Using websockets with Flask via Tornado


December 15, 2014

I’ve been working on some projects for the lab that involve remotely controlling hardware to perform various tasks. Since the hardware in question is shared between different experiments, some sort of asynchronous solution is needed, and a web-based client coupled with websockets seemed to be the best bet (this also leaves the option open in the future to write a standalone client that is not browser-based if desired).

There is no shortage of web frameworks for Python. Some of the more popular ones are Django, Flask, Tornado, and Pyramid. Of these, I greatly prefer Flask for a number of reasons:

This is not to say that the other options are bad, but having looked at all of them, Flask suits me best. The one problem: only Tornado directly supports websockets since it is both an HTTP server and a web framework in one, whereas the others utilize WSGI for deployment.

Luckily, it is possible to leverage both the excellent asynchronous features of Tornado and the power and ease of use of Flask through Tornado’s ability to serve WSGI apps with tornado.wsgi.WSGIContainer. The Flask documentation shows a very simple example on how to do just that.

Integrating websockets into a Flask app is now pretty easy. Here’s an example on the server side:

from __future__ import print_function
from flask import Flask, render_template
from tornado.wsgi import WSGIContainer
from tornado.web import Application, FallbackHandler
from tornado.websocket import WebSocketHandler
from tornado.ioloop import IOLoop

class WebSocket(WebSocketHandler):
    def open(self):
        print("Socket opened.")

    def on_message(self, message):
        self.write_message("Received: " + message)
        print("Received message: " + message)

def on_close(self):
    print("Socket closed.")

app = Flask('flasknado')

def index():
    return render_template('index.html')

if __name__ == "__main__":
    container = WSGIContainer(app)
    server = Application([
        (r'/websocket/', WebSocket),
        (r'.*', FallbackHandler, dict(fallback=container))

The client-side Javascript is simple as well:

var socket = null;
$(document).ready(function() {
    socket = new WebSocket("ws://" + document.domain + ":8080/websocket/");

    socket.onopen = function() {

    socket.onmessage = function(message) {
        var txt =;
        $(".container").append("<p>" + txt + "</p>");

function submit() {
    var text = $("input#message").val();

The full demo example can be found here.

Additional notes

There already exist at least two extensions for Flask to use websockets:

However, both of these are based on gevent. While gevent is nice, it still has limited Python 3 support and does not work on Windows (sadly, a requirement for some hardware drivers).