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Django: Custom User model without username

Django by default uses the username field for authentication purposes, but it's becoming a common trend to allow for email field for that purpose. As email identifies a user uniquely, the need of an additional username field can be omitted. Also, the email can be used in the places where a username can be used, so it does not break any internal identification structure as well.

In the later sections, when I mentiond the User model please think of the default AUTH_USER_MODEL (settings.AUTH_USER_MODEL).

So our eventual plan is to get rid of the username field and use email field in the User model for authentication purposes (<user_model>.USERNAME_FIELD).

Now, let's see the usual ways to modify/entend the django User model:

  • Create a Profile model: For example a UserProfile model that has a one-to-one relationship with the User model. But this is to entend the functionalities of the User model e.g. to add a new field, not to modify it. So this option is of no use to us in this case.

  • Subclass AbstractUser (django.contrib.auth.models.AbstractUser): AbstractUser is a abstract model that can be subclassed directly to create a concrete User model. In fact, the default User model subclasses this (django.contrib.auth.models.PermissionMixin). But again if create a model subclassing this, the model would allow us to extend the functionalities of the abstract class, not to allow for dropping the username field. So this option cab be dropped as well.

  • Subclass AbstractBaseUser (django.contrib.auth.base_user.AbstractBaseUser): This is what we need (sorry, spoiler alert!). This is the superclass of AbstractUser abstract model as well and defines only a very few fields and associated logics. The fields it define are: password, last_login. So only a bare minimum and a perfect abstract superclass to extend and add only the fields we want.

So we'll be focusing on subclassing the AbstractBaseUser model and modify it to our need. The decision to take now is that which fields to included in our concrete user model as the AbstractBaseUser defines only 2 fields mentioned fields. From here, we can go for absolutely limited number of fields as we need.

Before moving forward, if we were to extend the User model, the easier option is to create another profile model and put all the new fields there. But this also has the penalty of creating an extra database table which can be avoided by using the AbstractUser model; as it is an abstract model, it does not result in a database table itself. So we would get only one table created for the concrete subclass of it (which will contain all the additional fields).

Now, as our plan is to drop the username field and use email field as the USERNAME_FIELD, at this poing we can get some inspiration from the AbstractUser model as it basically defines all the fields we see in the default User model. The fields AbstractUser defines are: username, first_name, last_name, email, is_staff, is_active, date_joined. It also inherits from AbstractBaseUser so got password, last_login from there. It also has PermissionsMixin (django.contrib.auth.models.PermissionsMixin) as it's super class so it inherits is_superuser, groups, user_permissions fields from there. As we can imagine, the superclasses have all the relevant methods and attributes, and AbstractUser implements some if it's own. You can check out the source codes of them from links given at the bottom.

So based on the above idea, a simple User model that does not have the username field and uses email as the username field can take be defined as:

from django.db import models

from django.contrib.auth.base_user import AbstractBaseUser
from django.contrib.auth.models import PermissionsMixin

from django.utils.translation import ugettext_lazy as _

class User(AbstractBaseUser, PermissionsMixin):

    email = models.EmailField(unique=True, max_length=255, blank=False)

    # All these field declarations are copied as-is from `AbstractUser`
    first_name = models.CharField(_('first name'), max_length=30, blank=True)
    last_name = models.CharField(_('last name'), max_length=150, blank=True)
    email = models.EmailField(_('email address'), blank=True)
    is_staff = models.BooleanField(
        _('staff status'),
        help_text=_('Designates whether the user can log into this admin site.'),
    is_active = models.BooleanField(
            'Designates whether this user should be treated as active. '
            'Unselect this instead of deleting accounts.'
    date_joined = models.DateTimeField(_('date joined'),

    # Add additional fields here if needed

    objects = UserManager()

    USERNAME_FIELD = 'email'

As seen, the major changes are:

  • email field is made unique and it can't be blank
  • Declare email as the USERNAME_FIELD class attribute
  • A custom manager is needed that overrides the create_user and create_superuser methods used by Django internally in many places to create regular/super users, respectively.

Let's create our new UserManager now, this is also inspired from the idea implemented by the manager used in AbstractUser:

from django.contrib.auth.base_user import BaseUserManager

class UserManager(BaseUserManager):
    use_in_migrations = True

    def _create_user(self, email, password, **extra_fields):
        '''Create and save a user with the given email, and password.'''
        if not email:
            raise ValueError('The given email must be set')
        email = self.normalize_email(email)
        user = self.model(email=email, **extra_fields)
        return user

    def create_user(self, email, password=None, **extra_fields):
        extra_fields.setdefault('is_staff', False)
        extra_fields.setdefault('is_superuser', False)
        return self._create_user(email, password, **extra_fields)

    def create_superuser(self, email, password, **extra_fields):
        extra_fields.setdefault('is_staff', True)
        extra_fields.setdefault('is_superuser', True)

        if extra_fields.get('is_staff') is not True:
            raise ValueError('Superuser must have is_staff=True.')
        if extra_fields.get('is_superuser') is not True:
            raise ValueError('Superuser must have is_superuser=True.')

        return self._create_user(email, password, **extra_fields)

We need to move this definition before User model or import if it's defined in some other module.

The major change from the default UserManager is the absense of username in the create_user and create_superuser signatures. These methods delegate the actual user creation to the _create_user method which is set up accordingly to create users based on email-password.

Note that, the names User and UserManager are only a convention, you can give any name you want but it's highly recommended that you keep the same naming conventions.

That's it! Now we only need to set our custome User model as the default user model in


And we're done! We can now use our new user model like the way we want. We can customize it further to meet our need but here I've shown the basic idea of such an implementation.


Django source codes:


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