CouchDB-compatible mobile database; Objective-C version
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by Jens Alfke (
with contributions from Alexander Edge, Chris Kau, J Chris Anderson, Marty Schoch, Paul Mietz Egli
and technical advice from Damien Katz and Filipe Manana

TouchDB is a lightweight Apache CouchDB-compatible database engine suitable for embedding into mobile or desktop apps. Think of it this way: If CouchDB is MySQL, then TouchDB is SQLite.

By "CouchDB-compatible" I mean that it can replicate with CouchDB, and that its data model and high-level design are "Couch-like" enough to make it familiar to CouchDB/Couchbase developers. Its API will not be identical and it may not support some CouchDB features (like user accounts) that aren't useful in mobile apps. Its implementation is not based on CouchDB's (it's not even written in Erlang.) It does support replication to and from CouchDB.

By "suitable for embedding into mobile apps", I mean that it meets the following requirements:

  • Small code size; currently about 250kbytes. (Code size is important to mobile apps, which are often downloaded over cell networks.)
  • Quick startup time on relatively-slow CPUs; ideally 100ms or less.
  • Low memory usage with typical mobile data-sets. The expectation is the number of documents will not be huge, although there may be sizable multimedia attachments.
  • "Good enough" performance with these CPUs and data-sets.

And by "mobile apps" I'm focusing on iOS and Android, although there's no reason we couldn't extend this to other platforms like Windows Phone. And it's not limited to mobile OSs -- the Objective-C implementation runs on Mac OS as well, and on Linux and other Unix-like OSs via GNUstep.

More documentation is available on the wiki.


  • Mac OS X -- 10.7.2 or higher.
  • iOS -- 5.0 or higher.
  • Linux, BSD, etc -- Any platform supported by current GNUstep and libobjc2.
  • MS Windows -- As supported by GNUstep using MingW.
  • Android / Java -- Has its own source base and repository.


  • It's written in Objective-C.
  • Xcode 4.3+ is required to build it (Clang 3.0+, with GNUstep).
  • Runtime system requirements for Apple platforms are iOS 5+, or Mac OS X 10.7.2+.


  • TouchDB itself is under the Apache License 2.0.
  • FMDB, by Gus Mueller, is under the MIT License.
  • Google Toolbox For Mac is under the Apache License 2.0.
  • CocoaHTTPServer, by Robbie Hanson, is under the BSD License.
  • MYUtilities (portions of which are copied into the vendor/MYUtilities directory) is under the BSD License. (But note that I, Jens, wrote MYUtilities and would have no problem re-licensing it under Apache for use here.)

Development Status

TouchDB went alpha in January 201 with version 0.45.

Current versions (0.75 as of this writing) are close to being beta candidates.

Beta should arrive by summer.

Building TouchDB

On a Mac

For full details see the wiki page. The gist of it is:

  1. Clone the TouchDB repository to your local disk.
  2. In that directory run "git submodule init" and then "git submodule update". This will clone the FMDB, MYUtilities, and CocoaHTTPServer repos into the vendor/ subdirectory.
  3. Open the Xcode project and build the "Mac Framework" and/or "iOS Framework" schemes.

With GNUstep

Please refer to the files BUILDING.txt and SETUP.txt in the GNUstep directory.