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Writing an ejabberd HTTP module

by Gregor Uhlenheuer on January 16, 2013

Recently at work we were thinking about how we could retrieve some meta information from our ejabberd server that is not accessible via the web interface or a predefined command of ejabberdctl. For those of you that do not know what ejabberd is: it’s a very popular jabber/XMPP server or daemon written in Erlang. After maybe half an hour of googling around and not finding some ready-to-use solution we pretty much discarded the idea and moved on to other problems.

Nevertheless today at home I got interested again and did some more research on extending the basic ejabberd functionality. The good part is that ejabberd comes with a built-in module system that allows you to add your own erlang modules into ejabberd and even hook into some predefined events (though I did not get to that part). The downside is the fact that ejabberd cannot be described as being well documented. So many links, guides or further related information found on the message board or FAQ’s are broken or horribly outdated.

Basic module structure

Anyways, in the following parts I will shortly describe what I came up with so far. The described module does not contain any helpful functionality but the structure on how to built such a module is more important here than the actual implementation.

In order to add a new module into ejabberd you have to implement the OTP behavior gen_mod which expects two functions to be implemented:

In our case we want to build a HTTP module so we want to additionally implement the process/2 function that handles all HTTP requests that are routed to the module.

The rough outline of our HTTP module will look like this:

%% Module name (has to match with the filename)

%% Module author
-author('Gregor Uhlenheuer').

%% Module version

%% Debug flag
-define(EJABBERD_DEBUG, true).

%% Implement the OTP gen_mod behavior

%% Module exports
-export([start/2, stop/1, process/2]).


%% base ejabberd headers

%% ejabberd compatibility functions

%% ejabberd HTTP headers

%% initialization function
start(_Host, _Opts) ->

%% function on module unload
stop(_Host) ->

%% process any request to "/sockets"
process(["sockets"], _Request) ->
    % FIXME: implementation goes here
    "Not implemented yet";

%% process all remaining requests
process(_Page, _Request) ->
    % FIXME: implementation goes here
    "Fallback result".

So this is basically the whole module structure you need to get started with the actual implementation.

Compiling the module

Next we have to compile the module itself and adjust the ejabberd configuration in order to integrate our newly built module.

# move into your source directory
$ cd mod_custom/src

You have to pass the file paths to your erlang/ejabberd header files referenced in your module file (ejabberd.hrl, jlib.hrl and ejabberd_http.hrl):

# compile using erlc
$ erlc -I ../ejabberd/src \
     -I /lib64/ejabberd/include \
     -pa ../ejabberd/src \

Configuring ejabberd

Before starting the ejabberd server we have to add the module to the main configration file ejabberd.cfg. Somewhere in your config file you will find the part of the ejabberd_http setting:

% the part will probably look something like this
{5280, ejabberd_http, [http_poll, web_admin]}

You add a new request handler to the ejabberd_http part and you are good to go:

% this will probably look like this
{5280, ejabberd_http, [http_poll, web_admin,
        {request_handlers, [
            % your request handler will respond to anything like:
            % http://example.com:5280/custom/
            {["custom"], mod_custom}

Now you can copy the compiled beam file mod_custom.beam into your ejabberd ebin directory and (re)start the ejabberd service:

$ cp mod_custom.beam /lib64/ejabberd/ebin
$ ejabberdctl restart

Testing the module

Now you should be able to request your new module function via HTTP:

$ curl -v localhost:5280/custom/sockets
* About to connect() to localhost port 5280 (#0)
*   Trying
* connected
* Connected to localhost ( port 5280 (#0)
> GET /custom/sockets HTTP/1.1
> User-Agent: curl/7.26.0
> Host: localhost:5280
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
< Content-Length: 19
Not implemented yet
* Closing connection #0


While experimenting and searching for ways to get going with the ejabberd module I stumbled upon a great way to modiy, compile and test your changes.

Reload your module in a remote erlang shell

Instead of manually recompiling your erlang module, copying into your ebin folder and restarting your ejabberd server you can just remotely connect to your running ejabberd node and inspect your service during execution.

You can either start your ejabberd in debug mode and execute your commands from there:

$ ejabberdctl debug

Or you can remotely attach to an already running ejabberd node:

$ erl -sname node1 -remsh ejabberd@someserver

In case you get an error like the following:

*** ERROR: Shell process terminated! (^G to start new job) ***

You have to pass your erlang cookie along with your erl command:

$ erl -sname node1 -remsh ejabberd@someserver -setcookie *****

Compile and reload modules without restarting

Now you can easily compile and reload your module from within your remote shell without restarting the ejabberd service:

% compile

% or just reload

This post is tagged with programming, erlang and ejabberd