To use the wreq package, simply use cabal, the standard Haskell package management command.

cabal update
cabal install -j --disable-tests wreq

Depending on how many prerequisites you already have installed, and what your Cabal configuration looks like, the build may take a few minutes: a few seconds for wreq, and the rest for its dependencies.

Interactive usage

We’ll run our examples interactively via the ghci shell.

$ ghci

To start using wreq, we import the Network.Wreq module.

ghci> import Network.Wreq
ghci> r <- get ""
ghci> :type r
r :: Response ByteString

The variable r above is the Response from the server.

Working with string-like types

Complex Haskell libraries and applications have to deal fluently with Haskell’s three main string types: String (“legacy”), Text, and ByteString (mostly used for binary data, sometimes ASCII).

To write string literals without having to always provide a conversion function, we use the OverloadedStrings language extension.

Throughout the rest of this tutorial, we’ll assume that you have enabled OverloadedStrings in ghci:

ghci> :set -XOverloadedStrings

If you’re using wreq from a Haskell source file, put a pragma at the top of your file:

{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings #-}

A quick lens backgrounder

The wreq package makes heavy use of Edward Kmett’s lens package to provide a clean, consistent API.

ghci> import Control.Lens

While lens has a vast surface area, the portion that you must understand in order to productively use wreq is tiny.

A lens provides a way to focus on a portion of a Haskell value. For example, the Response type has a responseStatus lens, which focuses on the status information returned by the server.

ghci> r ^. responseStatus
Status {statusCode = 200, statusMessage = "OK"}

The ^. operator takes a value as its first argument, a lens as its second, and returns the portion of the value focused on by the lens.

We compose lenses using function composition, which allows us to easily focus on part of a deeply nested structure.

ghci> r ^. responseStatus . statusCode

We’ll have more to say about lenses as this tutorial proceeds.

Changing default behaviours

While get is convenient and easy to use, there’s a lot more power available to us.

For example, if we want to add parameters to the query string of a URL, we will use the getWith function. The *With family of functions all accept an Options parameter that allow changes from the library’s default behaviours.

ghci> import Data.Aeson.Lens (_String, key)
ghci> let opts = defaults & param "foo" .~ ["bar", "quux"]
ghci> r <- getWith opts ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody . key "url" . _String

(We’ll talk more about key and _String below.)

The default parameters for all queries is represented by the variable defaults. (In fact, get is defined simply as getWith defaults.)

Here’s where we get to learn a little more about lenses.

In addition to getting a value from a nested structure, we can also set (edit) a value within a nested structure, which makes an identical copy of the structure except for the portion we want to modify.

The & operator is just function application with its operands reversed, so the function is on the right and its parameter is on the left.

parameter & functionToApply

The .~ operator turns a lens into a setter function, with the lens on the left and the new value on the right.

param "foo" .~ ["bar", "quux"]

The param lens focuses on the values associated with the given key in the query string.

param :: Text -> Lens' Options [Text]

The reason we allow for a list of values instead of just a single value is simply that this is completely legitimate. For instance, in our example above we generate the query string foo=bar&foo=quux.

If you use non-ASCII characters in a param key or value, they will be encoded as UTF-8 before being URL-encoded, so that they can be safely transmitted over the wire.

Accessing the body of a response

The responseBody lens gives us access to the body of a response.

ghci> r <- get ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody
"{\n  \"headers\": {\n    \"Accept-Encoding\": \"gzip"{-...-}

The response body is a raw lazy ByteString.

JSON responses

We can use the asJSON function to convert a response body to a Haskell value that implements the FromJSON class.

ghci> import Data.Map as Map
ghci> import Data.Aeson (Value)
ghci> type Resp = Response (Map String Value)
ghci> r <- asJSON =<< get "" :: IO Resp
ghci> Map.size (r ^. responseBody)
In this example, we have to tell ghci exactly what target type we are expecting. In a real Haskell program, the correct return type will usually be inferred automatically, making an explicit type signature unnecessary in most cases.

If the response is not application/json, or we try to convert to an incompatible Haskell type, a JSONError exception will be thrown.

ghci> type Resp = Response [Int]
ghci> r <- asJSON =<< get "" :: IO Resp
*** Exception: JSONError "when expecting a [a], encountered Object instead"

Convenient JSON traversal

The lens package provides some extremely useful functions for traversing JSON structures without having to either build a corresponding Haskell type or traverse a Value by hand.

