HTTP & WebSocket ASGI Message Format

Version: 2.0 (2017-11-28)

The HTTP+WebSocket ASGI sub-specification outlines how to transport HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2 and WebSocket connections within ASGI.

It is deliberately intended and designed to be a superset of the WSGI format and specifies how to translate between the two for the set of requests that are able to be handled by WSGI.

HTTP

The HTTP format covers HTTP/1.0, HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2, as the changes in HTTP/2 are largely on the transport level. A protocol server should give different requests on the same HTTP/2 connection different scopes, and correctly multiplex the responses back into the same stream as they come in. The HTTP version is available as a string in the scope.

Multiple header fields with the same name are complex in HTTP. RFC 7230 states that for any header field that can appear multiple times, it is exactly equivalent to sending that header field only once with all the values joined by commas.

However, RFC 7230 and RFC 6265 make it clear that this rule does not apply to the various headers used by HTTP cookies (Cookie and Set-Cookie). The Cookie header must only be sent once by a user-agent, but the Set-Cookie header may appear repeatedly and cannot be joined by commas. The ASGI design decision is to transport both request and response headers as lists of 2-element [name, value] lists and preserve headers exactly as they were provided.

The HTTP protocol should be signified to ASGI applications with a type value of http.

Connection Scope

HTTP connections have a single-request connection scope - that is, your applications will be instantiated at the start of the request, and destroyed at the end, even if the underlying socket is still open and serving multiple requests.

If you hold a response open for long-polling or similar, the scope will persist until the response closes from either the client or server side.

The connection scope contains:

  • type: http
  • http_version: Unicode string, one of 1.0, 1.1 or 2.
  • method: Unicode string HTTP method name, uppercased.
  • scheme: Unicode string URL scheme portion (likely http or https). Optional (but must not be empty), default is "http".
  • path: Unicode string HTTP path from URL, with percent escapes decoded and UTF-8 byte sequences decoded into characters.
  • query_string: Byte string URL portion after the ?, not url-decoded.
  • root_path: Unicode string that indicates the root path this application is mounted at; same as SCRIPT_NAME in WSGI. Optional, defaults to "".
  • headers: An iterable of [name, value] two-item iterables, where name is the byte string header name, and value is the byte string header value. Order of header values must be preserved from the original HTTP request; order of header names is not important. Duplicates are possible and must be preserved in the message as received. Header names must be lowercased.
  • client: A two-item iterable of [host, port], where host is a unicode string of the remote host’s IPv4 or IPv6 address, and port is the remote port as an integer. Optional, defaults to None.
  • server: A two-item iterable of [host, port], where host is the listening address for this server as a unicode string, and port is the integer listening port. Optional, defaults to None.

Request

Sent to indicate an incoming request. Most of the request information is in the connection scope; the body message serves as a way to stream large incoming HTTP bodies in chunks, and as a trigger to actually run request code (as you should not trigger on a connection opening alone).

Keys:

  • type: http.request
  • body: Body of the request, as a byte string. Optional, defaults to b"". If more_body is set, treat as start of body and concatenate on further chunks.
  • more_body: Boolean value signifying if there is additional content to come (as part of a Request message). If True, the consuming application should wait until it gets a chunk with this set to False. If False, the request is complete and should be processed. Optional, defaults to False.

Response Start

Starts sending a response to the client. Needs to be followed by at least one response content message. The protocol server must not start sending the response to the client until it has received at least one Response Body event.

Keys:

  • type: http.response.start
  • status: Integer HTTP status code.
  • headers: A list of [name, value] lists, where name is the byte string header name, and value is the byte string header value. Order must be preserved in the HTTP response. Header names must be lowercased. Optional, defaults to an empty list.

Response Body

Continues sending a response to the client. Protocol servers must flush any data passed to them into the send buffer before returning from a send call. If more_body is set to False this will close the connection.

Keys:

  • type: http.response.body
  • body: Byte string of HTTP body content. Concatenated onto any previous body values sent in this connection scope. Optional, defaults to b"".
  • more_body: Boolean value signifying if there is additional content to come (as part of a Response Body message). If False, response will be taken as complete and closed off, and any further messages on the channel will be ignored. Optional, defaults to False.

Disconnect

Sent to the application when a HTTP connection is closed or if receive is called after a response has been sent. This is mainly useful for long-polling, where you may want to trigger cleanup code if the connection closes early.

Keys:

  • type: http.disconnect

WebSocket

WebSockets share some HTTP details - they have a path and headers - but also have more state. Again, most of that state is in the scope, which will live as long as the socket does.

WebSocket protocol servers should handle PING/PONG messages themselves, and send PING messages as necessary to ensure the connection is alive.

WebSocket protocol servers should handle message fragmentation themselves, and deliver complete messages to the application.

The WebSocket protocol should be signified to ASGI applications with a type value of websocket.

