        user = User.create(identity_url: identity_url)
      sign_in user
      render 'new'

#FIXME – Before you save the identity_url into the User model, it’s good to normalize it, so all identity_url’s are consistent. For example, ( and ( shouldn’t be treated as two different urls. I’ll show how, soon.

add helper methods

Now we’ll have to write helper methods to facilitate the sign_in. How you do it depends on your plan, here’s how I did:

module SessionsHelper
  def sign_in(user)
    cookies.permanent[:remember_token] = user.remember_token
    self.current_user = user
    redirect_to dashboard_url
  def current_user=(user)
    @current_user = user

  def current_user
    @current_user ||= User.find_by_remember_token(cookies[:remember_token])
  def signed_in?
  def logout
    self.current_user= nil

create the signout logic

This is pretty straightforward. If you signed in following my process, then signing out is just a matter of clearing the permanent cookie.

def destroy
  redirect_to root_url
def logout
  self.current_user= nil

include the helper in the application controller

Finally, don’t remember to include the helper method in the ApplicationController (app/controllers/application_controller.rb).

include SessionsHelper

With this, you pretty much have a neat OpenID system running. Of course, there’s a lot that can be added to this in the form of SReg extensions, but my goal was to keep the process simple.

Cheers! Remember to share feedback and as if you run into problems!


11 thoughts on “Setting up OpenID on Rails

  1. i really wanna know, about:
    it just to put
    resource :session, only: [:new, :create, :destroy] on routes
    and where i should put
    attr_accessible :identity_url

    i’m newbie in this stuff

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