RapidSMS Backends

Backends define how RapidSMS communicates with the outside world. The router uses backends to send and receive messages and all text messages will eventually pass through a backend. They handle a two-way messaging protocol:

  • Incoming messages: Messages received by RapidSMS from an external source. All incoming messages are received over HTTP and processed by a Django view. Once received, backends will pass messages to the router for processing.
  • Outgoing messages: Messages sent by RapidSMS to an external source. The router will pass messages to backends once processed. RapidSMS sends messages over HTTP.

Supplied Backends

RapidSMS includes several backends in core for you to use:

However, many other backends exist in the RapidSMS community and can be installed for use in your own project. If you can’t find a backend that’s suitable for your needs, you can write a custom backend.


The instructions below describe how backend configuration works in the general sense. Backends will provide their own installation instructions. If you want to install a specific backend, please follow the backend-specific documentation.

All backends will require the following basic configuration:


First, you’ll need to add your backend to INSTALLED_BACKENDS. This setting is a key/value pairing of backend name to a configuration dictionary. For example:

    "my-backend1": {
        "ENGINE": "path.to.BackendClass",
        "example-configuration-option": "Yes",
    "my-backend2": {
        "ENGINE": "path.to.OtherBackendClass",
        "use-special-method": True,

This examples defines two backends named my-backend1 and my-backend2. The backend name can be anything, but it will be used by the router and for matching up with Backend URLs. The only required configuration option is ENGINE, which is the dotted Python path to the backend class. Additional configuration can be supplied to backends.


Backends communicate over HTTP and Django uses views to process HTTP requests, so all backends require a Django URL endpoint and view to handle incoming messages. For example:

from django.conf.urls import patterns, url
from path.to.backend1 import ExampleBackendView
from path.to.backend2 import OtherBackendView

urlpatterns = patterns('',

This example defines two URLs, one for each backend. You can make the Django URL pattern whatever you like, but the convention is to make it backend/ followed by the matching backend name from INSTALLED_BACKENDS and a final /. You must also supply the same backend name to the backend view via the backend_name keyword argument. This example defines two backends named my-backend1 and my-backend2, matching our example INSTALLED_BACKENDS above.

Example URL Configuration

If you learn by example, you can follow these steps and test invoking a received message with a few lines of Python. This example is intended to serve as a simple example of configuring INSTALLED_BACKENDS and Backend URLs.

  1. Include the following in urls.py:

    from rapidsms.backends.http.views import GenericHttpBackendView
    urlpatterns = patterns('',
  2. Include the following in settings.py:

        "http-backend": {
            "ENGINE": "rapidsms.contrib.httptester.backend.HttpTesterCacheBackend",
  3. Now in a Python shell:

    >>> import urllib
    >>> import urllib2
    >>> data = urllib.urlencode({'identity': '1112223333', 'text': 'echo hello'})
    >>> request = urllib2.urlopen('http://localhost:8000/backends/http-backend/', data)
    >>> request.code
    >>> request.read()