Django Channels based WebSocket GraphQL server with Graphene-like subscriptions





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Django Channels based WebSocket GraphQL server with Graphene-like subscriptions

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  • WebSocket-based GraphQL server implemented on the Django Channels v2.
  • WebSocket protocol is compatible with Apollo GraphQL client.
  • Graphene-like subscriptions.
  • All GraphQL requests are processed concurrently (in parallel).
  • Subscription notifications delivered in the order they were issued.
  • Optional subscription activation message can be sent to a client. This is useful to avoid race conditions on the client side. Consider the case when client subscribes to some subscription and immediately invokes a mutations which triggers this subscription. In such case the subscription notification can be lost, cause these subscription and mutation requests are processed concurrently. To avoid this client shall wait for the subscription activation message before sending such mutation request.
  • Customizable notification strategies:
    • A subscription can be put to one or many subscription groups. This allows to granularly notify only selected clients, or, looking from the client's perspective - to subscribe to some selected source of events. For example, imaginary subscription "OnNewMessage" may accept argument "user" so subscription will only trigger on new messages from the selected user.
    • Notification can be suppressed in the subscription resolver method publish. For example, this is useful to avoid sending self-notifications.
  • All GraphQL "resolvers" run in a threadpool so they never block the server itself and may communicate with database or perform other blocking tasks.
  • Resolvers (including subscription's subscribe & publish) can be represented both as synchronous or asynchronous (async def) methods.
  • Subscription notifications can be sent from both synchronous and asynchronous contexts. Just call MySubscription.broadcast() or await MySubscription.broadcast() depending on the context.
  • Clients for the GraphQL WebSocket server:
    • AIOHTTP-based client.
    • Client for unit test based on the Django Channels testing communicator.
  • Supported Python 3.6 and newer (tests run on 3.6, 3.7, and 3.8).
  • Works on Linux, macOS, and Windows.


pip install django-channels-graphql-ws

Getting started

Create a GraphQL schema using Graphene. Note the MySubscription class.

import channels_graphql_ws
import graphene

class MySubscription(channels_graphql_ws.Subscription):
    """Simple GraphQL subscription."""

    # Subscription payload.
    event = graphene.String()

    class Arguments:
        """That is how subscription arguments are defined."""
        arg1 = graphene.String()
        arg2 = graphene.String()

    def subscribe(root, info, arg1, arg2):
        """Called when user subscribes."""

        # Return the list of subscription group names.
        return ["group42"]

    def publish(payload, info, arg1, arg2):
        """Called to notify the client."""

        # Here `payload` contains the `payload` from the `broadcast()`
        # invocation (see below). You can return `MySubscription.SKIP`
        # if you wish to suppress the notification to a particular
        # client. For example, this allows to avoid notifications for
        # the actions made by this particular client.

        return MySubscription(event="Something has happened!")

class Query(graphene.ObjectType):
    """Root GraphQL query."""
    # Check Graphene docs to see how to define queries.

class Mutation(graphene.ObjectType):
    """Root GraphQL mutation."""
    # Check Graphene docs to see how to define mutations.

class Subscription(graphene.ObjectType):
    """Root GraphQL subscription."""
    my_subscription = MySubscription.Field()

graphql_schema = graphene.Schema(

Make your own WebSocket consumer subclass and set the schema it serves:

class MyGraphqlWsConsumer(channels_graphql_ws.GraphqlWsConsumer):
    """Channels WebSocket consumer which provides GraphQL API."""
    schema = graphql_schema

    # Uncomment to send keepalive message every 42 seconds.
    # send_keepalive_every = 42

    # Uncomment to process requests sequentially (useful for tests).
    # strict_ordering = True

    async def on_connect(self, payload):
        """New client connection handler."""
        # You can `raise` from here to reject the connection.
        print("New client connected!")

Setup Django Channels routing:

application = channels.routing.ProtocolTypeRouter({
    "websocket": channels.routing.URLRouter([
        django.urls.path("graphql/", MyGraphqlWsConsumer.as_asgi()),

Notify clients when some event happens using the broadcast() or broadcast_sync() method from the OS thread where there is no running event loop:

    # Subscription group to notify clients in.
    # Dict delivered to the `publish` method.

Notify clients in an coroutine function using the broadcast() or broadcast_async() method:

await MySubscription.broadcast(
    # Subscription group to notify clients in.
    # Dict delivered to the `publish` method.

﹡) In case you are testing your client code by notifying it from the Django Shell, you have to setup a channel layer in order for the two instance of your application. The same applies in production with workers.


