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a url shortening django app

Project description

burl (brief url) is a URL shortener written in Django. It has a simple REST API, allowing it to integrate seamlessly as a microservice in many application architectures.


burl implements a URL shortening service by allowing authenticated users to create a brief URL pointing to any other URL. When creating a brief URL, the user may specify the brief url, which must be globally unique, or the system will generate a random one. When the brief URL is requested from burl, it returns a redirect to the original URL.

There are two primary interfaces to burl:

  1. the built-in django admin at /admin;
  2. a minimal restful API based on django rest framework (see /api/v1/swagger).

New brief URLs can only be created by authenticated users (via session auth or token auth).

burl uses hashids for automatically generated brief URLs. Each auto-generated BURL is created using a random salt and a random number passed into the hashids library. This value is then stored in the database. The random BURLs generated in this manner should be sufficiently difficult to reverse engineer.



burl requires python 3.6 or newer. Python 2 is not supported.

burl should run anywhere python will run, most easily on a unix-like system.


burl requires a postgresql 9.4+ database.

You will need a C compiler, python header files, and postgres development libraries on your system to build the postgres psycopg2 module needed for postgresql.


burl is made to be installed via the standard python installation methods. You can install it as simply as running:

pip install burl

It is recommended, however, that you install burl in a virtualenv or Docker container. For development, in particular, the easiest way to set everything up is to use pipenv (see below).

Once you have installed burl, you will need to create a database for its use. The default configuration expects a database called burl, owned by a user named burl, with a password specified in the environment variable $BURL_POSTGRES_PASSWORD. You can alter these settings by overriding the django DATABASES configuration dictionary in your burlrc (see below).

Once your database is configured, run the database migrations to create the tables:

burl-manager migrate

Then create a new superuser:

burl-manager createsuperuser

Now you should be ready to run burl! You can run a test/development server by running burl-manager runserver to ensure that everything is working. In production, you should deploy behind a WSGI server.


burl adds two extra layers of configuration on top of the default Django settings mechanism.

Configuration Notes


If you want working email (e.g. for password resets) the only supported option at this time is to use sendgrid. Set the environment variable BURL_SENDGRID_API_KEY to enable sendgrid support. Otherwise all email is printed to the console and never sent.

Environment Variables

Required Environment Variables

Per the 12-factor app, secrets are read from environment variables. The following environment variables must be set:


There are a variety of ways you can set these variables, using your system’s init system, or your organization’s infrastructure secrets management tools.

Failing to set these variables will raise an ImproperlyConfigured exception.

Optional Environment Variables

Shown here with default values:


Configuration File

burl is also configurable via an external configuration file; it will try each of the following paths in order, and will use the first file it finds:

  1. /etc/burl/burlrc
  2. $HOME/.config/burl/burlrc
  3. $HOME/etc/burl/burlrc

The burlrc file is loaded as a python module, after all other django settings are loaded. Settings configured in burlrc will override previously-defined settings. burlrc can contain arbitrary python code, just like any Django settings module; and just like Django settings modules, only variables in ALL_CAPS are loaded.


Standard Python

burl is a straightforward django app, with nothing fancy.

You can deploy burl with any WSGI-compliant web server. Running gunicorn as the backend WSGI server, with an nginx reverse proxy in front of it, is a common and well-supported configuration.

Deploying Django has some generic information about deploying django applications that you may find useful if you are new to this stack.


The included Dockerfile builds a container that bundles burl with gunicorn and exposes gunicorn on port 8000. It builds with uid 65432 by default, which you can change on the docker build command line, e.g.:

docker build --build-arg uid=23456 -t burl .

This container does not include postgres or nginx. You will need postgres to run burl, and you will want to put nginx in front of the container.

Once you have a built container, it can be activated as follows:

docker run -dit -p 8000:8000 --env-file /etc/burl/env --add-host=dbhost: \
    --restart unless-stopped burl:latest burl


burl uses a modern python toolchain, consisting of:

  • pipenv for managing dependencies,
  • pbr build system,
  • docker support,
  • semantic version numbers,
  • git flow branching scheme.

To start coding, first install pipenv, then clone this repo and run pipenv install -d. This will set up a virtualenv, install all of the dependencies, and install burl in editable mode. You should now be able to run commands like pipenv shell, pipenv run burl-manager test, etc.

When using pipenv you can make use of a .env file in the source root, and set the requisite environment variables (above) there. This file is ignored in .gitignore and local to your environment.



burl was not developed using TDD, but has reasonable test coverage. Tests are located in the standard places for django applications. New PRs should include relevant tests whenever possible.

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