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Counting Online Users with Redis

Posted by Armin Ronacher on 2011-09-10 @ 08:32 and filed in Sessions

Sometimes you might want to show on the index page what users are online. Sets in redis are perfect for this. You can take the current time since 1970 in seconds, divide it by 60 and build a key based on that, then add a user to that set. Make the set expire after the maximum number of seconds you give a user in activity and when you want to query all active users you just build a union of the keys of the last N minutes.

Connecting to Redis

In case you don't have a connection to redis yet, open with with those two simple lines:

from redis import Redis
redis = Redis()

A redis instance is thread safe so you can just keep this on the global level and use it directly. If you want to connect to a different redis instance just pass the address to the constructor. More in the pyredis docs.


import time
from datetime import datetime


def mark_online(user_id):
    now = int(time.time())
    expires = now + (app.config['ONLINE_LAST_MINUTES'] * 60) + 10
    all_users_key = 'online-users/%d' % (now // 60)
    user_key = 'user-activity/%s' % user_id
    p = redis.pipeline()
    p.sadd(all_users_key, user_id)
    p.set(user_key, now)
    p.expireat(all_users_key, expires)
    p.expireat(user_key, expires)

def get_user_last_activity(user_id):
    last_active = redis.get('user-activity/%s' % user_id)
    if last_active is None:
        return None
    return datetime.utcfromtimestamp(int(last_active))

def get_online_users():
    current = int(time.time()) // 60
    minutes = xrange(app.config['ONLINE_LAST_MINUTES'])
    return redis.sunion(['online-users/%d' % (current - x)
                         for x in minutes])

Marking a user as Online

For testing purposes we can just use the remote address (IP) of the connecting user as user id and mark that online. Normally you would use your actual user id or usernames here.

def mark_current_user_online():

Displaying Online Users

And here a very simple view that shows all active users in the last ONLINE_LAST_MINUTES minutes.

from flask import Response

def index():
    return Response('Online: %s' % ', '.join(get_online_users()),

To check if a user is online or when he was online the last time you can use the get_user_last_activity function which returns the time the user was online the last time or None if it's too long in the past.

This snippet by Armin Ronacher can be used freely for anything you like. Consider it public domain.