Connection Scope

WebSocket connections’ scope lives as long as the socket itself - if the application dies the socket should be closed, and vice-versa. The scope contains the initial connection metadata (mostly from the HTTP handshake):

  • type: websocket
  • scheme: Unicode string URL scheme portion (likely ws or wss). Optional (but must not be empty), default is ws.
  • path: Unicode HTTP path from URL, already urldecoded.
  • query_string: Byte string URL portion after the ?. Optional, default is empty string.
  • root_path: Byte string that indicates the root path this application is mounted at; same as SCRIPT_NAME in WSGI. Optional, defaults to empty string.
  • headers: An iterable of [name, value] two-item iterables, where name is the header name as byte string and value is the header value as a byte string. Order should be preserved from the original HTTP request; duplicates are possible and must be preserved in the message as received. Header names must be lowercased.
  • client: A two-item iterable of [host, port], where host is a unicode string of the remote host’s IPv4 or IPv6 address, and port is the remote port as an integer. Optional, defaults to None.
  • server: A two-item iterable of [host, port], where host is the listening address for this server as a unicode string, and port is the integer listening port. Optional, defaults to None.
  • subprotocols: List of subprotocols the client advertised as unicode strings. Optional, defaults to empty list.

Connection

Sent when the client initially opens a connection and is about to finish the WebSocket handshake.

This message must be responded to with either an Accept message or a Close message before the socket will pass websocket.receive messages. The protocol server must send this message during the handshake phase of the WebSocket and not complete the handshake until it gets a reply, returning HTTP status code 403 if the connection is denied.

Keys:

  • type: websocket.connect

Accept

Sent by the application when it wishes to accept an incoming connection.

  • type: websocket.accept
  • subprotocol: The subprotocol the server wishes to accept, as a unicode string. Optional, defaults to None.

Receive

Sent when a data message is received from the client.

Keys:

  • type: websocket.receive
  • bytes: Byte string of the message content, if it was binary mode, or None. Optional; if missing, it is equivalent to None.
  • text: Unicode string of the message content, if it was text mode, or None. Optional; if missing, it is equivalent to None.

Exactly one of bytes or text must be non-None. One or both keys may be present, however.

Send

Sends a data message to the client.

Keys:

  • type: websocket.send
  • bytes: Byte string of binary message content, or None.
    Optional; if missing, it is equivalent to None.
  • text: Unicode string of text message content, or None.
    Optional; if missing, it is equivalent to None.

Exactly one of bytes or text must be non-None. One or both keys may be present, however.

Disconnection

Sent when either connection to the client is lost, either from the client closing the connection, the server closing the connection, or loss of the socket.

Keys:

  • type: websocket.disconnect
  • code: The WebSocket close code (integer), as per the WebSocket spec.

Close

Tells the server to close the connection.

If this is sent before the socket is accepted, the server must close the connection with a HTTP 403 error code (Forbidden), and not complete the WebSocket handshake; this may present on some browsers as a different WebSocket error code (such as 1006, Abnormal Closure).

If this is sent after the socket is accepted, the server must close the socket with the close code passed in the message (or 1000 if none is specified).

  • type: websocket.close
  • code: The WebSocket close code (integer), as per the WebSocket spec. Optional, defaults to 1000.

WSGI Compatibility

Part of the design of the HTTP portion of this spec is to make sure it aligns well with the WSGI specification, to ensure easy adaptability between both specifications and the ability to keep using WSGI applications with ASGI servers.

WSGI applications, being synchronous, must be run in a threadpool in order to be served, but otherwise their runtime maps onto the HTTP connection scope’s lifetime.

There is an almost direct mapping for the various special keys in WSGI’s environ variable to the http scope:

  • REQUEST_METHOD is the method key
  • SCRIPT_NAME is root_path
  • PATH_INFO can be derived from path and root_path
  • QUERY_STRING is query_string
  • CONTENT_TYPE can be extracted from headers
  • CONTENT_LENGTH can be extracted from headers
  • SERVER_NAME and SERVER_PORT are in server
  • REMOTE_HOST/REMOTE_ADDR and REMOTE_PORT are in client
  • SERVER_PROTOCOL is encoded in http_version
  • wsgi.url_scheme is scheme
  • wsgi.input is a StringIO based around the http.request messages
  • wsgi.errors is directed by the wrapper as needed

The start_response callable maps similarly to http.response.start:

  • The status argument becomes status, with the reason phrase dropped.
  • response_headers maps to headers

Yielding content from the WSGI application maps to sending http.response.body messages.

WSGI encoding differences

The WSGI specification (as defined in PEP 3333) specifies that all strings sent to or from the server must be of the str type but only contain codepoints in the ISO-8859-1 (“latin-1”) range. This was due to it originally being designed for Python 2 and its different set of string types.

The ASGI HTTP and WebSocket specifications instead specify each entry of the scope dict as either a bytestring or a unicode string. HTTP, being an older protocol, is sometimes imperfect at specifying encoding, so some decisions of what is unicode versus bytes may not be obvious.

  • path: URLs can have both percent-encoded and UTF-8 encoded sections. Because decoding these is often done by the underlying server (or sometimes even proxies in the path), this is a unicode string, fully decoded from both UTF-8 encoding and percent encodings.
  • headers: These are bytestrings of the exact byte sequences sent by the client/to be sent by the server. While modern HTTP standards say that headers should be ASCII, older ones did not and allowed a wider range of characters. Frameworks/applications should decode headers as they deem appropriate.
  • query_string: Unlike the path, this is not as subject to server interference and so is presented as its raw bytestring version, undecoded.
  • root_path: Unicode to match path.
  • 2.0 (2017-11-28): Initial non-channel-layer based ASGI spec

This document has been placed in the public domain.