PyPI on CouchDB

By now, there are two ways to retrieve data from PyPI (the Python Package Index). You can both rely on xml/rpc or on the “simple” API. The simple API is not so simple to use as the name suggest, and have several existing drawbacks.

Basically, if you want to use informations coming from the simple API, you will have to parse web pages manually, to extract informations using some black vodoo magic. Badly, magic have a price, and it’s sometimes impossible to get exactly the informations you want to get from this index. That’s the technique currently being used by distutils2, setuptools and pip.

On the other side, while XML/RPC is working fine, it’s requiring extra work to the python servers each time you request something, which can lead to some outages from time to time. Also, it’s important to point out that, even if PyPI have a mirroring infrastructure, it’s only for the so-called simple API, and not for the XML/RPC.


Here comes CouchDB. CouchDB is a document oriented database, that knows how to speak REST and JSON. It’s easy to use, and provides out of the box a replication mechanism.

So, what ?

Hmm, I’m sure you got it. I’ve wrote a piece of software to link informations from PyPI to a CouchDB instance. Then you can replicate all the PyPI index with only one HTTP request on the CouchDB server. You can also access the informations from the index directly using a REST API, speaking json. Handy.

So PyPIonCouch is using the PyPI XML/RPC API to get data from PyPI, and generate records in the CouchDB instance.

The final goal is to avoid to rely on this “simple” API, and rely on a REST insterface instead. I have set up a couchdb server on my server, which is available at

There is not a lot to see there for now, but I’ve done the first import from PyPI yesterday and all went fine: it’s possible to access the metadata of all PyPI projects via a REST interface. Next step is to write a client for this REST interface in distutils2.


For now, you can use pypioncouch via the command line, or via the python API.

Using the command line

You can do something like that for a full import. This will take long, because it’s fetching all the projects at pypi and importing their metadata:

$ pypioncouch --fullimport http://your.couchdb.instance/

If you already have the data on your couchdb instance, you can just update it with the last informations from pypi. However, I recommend to just replicate the principal node, hosted at, to avoid the duplication of nodes:

$ pypioncouch --update http://your.couchdb.instance/

The principal node is updated once a day by now, I’ll try to see if it’s enough, and ajust with the time.

Using the python API

You can also use the python API to interact with pypioncouch:

>>> from pypioncouch import XmlRpcImporter, import_all, update
>>> full_import()
>>> update()

What’s next ?

I want to make a couchapp, in order to navigate PyPI easily. Here are some of the features I want to propose:

I also still need to polish the import mechanism, so I can directly store in couchdb:

The work I’ve done by now is available on Keep in mind that it’s still a work in progress, and everything can break at any time. However, any feedback will be appreciated !