On replacing Basic Auth with OAuth 2.0

PATs are usually used as a replacement for username+password when working with systems over a communication medium that does not support OAuth or similar. The most common application I’m aware of is when using Git (it’s quite telling that all references from the Wikipedia article you linked are to Git server providers).

When working via protocols that do allow for OAuth (such as REST in the case of OSM) that’s no need for that sort of “bandage”. Your step examples are somewhat exaggerated, a more comparable comparison:

OAuth 2 PAT
  1. Register OAuth2 application
  2. Copy client ID and secret to somewhere the app can read it
  3. Use the API
  1. Create a new PAT
  2. Copy the PAT to somewhere the app can read it
  3. Use the API

Think I’m missing something between step 2 and 3 for OAuth 2 (steps 3-6 in your steps)? That’s because even as a developer you rarely need to care about that, provided you use a decent library (which you should do anyway).

Let’s compare the code using requests in Python (code not tested, likely incomplete but serves the purpose of comparing):

OAuth 2PAT
from oauthlib.oauth2 import BackendApplicationClient
from requests_oauthlib import OAuth2Session
session = OAuth2Session(client=BackendApplicationClient(client_id='XXX'), auto_refresh_url='https://www.openstreetmap.org/oauth2/token')
session.fetch_token(token_url='https://www.openstreetmap.org/oauth2/token', client_id='XXX', client_secret='XXX')
from requests import Session
session = Session()
session.auth = ('', 'XXX')  # add PAT here

There difference is a single line more (and a few more arguments) for OAuth 2. But even this isn’t the whole truth, because ideally all that should be abstracted away by a library (sadly osmapi, the most up-to-date Python lib for the OSM API I’m aware of, does not support this, though for example osm-auth (JS/TS) does) so that even for OAuth you’d just have:

from some_osm_lib import OSM

client = OSM(client_id='XXX', client_secret='XXX')

While I won’t go as far as saying that we want some artificial barriers like Simon is implying (but also not saying that it’s bad), I think implying that supporting OAuth 2 but not PATs would be the opposite of an open and inviting platform is just plain wrong.

“Unusual approach”?

OAuth 2 is literally the industry standard for third-party API access (though it’s mowing more towards OIDC, but that’s just an extension/formalization of OAuth 2).

The OSM community is quite good at re-inventing the wheel (just look at our data model compared to what everyone else is doing in mapping/geospatial), but using OAuth 2 is one of the cases where we’re using an exact copy of the wheel blueprints everyone else is using…

Now this part is interesting, and I suspect part of the reason for this post is that you’re working on implementing that part in your Python port.

I’ve previously talked about the fact that implementing a security mechanism (be it OAuth or PAT or something else) is something the OSM community should avoid; doing that correctly and securely is just to much work. Personally, I would have solved it using some pre-existing component such as Keycloak or the Ory-suite, the Ruby port solved it using the Devise library, you could use oauthlib.

Regarding refresh tokens, much of the industry is moving towards (semi-) stateless services and JWTs, and while there’s a lot to be said about JWTs (and I encourage you to read about them regardless of if you end up using them or not) it does make refresh token handling very easy (somewhat pseudo-codey):

async def refresh_token(refresh_token: str):
    parsed = jwt.decode(refresh_token)
    if not db.user_exists(parsed["uid"]) or parsed["valid_until"] < datetime.now():
        raise HTTPError(401)
    return jwt.encode(dict(uid=parsed["uid"], access_token=generate_token(), refresh_token=generate_token(), valid_until=datetime.now() + timedelta(minutes=5)))

First of all thank you for such an extensive response! Let me answer your feedback:

I don’t fully agree. Let me bring GitHub as a counterexample. GitHub supports both OAuth and PATs, each used for different purposes. OAuth is used for authorizing external services to use your account in a limited way, while PATs are used for authorizing yourself. This provides flexibility and does not complicate local scripts with the OAuth workflow (PATs can run on OAuth under the hood, which is transparent to the developer).

I believe your table misses some crucial steps. Let me create a working side-by-side code comparison (OAuth at the top, PAT at the bottom):

The code provided by you, as already pointed out, does not run, and even if it did, it would probably require a desktop interface and user interaction (to approve login on OSM website), which is missing on many servers where the scripts usually run.

(i have zero idea why the error message is in a different language)

I don’t know any public API that would require OAuth for script authorization. That’s why I call it unusual.

I believe there is some misunderstanding between using OAuth 2.0 for scripts and for user-facing applications. Using OAuth 2.0 for 3rd party authorization grants is perfectly fine but that’s not what this post is about.