The first of these is key, which traverses to the named key in a JSON object.

ghci> import Data.Aeson.Lens (key)
ghci> r <- get ""
ghci> r ^? responseBody . key "url"
Just (String "")
Notice our use of the ^? operator here. This is like ^., but it allows for the possibility that an access might fail—and of course there may not be a key named "url" in our object.

That said, our result above has the type Maybe Value, so it’s quite annoying to work with. This is where the _String lens comes in.

ghci> import Data.Aeson.Lens (_String, key)
ghci> r <- get ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody . key "url" . _String

If the key exists, and is a Value with a String constructor, _String gives us back a regular Text value with all the wrappers removed; otherwise it gives an empty value. Notice what happens as we switch between ^? and ^. in these examples.

ghci> r ^. responseBody . key "fnord" . _String
ghci> r ^? responseBody . key "fnord" . _String
ghci> r ^? responseBody . key "url" . _String
Just ""

Working with headers

To add headers to a request, we use the header lens.

ghci> let opts = defaults & header "Accept" .~ ["application/json"]
ghci> getWith opts ""

As with the param lens, if we provide more than one value to go with a single key, this will expand to several headers.

header :: HeaderName -> Lens' Options [ByteString]

When we want to inspect the headers of a response, we use the responseHeader lens.

ghci> r <- get ""
ghci> r ^. responseHeader "content-type"
Header names are case insensitive.

If a header is not present in a response, then ^. will give an empty string, while ^? will give Nothing.

ghci> r ^. responseHeader "X-Nonesuch"
ghci> r ^? responseHeader "X-Nonesuch"

Uploading data via POST

We use the post and postWith functions to issue POST requests.

ghci> r <- post "" ["num" := 3, "str" := "wat"]
ghci> r ^? responseBody . key "form"
Just (Object fromList [("num",String "3"),("str",String "wat")])

The server conveniently echoes our request headers back at us, so we can see what kind of body we POSTed.

ghci> r ^. responseBody . key "headers" . key "Content-Type" . _String

The := operator is the constructor for the FormParam type, which wreq uses as a key/value pair to generate an application/x-www-form-urlencoded form body to upload.

A class named FormValue determines how the operand on the right-hand side of := is encoded, with sensible default behaviours for strings and numbers.

The slightly more modern way to upload POST data is via a multipart/form-data payload, for which wreq provides the Part type.

ghci> r <- post "" [partText "button" "o hai"]
ghci> r ^. responseBody . key "headers" . key "Content-Type" . _String
"multipart/form-data; boundary=----WebKitFormBoundaryJsEZfuj89uj"

The first argument to these part* functions is the label of the <input> element in the form being uploaded.

Let’s inspect’s response to see what we uploaded. When we think there could be more than one value associated with a lens, we use the ^.. operator, which returns a list.

ghci> r ^.. responseBody . key "form"
[Object fromList [("button",String "o hai")]]

Uploading file contents

To upload a file as part of a multipart/form-data POST, we use partFile, or if the file is large enough that we want to stream its contents, partFileSource.

ghci> import Data.Aeson.Lens (members)
ghci> r <- post "" (partFile "file" "hello.hs")
ghci> r ^.. responseBody . key "files" . members . _String
["main = putStrLn \"hello\"\n"]

Both partFile and partFileSource will set the filename of a part to whatever name they are given, and guess its content-type based on the file name extension. Here’s an example of how we can upload a file without revealing its name.

ghci> partFile "label" "foo.hs" & partFileName .~ Nothing
Part "label" Nothing (Just "text/plain") <m (RequestBody m)>


To see how easily we can work with cookies, let’s ask the ever-valuable to set a cookie in a response.

ghci> r <- get ""
ghci> r ^. responseCookie "foo" . cookieValue

To make cookies even easier to deal with, we’ll want to use the Session API, but we’ll come back to that later.


The wreq library supports both basic authentication and OAuth2 bearer authentication.

Note: the security of these mechanisms is absolutely dependent on your use of TLS, as the credentials can easily be stolen and reused if transmitted unencrypted.

