Get messages

Fetch message history from a Zulip server.


This GET /api/v1/messages endpoint is the primary way to fetch message history from a Zulip server. It is useful both for Zulip clients (e.g. the web, desktop, mobile, and terminal clients) as well as bots, API clients, backup scripts, etc.

By specifying a narrow filter, you can use this endpoint to fetch the messages matching any search query that is supported by Zulip's powerful full-text search backend.

When a narrow is not specified, it can be used to fetch a user's message history (We recommend paginating to 1000 messages at a time).

In either case, you specify an anchor message (or ask the server to calculate the first unread message for you and use that as the anchor), as well as a number of messages before and after the anchor message. The server returns those messages, sorted by message ID, as well as some metadata that makes it easy for a client to determine whether there are more messages matching the query that were not returned due to the num_before and num_after limits.

We recommend using num_before <= 1000 and num_after <= 1000 to avoid generating very large HTTP responses. A maximum of 5000 messages can be obtained per request; attempting to exceed this will result in an error.

Usage examples

#!/usr/bin/env python3

import zulip

# Pass the path to your zuliprc file here.
client = zulip.Client(config_file="~/zuliprc")

# Get the 100 last messages sent by "" to the stream "Verona"
request: Dict[str, Any] = {
    'anchor': 'newest',
    'num_before': 100,
    'num_after': 0,
    'narrow': [{'operator': 'sender', 'operand': ''},
               {'operator': 'stream', 'operand': 'Verona'}],
result = client.get_messages(request)

More examples and documentation can be found here.

const zulip = require('zulip-js');

// Pass the path to your zuliprc file here.
const config = {
    zuliprc: 'zuliprc',

zulip(config).then((client) => {
    const readParams = {
        type: 'stream',
        num_before: 1,
        num_after: 1,

    // Fetch messages anchored around id (1 before, 1 after)
    return client.messages.retrieve(readParams);

curl -sSX GET -G \
    -d 'anchor=42' \
    -d 'num_before=4' \
    -d 'num_after=8' \
    --data-urlencode narrow='[{"operand": "Denmark", "operator": "stream"}]'


anchor optional

Example: 42

Integer message ID to anchor fetching of new messages. Supports special string values for when the client wants the server to compute the anchor to use:

  • newest: The most recent message.
  • oldest: The oldest message.
  • first_unread: The oldest unread message matching the query, if any; otherwise, the most recent message.

The special values of 'newest' and 'oldest' are also supported for anchoring the query at the most recent or oldest messages.

Changes: String values are new in Zulip 2.2 (feature level 1). The first_unread functionality was supported in Zulip 2.1.x and older by not sending anchor and using use_first_unread_anchor.

In Zulip 2.1.x and older, oldest can be emulated with anchor=0, and newest with anchor=10000000000000000 (that specific large value works around a bug in Zulip 2.1.x and older in the found_newest return value).

num_before required

Example: 4

The number of messages with IDs less than the anchor to retrieve.

num_after required

Example: 8

The number of messages with IDs greater than the anchor to retrieve.

narrow optional

Example: [{'operand': 'Denmark', 'operator': 'stream'}]

The narrow where you want to fetch the messages from. See how to construct a narrow.

Defaults to [].

client_gravatar optional

Example: True

Whether the client supports computing gravatars URLs. If enabled, avatar_url will be included in the response only if there is a Zulip avatar, and will be null for users who are using gravatar as their avatar. This option significantly reduces the compressed size of user data, since gravatar URLs are long, random strings and thus do not compress well. The client_gravatar field is set to true if clients can compute their own gravatars.

Defaults to false.

apply_markdown optional

Example: False

If true, message content is returned in the rendered HTML format. If false, message content is returned in the raw markdown-format text that user entered.

Defaults to true.

use_first_unread_anchor optional

Example: True

Legacy way to specify anchor="first_unread" in Zulip 2.1.x and older.

Whether to use the (computed by the server) first unread message matching the narrow as the anchor. Mutually exclusive with anchor.

Changes: Deprecated in Zulip 2.2, replaced by anchor="first_unread" instead.

Defaults to false.


Return values

When a request is successful, this endpoint returns a dictionary containing the following (in addition to the msg and result keys present in all Zulip API responses).

