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ejabberd Modules Development


ejabberd is based on a modular architecture that makes it highly customizable and infinitely extensible.

Here is an overview of ejabberd internal architecture:


What is a module ?

Outside of a few infrastructure core components most of ejabberd features are developed as modules. Modules are used to extend the features of ejabberd (plugins).

How to write a custom module ?

Ejabberd comes with a lot of modules, but sometimes you may need an unsupported feature from the official sources or maybe you need to write your own custom implementation for your very special needs.

Each modules is written in either Erlang or Elixir. To use them, you typically declare them in ejabberd configuration file. That's also the place where you can configure the module, by passing supported options to overload its default behaviour.

On ejabberd launch, the server will start all the declared modules. You can start (or stop) them manually from Erlang shell as well.

As a convention, module names starts with "mod_", but you can actually call them as you want.

The gen_mod behaviour

All ejabberd modules are implementing the gen_mod behaviour. It means that a module must provide the following API:

start(Host, Opts) -> ok
stop(Host) -> ok
depends(Host, Opts) -> []
mod_options(Host) -> []

Parameters are:

  • Host = string()
  • Opts = [{Name, Value}]
  • Name = Value = string()

Host is the name of the virtual host running the module. The start/2 and stop/1 functions are called for each virtual host at start and stop time of the server.

Opts is a lists of options as defined in the configuration file for the module. They can be retrieved with the gen_mod:get_opt/3 function.


The following code shows the simplest possible module.



%% Required by ?INFO_MSG macros

%% Required by ?T macro

%% gen_mod API callbacks
-export([start/2, stop/1, depends/2, mod_options/1, mod_doc/0]).

start(_Host, _Opts) ->
    ?INFO_MSG("Hello, ejabberd world!", []),

stop(_Host) ->
    ?INFO_MSG("Bye bye, ejabberd world!", []),

depends(_Host, _Opts) ->

mod_options(_Host) ->

mod_doc() ->
    #{desc =>
          ?T("This is an example module.")}.

Now you have two ways to compile and install the module: If you compiled ejabberd from source code, you can copy that source code file with all the other ejabberd source code files, so it will be compiled and installed with them. If you installed some compiled ejabberd package, you can create your own module dir, see Add Your Module.

You can enable your new module by adding it in the ejabberd config file. Adding the following snippet in the config file will integrate the module in ejabberd module lifecycle management. It means the module will be started at ejabberd launch and stopped during ejabberd shutdown process:

  mod_hello_world: {}

Or you can start / stop it manually by typing the following commands in an Erlang shell running ejabberd:

  • To manually start your module:

    gen_mod:start_module(<<"localhost">>, mod_hello_world, []).
  • To manually stop your module:

    gen_mod:stop_module(<<"localhost">>, mod_hello_world).

When the module is started, either on ejabberd start or manually, you should see the following message in ejabberd log file:

19:13:29.717 [info] Hello, ejabberd world!


ejabberd is able to fetch module sources by itself, compile with correct flags and install in a local repository, without any external dependencies. You do not need to know Erlang and have it installed in order to use the contributed modules. The contributed modules repository is ejabberd-contrib on github. It contains most used contributions and also can link to any other external repository. This works with ejabberd modules written in Erlang and will also support new Elixir modules.

Basic usage

As a user, this is how it works:

  1. First you need to get/update the list of available modules. This must be done before anything else to let module related features to work correctly. You may want to repeat this command before you need installing a new module or an attended server upgrade.

    ejabberdctl modules_update_specs
  2. Then you can list available modules:

    ejabberdctl modules_available
    mod_admin_extra Additional ejabberd commands
    mod_archive Supports almost all the XEP-0136 version 0.6 except otr
    mod_cron Execute scheduled commands
    mod_log_chat Logging chat messages in text files
  3. Let’s install mod_cron from ejabberd-contrib repository:

    ejabberdctl module_install mod_cron
  4. You can check anytime what modules are installed:

    ejabberdctl modules_installed
  5. An example default configuration is installed, and will be read by ejabberd when it starts. You can find that small configuration in:

  6. And finally, you can remove the module:

    ejabberdctl module_uninstall mod_cron

Add your module

If you install ejabberd using the official ProcessOne installer, it includes everything needed to build ejabberd modules on its own.

