Use The Bit.Ly API From a C# Application - Authentication

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Use The Bit.Ly API From a C# Application - Authentication

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I was playing around this morning with the Bitly API. Like the Dropbox API they use OAuth for authentication. But instead of version 1.0 they use the OAuth 2 draft specification.

Wondering how much it differs from the previous version I created a Bitly account and started coding…

Register Your Application

If you don’t have a Bitly account yet, then sign up here:


It’s quick and painless, I promise.

Once signed up, you need to register your application. Just select your account’s settings.

Bitly Account Settings

At the bottom you’ll find a list of your registered OAuth applications. You are allowed to create 3 applications under a single Bitly account. Just click the Register OAuth Application button to register a new application.

Register OAuth Application

First you need to request a registration code. This code will be sent to the e-mail address associated with your Bitly account. Go ahead and click the “Get Registration Code” button.

Once you have received the e-mail, click on the registration code within it. You’ll be redirected to a form where you need to fill in the application’s name, link and description.

For example:

Create Bitly Application

After you’ve filled in the form and submitted it, your new application will be listed on your account. Per application you’ll receive an application link, client id and client secret. You’ll need these during the OAuth authentication process.

Registered Applications

There seems no way to edit or remove a registered application afterwards. A pity.


Alright, Bitly account created, registered the application. Time to start the authentication process.

First you need to redirect the user to https://bitly.com/oauth/authorize. You need to append your client id and application link (a.k.a. redirect uri) in the query string.

var redirectUri = "http://cgeers.com/";
var uri = "https://bitly.com/oauth/authorize";

var authorizeUri = new StringBuilder(uri);
authorizeUri.AppendFormat("?client_id={0}&", clientId);
authorizeUri.AppendFormat("redirect_uri={0}", redirectUri);

You’ll wind up with a URL that looks like this:


Remark: Make sure that the value of the redirect_uri parameter exactly matches the URL to which you linked your application! If you forget the last forward slash it will not work.

Now you need to redirect your user to this URL so that he or she can authorize your application.

A crude example:

var startInfo = new ProcessStartInfo();
startInfo.FileName = authorizeUri.ToString();

The user will be redirect to a page where he can grant your applicion access to his Bitly account.

Grant Access

Access Token

When the user authorizes your application, he will be redirected to the URL specified by the redirect_uri parameter. Bitly appends a code to this URI. You can exchange this code for an OAuth access token.

For example:


You need to retrieve the OAuth token using the https://api-ssl.bitly.com/oauth/access_token endpoint.

You’ll need to append four parameters to it, namely:

  • client_id: your application’s Bitly client id
  • client_secret: your application’s Bitly client secret
  • code: the code acquired via the authorization step
  • redirect_uri: the page to which a user was redirected upon successfully authenticating

Let’s compose this URL:

var redirectUri = "http://cgeers.com/";
var code = "6c9f6ec95f54ba7269d0ba037b3eba7137559556";

var requestUri = new StringBuilder("https://api-ssl.bitly.com/oauth/access_token");
requestUri.AppendFormat("?client_id={0}&", clientId);
requestUri.AppendFormat("client_secret={0}&", clientSecret);
requestUri.AppendFormat("code={0}&", code);
requestUri.AppendFormat("redirect_uri={0}", redirectUri);

You’ll end up with something like this:


Once again make sure that the values for all the parameters match exactly.

Now you’ll need to issue a POST request (required), a GET request will not work, to obtain the response.

var request = (HttpWebRequest) WebRequest.Create(requestUri.ToString());
request.Method = WebRequestMethods.Http.Post;

var response = request.GetResponse();
using (var reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream()))
    var accessToken = reader.ReadToEnd();

The response is a simple query string which will look something like this:


Just split the string and extract the different parts.

var parts = accessToken.Split('&');
var token = parts[0].Substring(parts[0].IndexOf('=') + 1);
var login = parts[1].Substring(parts[1].IndexOf('=') + 1);
var apiKey = parts[2].Substring(parts[2].IndexOf('=') + 1);

You now have an access token for the user. Make sure you persist it somewhere. You don’t want to put the user through the authentication process again.

Once you’ve issued this request the code becomes useless. If you perform the request again using the same code you’ll receive a 401 Http status code (unauthorized).

All Bitly API requests must be made over SSL (https://api-sll.bitly.com/). You can use the access token on behalf of the user. Perhaps I’ll write another blog post that shows how to perform API requests. Stay tuned.

You can download the source code accompanying this article from the download page. If you have any questions or suggestions please drop me an e-mail or submit a comment.


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