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Use curl to create a CouchDB admin user

Written by Rob Allen / Original link on Oct. 5, 2016

This too me longer to find than it should have done, so I'm writing it here for future me.

When you install CouchDB, it is in a mode where anyone can do anything with the database including creating and deleting databases. This is called "Admin Party" mode which is a pretty cool name, but not what I want.

Creating admin users

To create a user in 1.6 (I've not used 2.0 yet, but assuming it's the same) you simply click on the "Fix This" link in Futon which is available at http://localhost:5984/_utils/ by default.

As CouchDB's entire API is essentially a RESTFul API, to do this via the command line, you simply PUT a new user to into the _configs/admins collection like this:

curl -s -X PUT http://localhost:5984/_config/admins/rob -d '"123456"'

This creates an admin user called rob with a password of 123456. Note that the password within the body of the PUT request must be a quoted string. This caught me out for a while!

From this point on, we can then use basic authentication to do admin-y things, such as create a bookshelf_api database:

$ curl -s -X PUT http://rob:123456@localhost:5984/bookshelf_api
{"ok":true}

Other users

You can also set up per-database users which is handy for limiting what your application can do when connected to CouchDB. This is done creating users in the /_users/ collection and then assigning them to a class in the _security collection of the database. There are two default classes: "members" and "admins" where members can modify data, but not design documents and admins can modify all documents including user roles on that database.

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