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Google app engine, REST, authentication & sessions

Posted on 2013-06-16
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Last Modified: 2013-11-19
On my mobile app, I'd like to send login and password to the server. Please correct me where I'm wrong, or please tell me how I can improve on this?

We get login/password and authenticate by checking hash of password on the server- we send as response to this some random "session" key (string of random characters?) to the client - later - this is supplied with every request to the server for any other kind of REST request? How do you fit this session key into the REST API without breaking the REST style? i.e., let's say I want to get a list of customers: http://example.com/rest/v1/Customers?session=lksdfkjhsfkjdskfds --> is this OK?

I feel it's necessary to supply user login direct from my own site AND supply the ability to login by existing google account for example. How do you adapt the login to a REST API with different types of login? What is the common ground between a site supplied user/login vs the google user's API so that the 2 may be used together? The example code I've seen for the google users API abstracts away so much that I don't really understand how it works - you get a user, if it's NULL, you're redirected to a google sign-in. If not, you have your user, then I guess there's some key in the user object that you use as your session key?

Many thanks for any help! :o)

Mike
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Question by:thready
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 39252215
you have basically 3 choices:
Use the open-id protocol to allow that form of authentication with any openid provider i.e. google/facebook/microsoft
or
use the google + version of oath version 2.0
or
use your OWN authentication protocol.
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by:mccarl
ID: 39252274
The main thing I would like to clarify here, as it affects any help that I would give... Is your mobile app web based, ie. HTML/javascript/.... hosted in a mobile web browser served by your server? Or is it truely a native app that just communicates via REST api over HTTP/HTTPS for accessing/updating data?
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Author Comment

by:thready
ID: 39252789
For now, it's a mobile app that does all its communication over Ajax.

I may host it in a browser control running natively in an app if that somehow gives better push notifications or if I need something that's missing from native that becomes a requirement...
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Accepted Solution

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Ray Paseur earned 500 total points
ID: 39253053
You may find this question easier to frame if you have some background understanding of the protocols and design patterns that are usually used with something like this.  These two articles may be helpful.

Protocols:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Web_Development/Web_Languages-Standards/A_11271-Understanding-Client-Server-Protocols-and-Web-Applications.html

PHP Client Authentication:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Web_Development/Web_Languages-Standards/PHP/A_2391-PHP-login-logout-and-easy-access-control.html

In the latter article, the HTTP cookie is used to indicate an authenticated client.  This can be either the "session" cookie or the "remember me" cookie.  If you choose a cookie-based authentication, you will not need any elaborate code to pass the authentication keys back and forth to the REST API - it's already baked into the mobile browsers. This will be true whether you choose PHP or some other server-side language.
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Author Comment

by:thready
ID: 39253262
Thanks Ray, I'm going to disect these good looking articles.  Looking forward to your response Mccarl!  In the meantime, ve30fa, I'd love to offer the choice to the user (if they don't want to use OpenID - I worry that if I only offer OpenID, some people might think that I'm getting their password for facebook or whatever and I might lose customers because of it)... I'd like to offer a login that looks like the one they use for say, doodle:  

Create login dialog
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Expert Comment

by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 39254700
Thanks for the explanation.

I feel it's necessary to supply user login direct from my own site AND supply the ability to login by existing google account for example

I miss read your intention in this part.
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Author Closing Comment

by:thready
ID: 39266813
Thank you very much
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