Express.js : Github authentication with passport

06 Jun 2014

Express.js is one of the popular web application framework for Node.js. To implement Github authentication passport module seems to really flexible.

To start, register a new application on Github goto Account > Applications > Register new application. This will yield you a client id and client secret for your application which we will use later. While registering new appplication they will ask for a callback url, let it be http://localhost:3000/auth/callback.

Install passport

After creating new express.js project install the passport and passport-github Strategy.

npm install passport passport-github --save

Configure passport

To configure, start with require passport and passport-github strategy into your application.

// app.js
var passport = require('passport');
var GithubStrategy = require('passport-github').Strategy;

Now initialize the passport middleware with app.use. Usually, a freshly baked express.js doesn’t use cookieParse and session middleware so before adding passport middleware add those to your application. You will receive some weird errors if you didn’t. Also I recommend to use them in the following order after app.use(express.methodOverride());

app.use(express.session({secret: 'mysecret'}));

Configure github strategy

// app.js
passport.use(new GithubStrategy({
  clientID: 'your app client id',
  clientSecret: 'your app client secret',
  callbackURL: 'http://localhost:3000/auth/callback'
}, function(accessToken, refreshToken, profile, done){
  done(null, {
    accessToken: accessToken,
    profile: profile

Github doen’t have a refreshToken so we don’t care about it. The object we passed to done() method will be received by serializeUser.

In order to maintain the users session, Passport will serialize and deserialize user instances to and from the session. we need to configure those methods as our needs.

// app.js
passport.serializeUser(function(user, done) {
  // for the time being tou can serialize the user 
  // object {accessToken: accessToken, profile: profile }
  // In the real app you might be storing on the id like 
  done(null, user);

passport.deserializeUser(function(user, done) {
  // If you are storing the whole user on session we can just pass to the done method, 
  // But if you are storing the user id you need to query your db and get the user 
  //object and pass to done() 
  done(null, user);

The serializeUser will store the user id in the session and deserializeUser will get the user from our database and store it in req.user.

Configure routes

We need to configure the routes for auth callback and error.

// app.js
app.get('/auth', passport.authenticate('github'));
app.get('/auth/error', auth.error);
  passport.authenticate('github', {failureRedirect: '/auth/error'}),

The implementation of the routes are upto you.

// routes/auth.js
exports.callback = function(req, res){
  // In the real application you might need to check 
  // whether the user exits and if exists redirect 
  // or if not you many need to create user.
  res.send('Login success');

exports.error = function(req, res){
  res.send('Login Failed');

Thats it, you successfully implemented the github authentication for you express.js app with passport. In this I just skipped the usage of models and store the data to make it short. Consider this as a steeping stone and if you have any issues on implementing this in a real app, lemme know via comments. I will try my best to address it.

Until next time.
Thank you.

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