You can find simple usage example in the example directory.


cd example/
# Initialize database.
./ migrate
# Create "user" with password "user".
./ createsuperuser
# Run development server.
./ runserver

Play with the API though the GraphiQL browser at

You can start with the following GraphQL requests:

# Check there are no messages.
query read { history(chatroom: "kittens") { chatroom text sender }}

# Send a message as Anonymous.
mutation send { sendChatMessage(chatroom: "kittens", text: "Hi all!"){ ok }}

# Check there is a message from `Anonymous`.
query read { history(chatroom: "kittens") { text sender } }

# Login as `user`.
mutation send { login(username: "user", password: "pass") { ok } }

# Send a message as a `user`.
mutation send { sendChatMessage(chatroom: "kittens", text: "It is me!"){ ok }}

# Check there is a message from both `Anonymous` and from `user`.
query read { history(chatroom: "kittens") { text sender } }

# Subscribe, do this from a separate browser tab, it waits for events.
subscription s { onNewChatMessage(chatroom: "kittens") { text sender }}

# Send something again to check subscription triggers.
mutation send { sendChatMessage(chatroom: "kittens", text: "Something ;-)!"){ ok }}


The channels_graphql_ws module provides the following key classes:

  • GraphqlWsConsumer: Django Channels WebSocket consumer which maintains WebSocket connection with the client.
  • Subscription: Subclass this to define GraphQL subscription. Very similar to defining mutations with Graphene. (The class itself is a "creative" copy of the Graphene Mutation class.)
  • GraphqlWsClient: A client for the GraphQL backend. Executes strings with queries and receives subscription notifications.
  • GraphqlWsTransport: WebSocket transport interface for the client.
  • GraphqlWsTransportAiohttp: WebSocket transport implemented on the AIOHTTP library.

For details check the source code which is thoroughly commented. The docstrings of classes are especially useful.

Since the WebSocket handling is based on the Django Channels and subscriptions are implemented in the Graphene-like style it is recommended to have a look the documentation of these great projects:

The implemented WebSocket-based protocol was taken from the library subscription-transport-ws which is used by the Apollo GraphQL. Check the protocol description for details.

Automatic Django model serialization

The Subscription.broadcast uses Channels groups to deliver a message to the Subscription's publish method. ASGI specification clearly states what can be sent over a channel, and Django models are not in the list. Since it is common to notify clients about Django models changes we manually serialize the payload using MessagePack and hack the process to automatically serialize Django models following the the Django's guide Serializing Django objects.


  • Different requests from different WebSocket client are processed asynchronously.
  • By default different requests (WebSocket messages) from a single client are processed concurrently in different worker threads. (It is possible to change the maximum number of worker threads with the max_worker_threads setting.) So there is no guarantee that requests will be processed in the same the client sent these requests. Actually, with HTTP we have this behavior for decades.
  • It is possible to serialize message processing by setting strict_ordering to True. But note, this disables parallel requests execution - in other words, the server will not start processing another request from the client before it finishes the current one. See comments in the class GraphqlWsConsumer.
  • All subscription notifications are delivered in the order they were issued.


The context object (info.context in resolvers) is an object-like wrapper around Channels scope typically available as self.scope in the Channels consumers. So you can access Channels scope as info.context. Modifications made in info.context are stored in the Channels scope, so they are persisted as long as WebSocket connection lives. You can work with info.context both as with dict or as with SimpleNamespace:

def resolve_something(self, info):
    info.context.fortytwo = 42
    assert info.context["fortytwo"] == 42


To enable authentication it is typically enough to wrap your ASGI application into the channels.auth.AuthMiddlewareStack:

application = channels.routing.ProtocolTypeRouter({
    "websocket": channels.auth.AuthMiddlewareStack(
            django.urls.path("graphql/", MyGraphqlWsConsumer),

This gives you a Django user info.context.user in all the resolvers. To authenticate user you can create a Login mutation like the following:

class Login(graphene.Mutation, name="LoginPayload"):
    """Login mutation."""

    ok = graphene.Boolean(required=True)

    class Arguments:
        """Login request arguments."""

        username = graphene.String(required=True)
        password = graphene.String(required=True)

    def mutate(self, info, username, password):
        """Login request."""

        # Ask Django to authenticate user.
        user = django.contrib.auth.authenticate(username=username, password=password)
        if user is None:
            return Login(ok=False)

        # Use Channels to login, in other words to put proper data to
        # the session stored in the scope. The `info.context` is
        # practically just a wrapper around Channel `self.scope`, but
        # the `login` method requires dict, so use `_asdict`.
        asgiref.sync.async_to_sync(channels.auth.login)(info.context._asdict(), user)
        # Save the session,cause `channels.auth.login` does not do this.

        return Login(ok=True)

The authentication is based on the Channels authentication mechanisms. Check the Channels documentation. Also take a look at the example in the example directory.

