Fix Python – What’s a good rate limiting algorithm?


Asked By – miniman

I could use some pseudo-code, or better, Python. I am trying to implement a rate-limiting queue for a Python IRC bot, and it partially works, but if someone triggers less messages than the limit (e.g., rate limit is 5 messages per 8 seconds, and the person triggers only 4), and the next trigger is over the 8 seconds (e.g., 16 seconds later), the bot sends the message, but the queue becomes full and the bot waits 8 seconds, even though it’s not needed since the 8 second period has lapsed.

Now we will see solution for issue: What’s a good rate limiting algorithm?


Here the simplest algorithm, if you want just to drop messages when they arrive too quickly (instead of queuing them, which makes sense because the queue might get arbitrarily large):

rate = 5.0; // unit: messages
per  = 8.0; // unit: seconds
allowance = rate; // unit: messages
last_check = now(); // floating-point, e.g. usec accuracy. Unit: seconds

when (message_received):
  current = now();
  time_passed = current - last_check;
  last_check = current;
  allowance += time_passed * (rate / per);
  if (allowance > rate):
    allowance = rate; // throttle
  if (allowance < 1.0):
    allowance -= 1.0;

There are no datastructures, timers etc. in this solution and it works cleanly 🙂 To see this, ‘allowance’ grows at speed 5/8 units per seconds at most, i.e. at most five units per eight seconds. Every message that is forwarded deducts one unit, so you can’t send more than five messages per every eight seconds.

Note that rate should be an integer, i.e. without non-zero decimal part, or the algorithm won’t work correctly (actual rate will not be rate/per). E.g. rate=0.5; per=1.0; does not work because allowance will never grow to 1.0. But rate=1.0; per=2.0; works fine.

This question is answered By – Antti Huima

This answer is collected from stackoverflow and reviewed by FixPython community admins, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5 , cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0