Product Opener

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Product Opener is the software used by Open Food Facts to create and maintain its collaborative database of food products in open data.

Diagram explaining the infrastructure of Product Opener

Open source

Product Opener is released under the GNU Affero License, a free, copyleft license so that it can be reused by other projects, for instance to open the data for other types of products.

Product Opener original code includes code related to the original developer's other projects. Efforts are under way to clean, decouple and document the Product Opener code so that it can be released as open source.


Product Opener Database

Product data and history

The data for each product is stored in a structured object (several levels of hashes and arrays). The data is stored on disk in individual files in Perl's binary format for objects (Storable). The history of each change to the product data is also saved in the same format. There is one binary file for each version.


Product data index

The current version of each product is stored in a MongoDB database. The database includes indexes and is used to search and display products. MongoDB allow storing structured objects as-is, so there is an exact correspondence between Perl's internal format, MongoDB's format and the JSON export of the API.


Product images

Images are saved on disk for each product. Original images uploaded through the web server or mobile applications are kept. Thumbnails are also generated for the final product image.

Aggregated data

Some of the data is periodically aggregated and saved in Perl binary files (e.g. average nutrition facts for products of each category).

Exported data

The data for all products is periodically exported in CSV and RDF formats.

Product Opener Web Server

The web interface for searching, displaying, adding and editing products. (e.g. for Open Food Facts)

The server is written in Perl. In production we use a light weight Apache web server for static files (e.g. images) that does reverse proxying to a modperl Apache server that dynamically generates the HTML pages.

The form to add and edit product uses Javascript and jquery.

In the backend, other libraries and software are used, such as Tesseract for optical character recognition for ingredients.

Product Opener API

See Detailed Page: Project:API

Product Opener provides a JSON API to search products and read their data.

There is also a limited API to upload product images and edit some of the product data that is used by the mobile applications.

The API functionality is currently provided by the Product Opener Web Server, but it may change in the future (e.g. at some point we could implement a full API for accessing (reading + writing) the Product Opener database, and have the Web Server call the API instead of going directly to the database).

Product Opener client applications

Apache Cordova mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone

See detailed article: Mobile App Development Notes

The current Open Food Facts mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone are developed with Apache Cordova (previously known as Phonegap) with the same HTML + Javascript (including jquery and jquerymobile) code base.

The Android app uses Moodstocks image recognizer and barcode scanner plugin. The iOS and Windows Phone apps use the BarcodeScanner plugin.

The code for the Open Food Facts phonegap app is already in open source:


(in progress)

See Product Opener installation

and Product Opener installation on Debian / Ubuntu

For updated installation instructions see Infrastructure


Product Opener is a big software with dozens of features. For each important project/modification, we should do tests.

This tests can be listed and used at the Product Opener/Acceptance testing page.

Maintenance tasks


(in progress)

Product Opener documentation

Draft roadmap

Note: Those are propositions

  • Templatize the pages
  • Create pathways to account creation
  • Inline editing
  • Simplify the UI (place UI elements according to web standards, use a newer CSS framework, material design…)
  • Simplify the product page
    • Inline value added data from linked pages (eg Packager Codes, Additives)
    • Hide complexity or low value things
  • Create a landing page
  • Document the API (and other things) inside the code to auto-generate SDKs and doc
  • Modernize search
  • Integrate features from the Power User Script into the web version