Gmail Atom Feed Authentication

Perhaps the most complicated part of the application in my recent post was the authentication with Gmail. Although my final method boils down to only a few lines of python, Google describes several different ways to authenticate (additionally, putting the username and password directly in the URL). I didn't like any of these options, as some seemed much too complicated for what I wanted to do, some didn't work, and some were too insecure. However, it turns out that the atom feed supports HTTP's basic access authentication. In python, this is fairly easy to do:

$ python
>>> import urllib2, base64
>>> username = "me@gmail.com"; password = "secret"
>>> url = "https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/"
>>> req = urllib2.Request(url)
>>> authstr = base64.encodestring("%s:%s" % (username, password))[:-1]
>>> req.add_header("Authorization", "Basic " + authstr)
>>> urllib2.urlopen(req).read()

Note that the above also works for Google apps users you just have to stick "/a/example.com" in the appropriate spot in the URL. Hopefully this will help out someone else who is hopelessly bashing Google's servers with failed login attempts ;-)

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