Realms in Zulip

Zulip allows multiple realms to be hosted on a single instance. Realms are the Zulip codebases's internal name for what we refer to in user documentation as an organization (the name "realm" comes from Kerberos).

Creating Realms

There are two main methods for creating realms.

  • Using unique link generator
  • Enabling open realm creation

Enabling Open Realm Creation

If you want anyone to be able to create new realms on your server, you can enable Open Realm Creation. This will add a Create new organization link to your Zulip homepage footer, and anyone can create a new realm by visiting this link (/create_realm). This feature is disabled by default in production instances, and can be enabled by setting OPEN_REALM_CREATION = True in settings.py.

Subdomains

A reasonable way to deploy a multi-realm Zulip server in production is to give each realm a unique subdomain. For example if the Zulip instance is hosted at zulip.example.com and the subdomain of your organization is acme you can use acme.zulip.example.com for accessing the organization. This subdomain feature is not enabled by default, since it requires additional DNS configuration. You can enable subdomains by setting the value of REALMS_HAVE_SUBDOMAINS to True in settings.py. For subdomains to work properly, you also have to change your DNS records so that the subdomains point to your Zulip installation IP. An A record with host name value * pointing to your IP should do the job.

Converting a production Zulip server from not using subdomains to using subdomains requires some setup work; contact the Zulip development community for help with this.

Working With Subdomains In Development Environment

By default, Linux does not provide a convenient way to use subdomains in your local development environment. To solve this problem, we use the zulipdev.com domain, which has a wildcard A record pointing to 127.0.0.1. When REALMS_HAVE_SUBDOMAINS = True in zproject/dev_settings.py, you should use zulipdev.com to connect to your Zulip development server instead of localhost. The default realm with the Shakespeare users has the subdomain zulip and can be accessed by visiting zulip.zulipdev.com.

If you are behind a proxy server, this method won't work. When you make a request to load zulipdev.com in your browser, the proxy server will try to get the page on your behalf. Since zulipdev.com points to 127.0.0.1 the proxy server is likely to give you a 503 error. The workaround is to disable your proxy for *.zulipdev.com. The DNS lookup should still work even if you disable proxy for *.zulipdev.com. If it doesn't you can add zulipdev.com records in /etc/hosts file. The file should look something like this.

127.0.0.1    localhost

127.0.0.1    zulipdev.com

127.0.0.1    zulip.zulipdev.com

127.0.0.1    testsubdomain.zulipdev.com

These records are also useful if you want to e.g. run the casper tests when you are not connected to the Internet.