One of the essential features that most applications have in common is Authentication. There are many options to authenticate us nowadays. In this article, I’ll talk about a solution used a lot lately: Auth0 and implementing it in a Rails project.

Auth0 as an Authentication Solution


First, let’s define authentication as to how a user or a resource, in general, can be identified in your application, which means it is a way to recognize that a particular resource (user) is interacting with our application.

How to authenticate in Rails applications?

The authentication’s most known way is a form with a field for an email and another for a password. We can do it with only Rails, but we need to consider the security of storing this information because it is the user’s personal information.

There are many other ways of authentication, such as the one which is becoming more known last years: through social media apps. And, if our Rails application is API only, then we have other options like JWT (JSON Web Tokens). But we will leave this as a topic for another article.

What does Auth0 give us as a solution?

There are many ways in which a user can identify itself in our application. The more options the user has, the easier it will be to authenticate and use our application. In Rails, there are gems for each option we want to implement. This means a configuration for each one.

Auth0 gives us a solution to this problem. Auth0 offers us one way to make only one configuration in our application, and in its platform, we could choose what options (also known as identity providers) we want to give to our users. And, if we don’t know what options our users need to authenticate at the beginning, we could add them later without the necessity of changing our codebase.

You can find more info here:

Demo Time!

We’re going to integrate Auth0 in an application. This demo only will have two features: login and logout.

Configuration in Auth0 platform

  • First, let’s register in Auth0 or log in if we already have an account.
    • We can create a new application for this demo if we already have an account.
      • Applications will be in the Applications menu, in the Applications submenu, choose Regular Web Application as the application type.
    • If we have created a new account for this demo, we can use the default application in Auth0.
      • In our Default Application, we can change the application typo in theApplication Properties section in the Application Type field. Choose Regular Web Application and save the changes.
      • Let’s ensure that the Token Endpoint Authentication Method field is POST as the selected option.
    • Now let’s configure some fields we will need to integrate our Rails app. In the Application URIs section, we will change these fields with the following values:
      • Allowed Callback URLs: http://localhost:3000/auth/auth0/callback
        • URL where the user will be redirected after being authenticated or not (return errors) in Auth0.
      • Allowed Logout URLs: http://localhost:3000
        • URL where the user without session will be redirected after his session finish.
    • Also, we have to select at least one connection for our app, which means select one option for authentication:
      • Go to the Connections tab and enable the Username-Password-Authentication option.

Base Configuration of Auth0 in our app

  • Let’s create our Rails app if we don’t have one already.
    • In my case, I used the rails new command to create a demo app. I’m using rails 7.0 and ruby 3.1.
  • Add the omniauth-auth0 gem, which helps us with the Auth0 configuration in the OAuth process, and the omniauth-rails_csrf_protection gem, which helps us with the CSRF protection in the OAuth requests.
  • Now, we have to add these environment variables with the values we have in our app in the Auth0 platform:
    • I will use the dotenv-rails gem to handle the environment variables. With this gem, you can have a .env file to save all the environment variables needed in your application.
  • To the initial configuration of Auth0, we need to create a file called auth0.rb in the config/initializers folder:
    • Or you can run this command: touch config/initializers/auth0.rb
  • Add the following configuration in the file:
      Rails.application.config.middleware.use OmniAuth::Builder do
         callback_path: "/auth/auth0/callback",
         authorize_params: { scope: "openid profile" }
    • In authorize_params, we tell Auth0 what info of the user we want Auth0 to give us. Here you can see some additional params we can pass in this hash.

Add the Login Feature

  • First, let’s add the following routes in routes.rb:
      scope "/auth" do
        get "/auth0/callback", to: "auth0#callback"
        get "failure", to: "auth0#failure"
  • Let’s create the controller for the action of Auth0: touch app/controllers/auth0_controller.rb
  • Inside the controller, let’s define the callback and failure actions:
      def callback
        info = request.env['omniauth.auth']
        session[:user_info] = info['extra']['raw_info']
        redirect_to posts_path
      def failure
        @error_msg = request.params['message']
    • In the callback action, we’re reading the information I receive from the request with the key omniauth.auth. This value will be a hash with a key extra which has a hash as a value and inside this hash, we have a key raw_info.
      • For more info about the hash we receive:
    • Once we have the user’s info given by Auth0, we will save it in the user session and redirect to the page we want the logged user to see (this could be any page, I generated a scaffold for posts and used posts#index)
    • In the failure action, we’re storing in a class variable the error message Auth0 sent, and then we can redirect the user or render a custom error page we want in our app.
  • Now we’ll add the login button inside the main layout, this is in views/layouts/application.html.erb
      <%= button_to "Login", "/auth/auth0", method: :post, data: { turbo: false } %>
    • I added data: { turbo: false } because the Rails buttons use turbo by default, and I’m deactivating in this particular case. You will have to make the same if your application use turbolinks.
  • In the ApplicationController, we’ll add a helper called current_user to can call the logged user.
      helper_method :current_user
      def current_user
  • Now, let’s update the button_tag we use before to only show it if the current_user doesn’t exist, that means if there’s no logged user:
      <% if current_user %>
        Hi <%= current_user["name"] %>
      <% else %>
        <%= button_to "Login", "/auth/auth0", method: :post, data: { turbo: false } %>
      <% end %>

Add the Logout feature

  • Let’s define the logout action in our routes and Auth0Controller:
      # routes.rb inside de /auth scope
      get '/auth/logout' => 'auth0#logout'
      # Auth0Controller
      def logout
        redirect_to logout_url
    • The reset_session method, will delete all we have stored in the session
    • And we redirect to a logout URL we’ll generate.
  • We’ll create a private method to generate this logout URL:
      def logout_url
        request_params = { returnTo: post_url, client_id: ENV["AUTH0_CLIENT_ID"] }
          host: ENV["AUTH0_DOMAIN"], path: "/v2/logout", query: to_query(request_params)
      def to_query(hash) { |k, v| "#{k}=#{CGI.escape(v)}" unless v.nil? }.compact.join("&")
  • Finally, we’ll add the logout button in our application/layout:
      <%= button_to "Logout", "auth/logout", method: :get, data: { turbo: false } %>

Let’s try our app and that’s it! You now can implement Auth0 in a Rails app.

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