Django app for managing temporary session-based users.
Django Visitor Pass
Django app for managing temporary session-based users.
This project currently supports Python 3.8+, Django 3.2+.
This package has been extracted out of
django-request-token as a specific use
case - that of temporary site "visitors". It enables a type of ephemeral user
who is neither anonymous nor authenticated, but somewhere in between - known for
the duration of their session.
We've been using
django-request-token for a while, and have issued over
100,000 tokens. A recent analysis showed two main use cases - single-use "magic
links" for logging people in, and a more involved case where we invite
unregistered users on to the platform to perform some action - providing a
reference perhaps, or collaborating on something with (registered) users. The
former we have extracted out into
django-magic-links - and this package
addresses the latter.
What is a "visitor"?
In the standard Django model you have the concept of an
AnonymousUser, and an
User - someone who has logged in. We have a third, intermediate,
type of user - which we have historically referred to as a "Temp User", which is
someone we know of, but who has not yet registered.
The canonical example of this is leaving a reference: user A on the site invites
user B to leave a reference for them. They (A) give us B's name and email, we
invite them to click on a link and fill out a form. That's it. We store their
name and email so that we can contact them, but it's ephemeral - we don't need
it, and we don't use it. Storing this data in the User table made sense (as it
has name and email fields), but it led to a lot of
user_type=TEMP munging to
determine who is a 'real' user on the site.
What we really want is to 'stash' this information somewhere outside of the auth system, and to enable these temp users to have restricted access to specific areas of the application, for a limited period, after which we can forget about them and clear out the data.
We call these users "visitors".
Use Case - request a reference
Fred is a registered user on the site, and would like a reference from Ginger, his dance partner.
- Fred fills out the reference request form:
Scope: REFERENCE_REQUEST [hidden field]
We save this information, and generate a unique link which we send to Ginger, along with the message.
Ginger clicks on the link, at which point we recognise that this is someone we know about - a "visitor" - but who is in all other respects an
We stash the visitor info in the standard session object - so that even though Ginger is not authenticated, we know who she is, and more importantly we know why she's here (REFERENCE_REQUEST).
Ginger submits the reference - which may be a multi-step process, involving GETs and POSTs, all of which are guarded by a decorator that restricts access to visitors with the appropriate Scope (just like
At the final step we can (optionally) choose to clear the session info immediately, effectively removing all further access.
This code has been extracted out of
django-request-token and simplified. It
stores the visitor data in the
Visitor model, and on each successful first
request (where the token is 'processed' and the session filled) we record a
VisitorLog record. This includes HTTP request info (session_key, referer,
client IP, user-agent). This information is for analytics only - for instance
determining whether links are being shared.
The app works by adding some attributes to the
objects. The user has a boolean
user.is_visitor property, and the request has
request.visitor property which is the relevant
This is done via two bits of middleware,
This middleware looks for a visitor token (uuid) on the incoming request
querystring. If it finds a token, it will look up the
Visitor object, add it
to the request, and then set the
request.user.is_visitor attribute. It sets
the properties from the request, and has no interaction with the session. This
happens in the second piece of middleware.
This middleware must come after the
VisitorRequestMiddleware (it will blow up
if it can't access
request.visitor). It has two responsibilities:
If the request object has a visitor object on it, then it must have been set by the request middleware on the current request - so it's a new visitor, and we immediately stash it in the
request.visitoris None, then we don't have a new visitor, but there may be one already stashed in the
request.session, in which case we want to add it on the to the request.
Note: splitting this in two seems over-complicated, but because we are moving values from request-into-session-into-request it's a lot simpler to run two completely separate passes.
VISITOR_SESSION_KEY: session key used to stash visitor info (default:
VISITOR_SESSION_EXPIRY: session expiry in seconds (default: 0 - meaning that it will expire when the browser is closed.) This settings applies as the default for all new visitor objects, but can be overridden on a per-object basis.
VISITOR_QUERYSTRING_KEY: querystring param used on tokenised links (default:
Once you have the package configured, you can use the
decorator to protect views that you want to restricted to visitors only. The
decorator requires a
scope kwarg, which must match the
set when the
Visitor object is created.
By default the decorator will allow visitors with the correct scope only. If you
want more control over the access, you can pass a callable as the
# allow authenticated users as well as visitors
@user_is_visitor(scope="foo", bypass_func=lambda r: r.user.is_staff)
If you don't care about the scope (you should), you can use
"*" to allow all
@user_is_visitor(scope="*") # see also SCOPE_ANY
Alternatively, for more complex use cases, you can ignore the decorator and just inspect the request itself:
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