I don’t, but I believe sooner or later it will come down to this, and I would love everyone to avoid unnecessary stress. Frankly speaking, for the Python port, it’s easier to support just OAuth 2.0 than OAuth 2.0 + PATs, but I highlight this issue for the good of the community. :stuck_out_tongue:

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I think for scripts people would just use Josm to upload the changes via the API, at least those where the author cannot or doesn’t want to implement oauth 2.

I’m just pointing out that there was and is no reason given why we should go out of our way (that is implement a personal access token system) to support @NorthCrab’s “new and inexperienced developers” writing to the API.

If they are so “new and inexperienced” that they can’t scale that miniscule barrier, then would we want them writing to the data? The github analogy is quite telling as any damage you can do there is limited to the repositories you either own, or have been made a collaborator of, you can’t write to all of github.

But in any case there are literally no barriers to running a script, app or whatever against the API outside of actually writing the code, and you can even circumvent that given a powerful enough editor. You don’t need a special account to generate the client keys, nor does any other administrative barrier exist.


Is this a big problem? Using the OAuth2.0? How many are affected?

I have written lot of Perl scripts, and my best friend was a Perl Cookbook published by OReilly. Anytime I hade to write a complex, for me unusual code, the cookbook mostly showed the solution. And I hadn’t know all details about why the code worked. I assume there such cookbook examples also for how to implement OAuth2.0.

Big problem - no. But an easily avoidable one for sure!

The core issue with using OAuth 2 for scripts is unnecessary complexity that is placed on the developers. So far, there is no sensible reason why we need to use OAuth 2.0 and can’t just use PATs. It feels like, instead of developing a solution once on the OpenStreetMap website, we will require each developer to write the same boilerplate code in each application, which seems like a waste. The idea of PATs is to handle this part on the server-side, transparently to the developer, achieving the same benefits of OAuth while centralizing the solution: easier for developers, more secure, and future-proofed.

The question is:
Why do we need to complicate script development? Is there a reason behind it? Or is it just an oversight?


Actually, it’s not**. There may well be places where PATs would be a good fit and the standard approach (usually SSO via an external IDP***) might be a bit heavy-handed, but Oauth 2.0 is the industry standard here.

** Based on the experience of my day job, which regularly involves helping customers negotiate this particular minefield.

*** and obviously a reliance on an external IDP wouldn’t work for OSM, though you can use one if you want.

@NorthCrab Perhaps this is an opportunity to take a step back and look at where we are:

You commented extensively on the github issue. Broadly speaking, no-one there shared your concerns**. You’ve now raised it in the Foundation area here, and many of the same people have also commented saying that they still don’t share your concerns.

At what point do you say to yourself “if I think A and everyone else things B, what information do I have that they do not, (or vice versa)?”. In this case a “collective delusion” or some sort of “conspiracy” among all the people who think that this Oauth2 change is a good idea seems unlikely, so the more likely explanation is that you are perhaps missing some of the knowledge or experience that led them to come to that conclusion?

Edit: There are at least two - TrickyFoxy below, and Mateusz in a diary comment … and 4 people have now liked the github post.

Hey! Can you please provide public API example that requires scripts to authenticate via OAuth? Also, yes, I did forward it to Foundation section to raise awareness of this change as it will directly affect the community. It’s fair to say that Operations’ GitHub is not the most active place for such a discussion. I never said it’s a conspiracy nor anything alike - I don’t know where you got that “quote” from. As previously stated, I believe it’s just an oversight.

Broadly speaking, no-one there shared your concerns

Please note that this untrue and it appears to me that your response is highly biased for some reason.

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Oh, do we want only experienced developers to exceed the limits? Well, this summer and autumn we saw it.

Let me remind you that the OSM API is not limited to editing the map.

I absolutely agree with NorthCrab.

Let’s say you want to create a bot account. Or a client for forwarding incoming messages. Or parse user information (as far as I remember, not all information is provided by the API without authorization) Or. any other scripts…

Why is there an abstraction in the form of an OAuth application in these scenarios? These can be scripts in several lines of code for which [Login:Password]/token is more than enough.

But no, for OAuth we write wrappers for each language GitHub - osmlab/osm-auth: Easy authentication for OpenStreetMap over OAuth2.0 GitHub - Zverik/cli-oauth2: Helper library for OAuth2 in command-line tools (which starts the web server to authorize the script :man_facepalming:)
Anyone who wants to write a simple script in their favorite language will need to write a script to do that does the same thing?

And can I, as a developer, just copy and paste the token from the browser into the config of my script, leave it on the server and forget? Thank you, at least we have OAuth tokens with no expiration date…

pnorman's Diary | Future deprecation of HTTP Basic Auth and OAuth 1.0a | OpenStreetMap


And a little bit about the friendliness of OAuth to developers.