The Python client

There is the GraphqlWsClient which implements GraphQL client working over the WebSockets. The client needs a transport instance which communicates with the server. Transport is an implementation of the GraphqlWsTransport interface (class must be derived from it). There is the GraphqlWsTransportAiohttp which implements the transport on the AIOHTTP library. Here is an example:

transport = channels_graphql_ws.GraphqlWsTransportAiohttp(
    "ws://backend.endpoint/graphql/", cookies={"sessionid": session_id}
client = channels_graphql_ws.GraphqlWsClient(transport)
await client.connect_and_init()
result = await client.execute("query { users { id login email name } }")
users = result["data"]
await client.finalize()

See the GraphqlWsClient class docstring for the details.

The GraphiQL client

The GraphiQL provided by Graphene doesn't connect to your GraphQL endpoint via WebSocket ; instead you should use a modified GraphiQL template under graphene/graphiql.html which will take precedence over the one of Graphene. One such modified GraphiQL is provided in the example directory.


To test GraphQL WebSocket API read the appropriate page in the Channels documentation.

In order to simplify unit testing there is a GraphqlWsTransport implementation based on the Django Channels testing communicator: channels_graphql_ws.testing.GraphqlWsTransport. Check its docstring and take a look at the tests to see how to use it.

Subscription activation confirmation

The original Apollo's protocol does not allow client to know when a subscription activates. This inevitably leads to the race conditions on the client side. Sometimes it is not that crucial, but there are cases when this leads to serious issues. Here is the discussion in the subscriptions-transport-ws tracker.

To solve this problem, there is the GraphqlWsConsumer setting confirm_subscriptions which when set to True will make the consumer issue an additional data message which confirms the subscription activation. Please note, you have to modify the client's code to make it consume this message, otherwise it will be mistakenly considered as the first subscription notification.

To customize the confirmation message itself set the GraphqlWsConsumer setting subscription_confirmation_message. It must be a dictionary with two keys "data" and "errors". By default it is set to {"data": None, "errors": None}.

GraphQL middleware

It is possible to inject middleware into the GraphQL operation processing. For that define middleware setting of your GraphqlWsConsumer subclass, like this:

def my_middleware(next_middleware, root, info, *args, **kwds):
    """My custom GraphQL middleware."""
    # Invoke next middleware.
    return next_middleware(root, info, *args, **kwds)

class MyGraphqlWsConsumer(channels_graphql_ws.GraphqlWsConsumer):
    middleware = [my_middleware]

For more information about GraphQL middleware please take a look at the relevant section in the Graphene documentation.


There is a Tomáš Ehrlich GitHubGist GraphQL Subscription with django-channels which this implementation was initially based on.

There is a promising GraphQL WS library by the Graphene authors. In particular this pull request gives a hope that there will be native Graphene implementation of the WebSocket transport with subscriptions one day.



A reminder of how to setup an environment for the development.

  1. Install PyEnv to be able to work with many Python versions at once PyEnv→Installation.
  2. Install Python versions needed:
    $ pyenv local | xargs -L1 pyenv install
  3. Install Poetry to the system Python.
    $ curl -sSL | python -
    It is important to install Poetry into the system Python, NOT in your virtual environment. For details see Poetry docs:
  4. Create local virtualenv in .venv, install all project dependencies (from pyproject.toml) except the project itself.
    $ poetry install --no-root
  5. Activate virtualenv There are options:
    • With Poetry:
      $ poetry shell
    • Manually:
      $ source .venv/bin/activate
    • With VS Code: Choose .venv with "Python: Select interpreter" and reopen the terminal.
  6. Upgrade Pip:
    $ pip install --upgrade pip
  7. Install pre-commit hooks to check code style automatically:
    $ pre-commit install


Code style: black

Running tests

A reminder of how to run tests.

  • Run all tests on all supported Python versions:
    $ tox
  • Run all tests on a single Python version, e.g on Python 3.7:
    $ tox -e py37
  • Example of running a single test:
    $ tox -e py36 -- tests/
  • Running on currently active Python directly with Pytest:
    $ poetry run pytest

Making release

A reminder of how to make and publish a new release.

  1. Update version: poetry version minor.
  2. Update
  3. Update (if needed).
  4. Commit changes made above.
  5. Git tag: git tag vX.X.X && git push --tags.
  6. Publish release to PyPI: poetry publish --build.
  7. Update release notes on GitHub.


This project is developed and maintained by DATADVANCE LLC. Please submit an issue if you have any questions or want to suggest an improvement.


This work is supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project No. 15-29-07043).

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