Authentication in the development environment

This page documents special notes that are useful for configuring Zulip’s various authentication methods for testing in a development environment.

Testing OAuth in development

Among the many authentication methods we support, a server can be configured to allow users to sign in with their Google accounts or GitHub accounts, using the OAuth protocol.

Because these authentication methods involve an interaction between Zulip, an external service, and the user’s browser, and particularly because browsers can (rightly!) be picky about the identity of sites you interact with, the preferred way to set them up in a development environment is to set up the real Google and GitHub to process auth requests for your development environment.

The steps to do this are a variation of the steps documented in The main differences here are driven by the fact that is in Git, so it can be inconvenient to put secrets there. In development, we allow providing those values in the untracked file zproject/dev-secrets.conf, using the standard lower-case naming convention for that file.

Here are the full procedures for dev:


  • Visit and navigate to “APIs & services” > “Credentials”. Create a “Project” which will correspond to your dev environment.
  • Navigate to “APIs & services” > “Library”, and find the “Identity Toolkit API”. Choose “Enable”.
  • Return to “Credentials”, and select “Create credentials”. Choose “OAuth client ID”, and follow prompts to create a consent screen, etc. For “Authorized redirect URIs”, fill in .
  • You should get a client ID and a client secret. Copy them. In dev-secrets.conf, set social_auth_google_key to the client ID and social_auth_google_secret to the client secret.


  • Register an OAuth2 application with GitHub at one of or Specify as the callback URL.
  • You should get a page with settings for your new application, showing a client ID and a client secret. In dev-secrets.conf, set social_auth_github_key to the client ID and social_auth_github_secret to the client secret.

When SSL is required

Some OAuth providers (such as Facebook) require HTTPS on the callback URL they post back to, which isn’t supported directly by the Zulip development environment. If you run a remote Zulip development server, we have instructions for an nginx reverse proxy with SSL that you can use for your development efforts.

Testing LDAP in development

Before Zulip 2.0, one of the more common classes of bug reports with Zulip’s authentication was users having trouble getting LDAP authentication working. The root cause was because setting up a local LDAP server for development was difficult, which meant most developers were unable to work on fixing even simple issues with it.

We solved this problem for our unit tests long ago by using the popular fakeldap library. And in 2018, we added convenient support for using fakeldap in the Zulip development environment as well, so that you can go through all the actual flows for LDAP configuration.

  • To enable fakeldap, set FAKE_LDAP_MODE in zproject/ to one of the following options. For more information on these modes, refer to our production docs:
    • a: If users’ email addresses are in LDAP and used as username.
    • b: If LDAP only has usernames but email addresses are of the form
    • c: If LDAP usernames are completely unrelated to email addresses.
  • To disable fakeldap, set FAKE_LDAP_MODE back to None.
  • In all fakeldap configurations, users’ fake LDAP passwords are equal to their usernames (e.g. for, the password is ldapuser1).
  • FAKE_LDAP_NUM_USERS in zproject/ can be used to specify the number of LDAP users to be added. The default value for the number of LDAP users is 8.

Testing avatar and custom profile field synchronization

The fakeldap LDAP directories we use in the development environment are generated by the code in zerver/lib/, and contain data one might want to sync, including avatars and custom profile fields.

We also have configured AUTH_LDAP_USER_ATTR_MAP in zproject/ to sync several of those fields. For example:

  • Modes a and b will set the user’s avatar on account creation and update it when sync_ldap_user_data is run.
  • Mode b is configured to automatically have the birthday and Phone number custom profile fields populated/synced.
  • Mode a is configured to deactivate/reactivate users whose accounts are disabled in LDAP when sync_ldap_user_data is run. (Note that you’ll likely need to edit zerver/lib/ to ensure there are some accounts configured to be disabled).

Automated testing

For our automated tests, we generally configure custom LDAP data for each individual test, because that generally means one can understand exactly what data is being used in the test without looking at other resources. It also gives us more freedom to edit the development environment directory without worrying about tests.