Introducing pathod: a pathological HTTP server


I've just released pathod, a pathological HTTP/S daemon useful for testing and torturing HTTP clients. At its core is a tiny, terse language for crafting HTTP responses. It also has a built-in web interface that lets you play with the response spec language, inspect logs, and access pathod's full help document.

The rest of this post is a quick teaser showing some of pathod's abilities. See the detailed documentation on the pathod site if you want more.

The simplest possible response

The easiest way to craft a response is to specify it directly in the request URL. Lets start with the simplest possible example. Start pathod, and then visit this URL:


The "/p/" path is the location of the response generator in pathod's default configuration - everything after that a response specification in pathod's mini-language. The general form of a response spec is as follows:

code[MESSAGE]:[colon-separated list of features]

In this case, we're specifying only the HTTP response code - that is, an HTTP 200 OK with no headers and no content, resulting in a response like this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK

Specifying features

One example of a "feature" is a response header. Lets embellish our response by adding one:


The first letter of the feature - "h", in this case - is a mnemonic indicating the type of feature we're adding. The full response to this spec looks like this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Etag: foo

Both "Etag" and "foo" are Value Specifiers, a syntax used throughout the response specification language. In this case they are literal values, as indicated by the fact that they are quoted strings. The Value Specification syntax also lets us load values from files or generate random data. For instance, here is a specification that generates 100k of random binary data for the header value:


Now, binary data in the header value will probably break things in interesting ways, but is unlikely to be read by the client as a valid (but over-long) value. To see if the client really drops off its perch if we feed it a single 100k header, we have to constrain the random data. Here's the same response, but with data generated only from ASCII letters:


pathod has a large number of built-in character classes from which random data can be generated.

Pauses and Disconnects

Next, we can disrupt the communications in various ways. At the moment, this means adding pauses and disconnects to a response. Let's start with an HTTP 404 response with a body consisting of a 100k of random binary data:


Here's the same response, but with a 120 second pause after sending 100 bytes:


And, the same response again, but with hard disconnect after sending 100 bytes:


Instead of specifying a time explicitly, we can ask pathod to just randomly disconnect at a time of its choosing:


That's it for the teaser - hopefully it's enough to entice you into looking at pathod's full documentation.

What's next?

pathod is an "airport project" - the first draft was written in its entirety during a 40-hour trip back home from New York (I drew a bad lot in stopovers). I've now firmed it up a bit, but there's still work to be done. In the next month, mitmproxy's test suite will move to pathod, after which there will be a simple, well-documented way to unit test. I also plan to build out the JSON API (which is used to drive pathod in test suites), and expand the mini-language with convenient ways to generate pathological cookies, authentication headers, SSL errors, and cache control.