Lightweight, embedded, syncable NoSQL database engine for iOS (and Mac!) apps.
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LiteServ App

Couchbase Lite

Couchbase Lite is an embedded lightweight, document-oriented (NoSQL), syncable database engine.

Get more info and downloads of Couchbase Lite (for iOS and Android) via the Couchbase mobile portal

Click here for official documentation for Couchbase Lite iOS

Latency matters a lot to users, so a local database takes frustration out of the equation. It’s got JSON documents, and the same map/reduce as Couchbase Server, in a pint-sized edition.

Couchbase Lite compiles natively for iOS and Android. Half a megabyte optimized, for quick launch and snappy user experience on occasionally connected devices when data matters.

Lightweight means:

  • Embedded: The database engine is a library linked into the app, not a separate server process.
  • Small code size: currently under 600kbytes. This is important to mobile apps, which are often downloaded over cell networks.
  • Quick startup time on relatively-slow CPUs: currently under 50ms on recent iPhones.
  • 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. (Exact figures depend on your data and application, of course.)

Document-oriented means:

  • Like Couchbase Server, it stores records in flexible JSON format instead of requiring predefined schemas or normalization.
  • Records/documents can have arbitrary-sized binary attachments, like multimedia content.
  • Your application's data format can evolve over time without any need for explicit migrations.
  • Map/reduce indexing allows fast lookups without needing to use special query languages.
  • Documents can contain free-form text or geographic coordinates, which are efficiently indexed for full-text search or geo-querying.

Syncable means:

  • Any two copies of a database can be brought into sync via an efficient, reliable, proven REST-based protocol.
  • Sync can be on-demand or continuous (with a latency of a few seconds).
  • The sync engine supports intermittent and unreliable network connections.
  • Conflicts can be detected and resolved, with app logic in full control of merging.
  • Revision trees allow for complex replication topologies, including server-to-server (for multiple data centers) and peer-to-peer, without data loss or false conflicts.

The native APIs are Objective-C (iOS, Mac) and Java (Android), but an optional internal REST API adapter allows it to be called from other languages like JavaScript and C#, for use in apps built with PhoneGap, Titanium or MonoTouch.

More Information



  • It's written in Objective-C.
  • Xcode 4.6+ is required to build it (Clang 3.1+, with GNUstep).
  • Runtime system requirements for Apple platforms are iOS 6+, or Mac OS X 10.7.2+.


Design, coding: Jens Alfke (
Contributions from: Alexander Edge, Chris Kau, David Venable, Derek Clarkson, Fabien Franzen, fcandalija, J Chris Anderson, Marty Schoch, Mike Lamb, Paul Mietz Egli, Robin Lu
Technical advice from: Damien Katz, Filipe Manana, and several other gurus on the CouchDB mailing list


  • Couchbase Lite itself is under the Apache License 2.0.
  • CocoaHTTPServer, by Robbie Hanson, is under the BSD License.
  • FMDB, by Gus Mueller, is under the MIT License.
  • Google Toolbox For Mac is under the Apache License 2.0.
  • MYUtilities (portions of which are copied into the vendor/MYUtilities directory) is under the BSD License.
  • SQLite3-unicodesn by Alexey Illiaronov, is in the public domain, but we wanted to say thanks anyway.
  • YAJL, by Lloyd Hilael, is under the ISC license (which appears similar to BSD.)

These are all permissive, commercial-friendly licenses, and you can abide by them simply by putting copyright and permission notices for each in your app's UI / credits / README. For details read the individual licenses.

Downloading Couchbase Lite

Get Couchbase Lite via the Couchbase mobile portal

Building Couchbase Lite

Until we get continuous builds re-enabled, if you want the very latest and greatest (and possibly buggy) version, you'll need to build it yourself...

For full details see the wiki page. The basic steps are:

  1. Clone the Couchbase Lite repository to your local disk.
  2. In that directory run "git submodule update --init --recursive". This will clone the dependent library repos (such as FMDB and MYUtilities) into the vendor/ subdirectory.
  3. Open the Xcode project and choose the "CBL Mac" and/or "CBL iOS" schemes (whether it targets a device or simulator shouldn't matter).
  4. Build or Archive (depending on whether you want a debug or release build.)
  5. The build product is "CouchbaseLite.framework" which you can now copy wherever you like and add to your application project. alpha