Facebook and GooglePlus Javascript SDK sign in with Devise + RoR

January 18, 2013 John Barker

Recently I added a modal sign in and sign up dialog to a Rails application that allowed for sign in using Facebook or Google as well as via email. This dialog can appear any time a user attempts to perform a protected action, allowing them to sign in and continue without losing any data.

To make this work I had to implement Google and Facebook sign in using the new javascript SDK provided for both platforms. The old style authentication redirects when successful which means any in memory session state is completely lost. This means forms are cleared, event handlers are rebound and any work in progress has to be done again.

Before I explain the difficulties we had getting this to work with I’ll explain briefly how OAuth works with respect to devise.

Typical OAuth workflow

Most sites implement this kind of workflow by opening a popup window pointing at their oauth request url (e.g: /oauth/facebook/). This sets up the initial state of the session using a cookie and redirects to the login page providing a url to it to redirect the user again once they’ve authenticated.

If authentication is successful, an oauth token is generated and stored in a cookie and the user is redirected to the callback url. The callback url hits the devise stack and verifies that the token is real by asking Facebook to verify it. If everything checks out execution dips into your application code and the user is created or looked up by some identifiable piece of information.

Client Side workflow

The new SDKs provided by Facebook and Google have changed this and allow for much greater flexibility. Facebook documents its new login workflow here http://developers.facebook.com/docs/howtos/login/getting-started/ and Google documents theirs here: https://code.google.com/p/google-api-javascript-client/wiki/Authentication.

Both APIs have a simple method which expects a callback. The callback is executed indicating whether authentication was successful and it’s up to you what you do with that information. This allows for greater flexibility and smoother transitions into an authenticated step.

Getting it to work with Devise

There are a number of gotchas with using the client side approach, some of them related to possible bugs and my difficulty in interpreting just how the OAuth devise gems work.

OAuth Gem Version

Omiauth OAuth2 version 1.1 recently introduced CSRF validation for the authentication workflow. Unfortunately this breaks client side validation since there is no request component.

For now I suggest downgrading those gems like so:

# NOTE: omniauth-oauth2 breaks client authentication, see here:
# https://github.com/intridea/omniauth-oauth2/issues/20
gem 'omniauth-oauth2', '~> 1.0.0'
# NOTE: omniauth-facebook 1.4.1 breaks SDK authentication, see here:
# https://github.com/mkdynamic/omniauth-facebook/issues/73
gem 'omniauth-facebook', '= 1.4.0'

The comments will give any future reader of your Gemfile an indication of what they need to do to lift the version restrictions on the omniauth dependencies.

Google OAuth2 Token Validation

The current omniauth-google-oauth2 gem will try to validate your access token with a different server and request format to the one required by the new javascript SDK. For the time being you can use our the forked version (here)[https://github.com/pivotal-geostellar/omniauth-google-oauth2/tree/client_login].

Performing Authentication

For the Facebook SDK I authenticate like so:

FB.login(function(response) {
  if(response.authResponse) {
      type: 'POST',
      url: '/users/auth/facebook/callback',
      dataType: 'json',
      data: {signed_request: response.authResponse.signedRequest}
      success: function(data, textStatus, jqXHR) {
        // Handle success case
      error: function(jqXHR, textStatus, errorThrown {
        // Handle error case
, scope: 'email'});

For Google:

var scope = 'https://www.googleapis.com/auth/userinfo.email https://www.googleapis.com/auth/userinfo.profile';
gapi.auth.authorize({client_id: 'client id', scope: scope}, function(result) {
    if(result && !result.error) {
        type: 'POST',
        url: '/users/auth/google_oauth2/callback',
        data: {code: result},
        dataType: 'json',
        success: function(data, textStatus, jqXHR) {
          // Handle authorized case
        error: function(jqXHR, textStatus, errorThrown) {
          // Handle error case
    } else {
      // Handle unauthorized case

Both of these calls hit the OAuth callback endpoint to verify the access tokens obtained by the user. If authentication succeeds you’ll get the typical devise+OAuth workflow and a session omniauth.auth cookie with the appropriate details.

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