Stumbling over this and seeing the opportunity to use a username/password, I use them better.

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To be clear, the first line of your first post in this thread was “I would like to express my concerns regarding OSM dropping support for Basic Auth”. To answer the question “who has dropped or is dropping support for basic authentication” a web search can easily provide a list. I’m in the UK and the results I see are heavily geared towards Microsoft and Exchange, but if I scroll down I also see Atlassian, Google, Jamf, Github and more.

You now seem to have moved away from wanting basic auth to stick around and now just just don’t want to have to implement Oauth2. In OSM, as elsewhere in the world, sometimes decisions will get made that make no sense to you. It might mean the decision was flawed, or it might just mean that you don’t understand why the decision was made. When this happens, generally speaking, we just need to “deal with it”.


The rate limits in question are for reading from the API and have nothing to do with the new upload rate limiting (being authenticated wont help you with the later). In normal use you are extremely unlikely to hit the limit, and relaxing it for authenticated users was added for the fairly narrow edge case of mapping parties when you have a larger group of people behind a single (NAT) IP address.

Supporting OAuth2 is the least of the issues you will have if you want to run a bot against the API, see also Automated Edits code of conduct - OpenStreetMap Wiki

Non-existent use case (there is no API for that)

Currently only the private information of the authenticated user is restricted. That might change one day (not holding my breath) because the current situation is clearly not legal, but that applies to scrapping the API for user information in an automated fashion in any case -right now-, so not a use case that is going to win anybody over.

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Since I can’t properly react, please join me in my living room for some popcorn while I pontificate in long-form prose. But don’t read the extif data off the image file and show up at my doorstep. That would just be weird.

Before I go on, I just want to clarify that you’re about to read the words of a complete moron who definitely qualifies as an unqualified developer. At least, as far as web authentication goes. My intelligence on other topics remains up for debate.

I’ve actually had to implement OAuth2 once, when I built StreetFerret, which authenticates with Strava. I stumbled through writing the code, and then once I got it working, promptly forgot how it worked and prayed that I’d never have to touch the code. So, I’m well-acquianted with being too dumb to implement OAuth2.

I actually think that even Basic Auth is too complicated for new and inexperienced developers.

Yikes! Even more gobbedlygook! I actually had to implement refresh tokens also for StreetFerret, and bear in mind that this was back in the days when you had to write shoddy code yourself rather than having AI chatbots do it for you.

This is also my approach to software development. But once in awhile the chatbot gets the code right.

:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

Thrown shade right there, but maybe you’re onto something?

Total oversight, and I’ve got the solution.

I agree with @NorthCrab that we should eliminate OAuth2 for easier scripting, and I agree with @pnorman that we should eliminate OAuth 1.0 and Basic Auth. And, I agree with @02JanDal that we should reinvent the wheel, which we are so good at as noted.

I propose SIMPLE web authentication, which stands for Super Insecure, Moron-Proof Login Experience.

The way it works is very simple, you just add your username and password into the querystring of any authenticated request you want to make to openstreetmap.org.

For example, a login request might look like this:


So simple, even a moron could figure out how to curl some sweet, sweet API write requests. It’s also perfectly secure since we’re using HTTPS. To be really user-friendly though, we should consider implementing this functionality on plain-old HTTP as well.

I stand with @NorthCrab in protesting the needless complexity of modern, secure authentication protocols and yearn for a simpler time when passwords were just the names of our pets, and the most advanced hacking tool was a sticky note left under a keyboard1.

Hear hear!

Pass the :popcorn:.

I expect a long-form response to my very serious proposal.

1pretty solid punchline for an AI chatbot I think.

Don’t tell him how many client (re-)implementations of OAuth 2 OSM currently has :sunglasses:

You didn’t get the hint. I mean, the barrier in the form of inconvenient authorization is the wrong protection against misuse of the API. For Example, this did not save us from automatic vandalism in Russia and Israel. We shouldn’t scare off conscientious developers at the very beginning.

This is not an excuse for inconvenient authorization.

It is sad. But it still doesn’t mean that we are limited to just editing the map.

@NorthCrab is making the argument that not supporting basic auth creates a significant hurdle to using the API. I’m just questioning his statement that that is somehow bad because it stops “New and inexperienced developers”.

You jest, but perhaps things can be made more secure while being simpler to use. How about implementing WebAuthn ?

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We need a “whataboutery” emoji :slight_smile:

Being serious, you’d have to have been living under a rock to have avoid being bombarded with stuff about passkeys (as WebAuthn is also known) in recent weeks. The problem is that while it is a solution to a common problem, I don’t think that it would help with scripted API access, which seems to be the main issue above.

Having said that, the only scripts that I do use against the OSM API already do support Oauth2, so I don’t see a problem