If we try to access a service that requires authentication, wreq will throw a HttpException.

ghci> r <- get ""
*** Exception: StatusCodeException (Status {statusCode = 401, {-...-}

If we then supply a username and password, our request will succeed. (Notice that we follow our own advice: we switch to https for our retry.)

ghci> let opts = defaults & auth ?~ basicAuth "user" "pass"
ghci> r <- getWith opts ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody
"{\n  \"authenticated\": true,\n  \"user\": \"user\"\n}"
We use the ?~ operator to turn an Auth into a Maybe Auth here, to make the type of value on the right hand side compatible with the auth lens.

For OAuth2 bearer authentication, wreq supports two flavours: oauth2Bearer is the standard bearer token, while oauth2Token is GitHub’s variant. These tokens are equivalent in value to a username and password.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

To authenticate to Amazon Web Services (AWS), we use awsAuth. In this example, we set the Accept header to request JSON, as opposed to XML output from AWS.

ghci> let opts = defaults & auth ?~ awsAuth AWSv4 "key" "secret"
                          & header "Accept" .~ ["application/json"]
ghci> r <- getWith opts ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody
"{\"ListQueuesResponse\":{\"ListQueuesResult\":{\"queueUrls\": ... }"

Runscope support for Amazon Web Services (AWS) requests

To send requests to AWS through the Runscope Inc. Traffic Inspector, convert the AWS service URL to a Runscope Bucket URL using the “URL Helper” section in the Runscope dashboard (as you would for other HTTP endpoints). Then invoke the AWS service as before. For example, if your Runscope bucket key is 7kh11example, call AWS like so:

ghci> let opts = defaults & auth ?~ awsAuth AWSv4 "key" "secret"
                          & header "Accept" .~ ["application/json"]
ghci> r <- getWith opts ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody
"{\"ListQueuesResponse\":{\"ListQueuesResult\":{\"queueUrls\": ... }"

If you enabled “Require Authentication Token” in the “Bucket Settings” of your Runscope dashboard, set the Runscope-Bucket-Auth header like so:

ghci> let opts = defaults & auth ?~ awsAuth AWSv4 "key" "secret"
                          & header "Accept" .~ ["application/json"]
                          & header "Runscope-Bucket-Auth" .~ ["1example-1111-4yyyy-zzzz-xxxxxxxx"]
ghci> r <- getWith opts ""
ghci> r ^. responseBody
"{\"ListQueuesResponse\":{\"ListQueuesResult\":{\"queueUrls\": ... }"

Error handling

Most of the time when an error occurs or a request fails, wreq will throw a HttpException.

h> r <- get ""
*** Exception: StatusCodeException (Status {statusCode = 404, {-...-}

Here’s a simple example of how we can respond to one kind of error: a get-like function that retries with authentication if an unauthenticated request fails.

import Control.Exception as E
import Control.Lens
import Network.HTTP.Client
import Network.Wreq

getAuth url myauth = get url `E.catch` handler
    handler e@(StatusCodeException s _ _)
      | s ^. statusCode == 401 = getWith authopts authurl
      | otherwise              = throwIO e
      where authopts = defaults & auth .~ myauth
            -- switch to TLS when we use auth
            authurl = "https" ++ dropWhile (/=':') url

(A “real world” version would remember which URLs required authentication during a session, to avoid the need for an unauthenticated failure followed by an authenticated success if we visit the same endpoint repeatedly.)

Handling multiple HTTP requests

For non-trivial applications, we’ll always want to use a Session to efficiently and correctly handle multiple requests.

The Session API provides two important features:

  • When we issue multiple HTTP requests to the same server, a Session will reuse TCP and TLS connections for us. (The simpler API we’ve discussed so far does not do this.) This greatly improves efficiency.

  • A Session transparently manages HTTP cookies. (We can manage them by hand, but it’s awkward and verbose, so we won’t cover it in this tutorial.)

Here’s a complete example.

{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings #-}

import Control.Lens
import Network.Wreq
import qualified Network.Wreq.Session as S

main :: IO ()
main = S.withSession $ \sess -> do
  -- First request: tell the server to set a cookie
  S.get sess ""

  -- Second request: the cookie should still be set afterwards.
  r <- sess "" ["a" := (3 :: Int)]
  print $ r ^. responseCookie "name" . cookieValue

The key differences from the basic API are as follows.

  • We import the Network.Wreq.Session module qualified, and we’ll identify its functions by prefixing them with “S.”.

  • To create a Session, we use S.withSession. It calls our code with sess, the Session value we’ll use.

  • Instead of get and post, we call the Session-specific versions, S.get and, and pass sess to each of them.