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A "datafied" web stack built in PostgreSQL



Aquameta is an experimental project, still in early stages of development. It is not suitable for production development and should not be used in an untrusted or mission-critical environment.


Aquameta is an "all database" web development stack, an attempt to make web development more modular, simple, coherent and fun by making everything data. See Motivation for more.

Under the hood, Aquameta is organized into seven PostgreSQL extensions, that each corresponds to a layer or tool in a typical web stack. The database schema contains ~60 tables, ~50 views and ~90 stored procedures that together make a minimalist, fairly unopinionated web stack that should be familiar to most web developers, except that it's all in the database. A thin Golang daemon handles the connection to the database and runs a web server.

Core Extensions

  • meta - Writable system catalog for PostgreSQL, making most database admin tasks (e.g. CREATE TABLE ...) possible by changing live data. Makes the database self-aware, and makes it possible to represent schema and procedures as data.
  • bundle - Version control system similar to git but for database rows instead of files.
  • event - Hooks for monitoring changes to tables, rows and columns for inserts, updates and deletes using triggers and fire off events via PostgreSQL NOTIFY.
  • filesystem - Makes the file system accessible from SQL.
  • endpoint - Minimalist web request handlers, implemented as PostgreSQL procedures: A REST API, static recources, function maps, WebSocket events and URL-pattern templates.
  • widget - Web component framework for building modular user interface components. Each widget is a row in the database with columns for HTML, CSS and Javascript, and a mechanism for attaching JS dependencies.
  • semantics - Schema decorators, for describing tables and columns, and binding custom UI widgets handlers for display and edit.

Together, these extensions make a simple, fairly un-opinionated web stack (other than that whole all-data thing).

User Interface

On top of the core extensions, Aquameta has a web-based IDE. Check out the demos and such on youtube.


The web stack is very complicated, and frankly a bit of a mess. Aquameta's philosophy is that the cause of this mess is the underlying information model of "files plus syntax". Under the hood, web stacks have structure, but that structure is latent and heterogeneous. The heirarchical file system isn't adequate for handling the level of complexity in the web stack.

Putting things in the database makes them uniform and clean. There are many architectural advantages, but to highlight a few:

  • An all-data web stack means that the various layers of the stack have a shared information model. As such, you can combine various layers of the stack into a single bundle with ease, because it's all just data. Whether a bundle be an entire app, a Javascript dependency, a collection of user data, some database schema and functions, or any other way slice and dice a project, as long as it is all data, it makes a single coherent bundle.
  • When all the layers are data, you can make tools that work with data, generally, and they can apply to all the layers of the stack at the same time.

The result is a vast increase in potential for modularity -- reusable components. That means we can share code and data in a much more effective way, and build on each other's work more coherently than in the file-based paradigm.


Coming soon?

Install From Source

  1. Install PostgreSQL version 13 or higher. Once it's installed, make sure the pg_config command is in your path. Then create an empty database that Aquameta will be installed into, and then create yourself a superuser, typically the same name as your unix username:
# make sure pg_config is present
pg_config --version

# sudo to the postgres user and create a user
sudo -iu postgres
createdb aquameta
psql aquameta
aquameta=# CREATE ROLE eric; -- use your unix username here instead of 'eric'
aquameta=# ALTER ROLE eric superuser login password 'changeme';
  1. Clone the bleeding-edge source and submodules via git (or download the latest source release):
git clone --recurse-submodules
cd aquameta/
  1. Install Aquameta's extensions into PostgreSQL's extensions/ directory. If you get an error like make: command not found, install make via the build-essential package, e.g. sudo apt install build-essential.
cd scripts/
sudo ./
cd ../

Note for Mac users: this may fail with a cryptic permissions error if your terminal program does not have Full Disk Access. This can be set via System Preferences.

  1. Install Golang version 1.18 or greater, then build the ./aquameta binary from aquameta's root directory:
go --version
go build

This should create a binary called ./aquameta.

  1. Edit conf/boot.conf to match your PostgreSQL settings.
cd conf/
cp boot.toml.dist boot.toml
vi boot.toml
cd ../
  1. Start the Aquameta server:
./aquameta --help
./aquameta -c conf/boot.toml

When Aquameta starts, it checks to see if the core extensions are installed on the database, and if they are not, it will automatically install them. Then it starts the webserver and provides a URL where you can start using the IDE.

Congrats! The end.


See the (paltry) documentation.


Aquameta is the life-work of Eric Hanson for over two decades. Prototypes have been built in MySQL/PHP, eXist/XML/XQuery/XForms, RDF/SPARQL and more, but finding PostgreSQL was a game changer and this codebase is the first to show some light at the end of the tunnel.

This codebase originated as the startup idea of Aquameta, LLC, a Portland Oregon based software company. Much blood, sweat and tears was put into formulating and evolving the concept in the RDBMS world. Huge strides were made by Eric, Mike, Mickey and others in the late 2010s. But, with zero users, a marginally functional prototype, and a wild idea about how to radically change the very foundations of how we program, the company was unsurprisingly unable to attract institutional investors. We ran out of money and the company is now inactive. In retrospect, rebuilding the entire web stack perhaps wasn't the most realistic idea for a startup.

However, work continues on the project as open source, as time, resources and love permits.

Here are some older materials from the early days. They are woefully out of date from a technical perspective, but conceptually still fairly sound.

Currently, the project has come a very long way, but still has known architectural foot-guns and time-bombs. It works fine for single users, but being well-equipped for a distributed development ecosystem with independent developers and out-of-step dependency management is a much more challenging problem. Until the issues with operating at scale are even marginally addressed, we are not trying to lure new users into a swamp where they shalt surely perish.

You're welcome to try the project, it actually works pretty well in a single user or small team environment. But bring your mud boots and machete: The documentation is wrong, if it exists at all, the architecture can and will change without notice or regard for backwards compatibility. User experience is not a priority at this time, getting the architecture correct for future users is all that matters.

Architecture nerds and system architectures are welcome. If you love the idea, help us make it a reality! There are a vast number of known issues in the issue tracker.