  • anchor: the same anchor specified in the request.
  • found_newest: whether the messages list includes the latest message in the narrow.
  • found_oldest: whether the messages list includes the oldest message in the narrow.
  • found_anchor: whether it was possible to fetch the requested anchor, or the closest in the narrow has been used.
  • messages: an array of message objects, each containing the following fields:
    • avatar_url: The URL of the user's avatar.
    • client: A Zulip "client" string, describing what Zulip client sent the message.
    • content: The content/body of the message.
    • content_type: The HTTP content_type for the message content. This will be text/html or text/x-markdown, depending on whether apply_markdown was set.
    • display_recipient: Data on the recipient of the message; either the name of a stream or a dictionary containing data on the users who received the message.
    • flags: The user's message flags for the message.
    • id: The unique message ID. Messages should always be displayed sorted by ID.
    • is_me_message: Whether the message is a /me status message
    • reactions: Data on any reactions to the message.
      • emoji_code: An encoded version of the emoji's unicode codepoint.
      • emoji_name: Name of the emoji.
      • reaction_type: If the reaction uses a custom emoji, reaction_type will be set to realm_emoji.
      • user_id: The ID of the user who added the reaction. Changes: New in Zulip 2.2 (feature level 2). The user object is deprecated and will be removed in the future.
      • user: Dictionary with data on the user who added the reaction, including the user ID as the id field. Note: In the events API, this user dictionary confusing had the user ID in a field called user_id instead. We recommend ignoring fields other than the user ID. Deprecated and to be removed in a future release once core clients have migrated to use the user_id field.
    • recipient_id: A unique ID for the set of users receiving the message (either a stream or group of users). Useful primarily for hashing.
    • sender_email: The email address of the message's sender.
    • sender_full_name: The full name of the message's sender.
    • sender_id: The user ID of the message's sender.
    • sender_realm_str: A string identifier for the realm the sender is in.
    • sender_short_name: Reserved for future use.
    • stream_id: Only present for stream messages; the ID of the stream.
    • subject: The topic of the message (only present for stream messages). The name is a legacy holdover from when topics were called "subjects".
    • topic_links: Data on any links to be included in the topic line (these are generated by custom linkification filters that match content in the message's topic.) Changes: New in Zulip 2.2 (feature level 1). Previously, this field was called subject_links; clients are recommended to rename subject_links to topic_links if present for compatibility with older Zulip servers.
    • submessages: Data used for certain experimental Zulip integrations.
    • timestamp: The UNIX timestamp for when the message was sent, in UTC seconds.
    • type: The type of the message: stream or private.

Example response

A typical successful JSON response may look like:

    "anchor": 21,
    "found_anchor": true,
    "found_newest": true,
    "messages": [
            "avatar_url": "",
            "client": "populate_db",
            "content": "<p>Security experts agree that relational algorithms are an interesting new topic in the field of networking, and scholars concur.</p>",
            "content_type": "text/html",
            "display_recipient": [
                    "email": "",
                    "full_name": "King Hamlet",
                    "id": 4,
                    "is_mirror_dummy": false,
                    "short_name": "hamlet"
                    "email": "",
                    "full_name": "Iago",
                    "id": 5,
                    "is_mirror_dummy": false,
                    "short_name": "iago"
                    "email": "",
                    "full_name": "Prospero from The Tempest",
                    "id": 8,
                    "is_mirror_dummy": false,
                    "short_name": "prospero"
            "flags": [
            "id": 16,
            "is_me_message": false,
            "reactions": [],
            "recipient_id": 27,
            "sender_email": "",
            "sender_full_name": "King Hamlet",
            "sender_id": 4,
            "sender_realm_str": "zulip",
            "sender_short_name": "hamlet",
            "subject": "",
            "submessages": [],
            "timestamp": 1527921326,
            "topic_links": [],
            "type": "private"
            "avatar_url": "",
            "client": "populate_db",
            "content": "<p>Wait, is this from the frontend js code or backend python code</p>",
            "content_type": "text/html",
            "display_recipient": "Verona",
            "flags": [
            "id": 21,
            "is_me_message": false,
            "reactions": [],
            "recipient_id": 20,
            "sender_email": "",
            "sender_full_name": "King Hamlet",
            "sender_id": 4,
            "sender_realm_str": "zulip",
            "sender_short_name": "hamlet",
            "stream_id": 5,
            "subject": "Verona3",
            "submessages": [],
            "timestamp": 1527939746,
            "topic_links": [],
            "type": "stream"
    "msg": "",
    "result": "success"