  1. First, create this path

  2. and copy your source code to this location:

  3. Create a specification file in YAML format as mod_hello_world.spec (see examples from ejabberd-contrib). So, create the file


    with this content:

    summary: "Hello World example module"
  4. From that point you should see it as available module:

    ejabberdctl modules_available
    mod_hello_world Hello World example module
  5. Now you can install and uninstall that module like any other, as described in the previous section.

  6. If you plan to publish your module, you should check if your module follows the policy and if it compiles correctly:

    ejabberdctl module_check mod_mysupermodule

    If all is OK, your’re done ! Else, just follow the warning/error messages to fix the issues.

You may consider publishing your module as a tgz/zip archive or git repository, and send your spec file for integration in ejabberd-contrib repository. ejabberd-contrib will only host a copy of your spec file and does not need your code to make it available to all ejabberd users.

Your module with Docker

If you installed ejabberd using the Docker image, these specific instructions allow you to use your module with your Docker image:

  1. Create a local directory for the contributed modules:

    mkdir docker-modules
  2. Then create the directory structure for your custom module:

    cd docker-modules
    mkdir -p sources/mod_hello_world/
    touch sources/mod_hello_world/mod_hello_world.spec
    mkdir sources/mod_hello_world/src/
    mv mod_hello_world.erl sources/mod_hello_world/src/
    mkdir sources/mod_hello_world/conf/
    echo -e "modules:\n  mod_hello_world: {}" > sources/mod_hello_world/conf/mod_hello_world.yml
    cd ..
  3. Grant ownership of that directory to the UID that ejabberd will use inside the Docker image:

    sudo chown 9000 -R docker-modules/
  4. Start ejabberd in Docker:

    sudo docker run \
      --name hellotest \
      -d \
      --volume "$(pwd)/docker-modules:/home/ejabberd/.ejabberd-modules/" \
      -p 5222:5222 \
      -p 5280:5280 \
  5. Check the module is available for installing, and then install it:

    sudo docker exec -it hellotest bin/ejabberdctl modules_available
    mod_hello_world []
    sudo docker exec -it hellotest bin/ejabberdctl module_install mod_hello_world
  6. If the module works correctly, you will see the Hello string in the ejabberd logs when it starts:

    sudo docker exec -it hellotest grep Hello logs/ejabberd.log
    2020-10-06 13:40:13.154335+00:00 [info]
      <0.492.0>@mod_hello_world:start/2:15 Hello, ejabberd world!


Please note this is provided as a beta version. We want the work in progress to be released early to gather feedback from developers and users.

For now, you need to edit the configuration snippet provided in module’s conf directory and copy it into your ejabberd’s main configuration. Then you’ll need to restart ejabberd or manually start the module.

However, our plan is to keep iterating on the tool and to make our best to make module installation as easy as possible and avoid need to change main configuration: ejabberd should be able to include module configuration snippets on the fly in a near future.

Next steps

From there, you know how to package a module to integrate it inside ejabberd environment. Packaging a module allows you to:

  • Integrate in ejabberd overall application life cycle, i.e. with the start and stop mechanism.
  • Get data from ejabberd configuration file.

Now, to do useful stuff, you need to integrate with ejabberd data flow. You have two mechanisms available from ejabberd modules:

  • Events and Hooks: This is to handle internal ejabberd triggers and subscribe to them to perform actions or provide data.

  • IQ Handlers: This is a way to register ejabberd module to handle XMPP Info Queries. This is the XMPP way to provide new services.