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Welcome to algorithm development in Rust.

This guide will take you through the steps to getting started in algorithm development and cover the basics of managing dependencies, working with various types of inputs and outputs, calling other algorithms and managing data.

By the end of the guide you will see how to develop a couple of simple algorithms and you’ll be ready to start contributing to the algorithm marketplace.

Table of Contents

Available Libraries

Algorithmia makes a number of libraries available to make algorithm development easier.

The full Rust 1.15 language and standard library is available for you to use in your algorithms.

Furthermore, algorithms can call other algorithms and manage data on the Algorithmia platform via the Algorithmia Rust Client.

Create an Algorithm

Let’s start by creating an algorithm. First navigate to Algorithmia and by hovering over “More” you’ll see a dropdown with a purple button that says “Add Algorithm”. Go ahead and click that button.

Add algorithm navigation

When you click the “Add Algorithm” button, you’ll see a form for creating your algorithm that we’ll fill out step by step below:

Create an algorithm in Rust

Algorithmia Name: The first thing you’ll notice in the form is the field “Algorithm Name” which will be the name of your algorithm. You’ll want to name your algorithm something descriptive based on what the algorithm does.

For example this guide shows how to create an algorithm that splits text up into words, which is called tokenizing in natural language processing. So, this example algorithm is called “Tokenize Text”, but go ahead and name your algorithm according to what your code does.

Algorithm ID: The unique AlgoURL path users will use to call your algorithm.

Language: Next you’ll pick the language of your choice. This is the Rust guide so choose Rust as the language.

Source Code: Because we want to make this algorithm open source and available for everyone to view the source code, we’ll choose “Open Source”.

As an incentive to promote community contributions, open source algorithms on the Algorithmia Platform will earn 1% of the usage cost (0.01cr/sec of execution time).

Special Permissions: Next is the “Special Permissions” section that allows your algorithm to have access to the internet and allows it to call other algorithms. In this example we’ll want access to the internet and since our final algorithm will call another algorithm we want to select “Can call other algorithms” as well.

Also under Special Permissions, you can select “Standard execution environment” or “Advanced GPU”. Since our algorithm isn’t processing large amounts of data needed to run on a GPU environment, we’ll select “Standard execution environment”.

You can find out more about algorithm permissions in the Algorithm Permissions Section. Also, consider whether your algorithm would benefit from using a Graphics Processing Unit to accelerate certain kinds of computation, such as image processing and deep learning. When “Advanced GPU” is selected, the algorithm will run on servers with GPU hardware, with specific drivers and frameworks to help algorithm developers take advantage of GPU computing. This includes nvidia drivers, CUDA support, and several of the most popular deep learning frameworks, including TensorFlow, Caffe, Theano, and Torch.

Now hit the “Create” button on the bottom lower right of the form and you’ll see this modal:

cli info modal

You can now clone your Algorithm (via Git) and install the CLI to edit/test locally, or you can close the modal and continue to create your algorithm in the Web IDE.

Editing your algorithm locally via GIT & CLI

The preferred way to edit and test your Algorithm’s code is to install the CLI on your local machine, clone your algorithm’s repo via Git, and use your favorite editing tools to modify the code. This gives you the benefits of using a familiar development environment, plus an easy way to test your changes locally before committing changes back to the repo and publishing a new algorithm version.

To learn more about this process, Algorithmia’s CLI and Git guides. If you’re already familiar with the CLI and Git, the basic steps you need to take are:

  1. Install the CLI: curl -sSLf | sh (Windows instructions here )
  2. Clone your algorithm: algo clone username/algoname
  3. Use your preferred editor to modify the code
  4. Test your algorithm: cd algoname; algo runlocal -D [JSON FILE]
  5. Commit your changes: git commit -m [commit message]; git push origin master
  6. Publish your changes: for now, you must do this via the web IDE:
    1. visit
    2. click on your algorithm
    3. click “Edit Source”
    4. click “Compile”, then “Publish

Editing your algorithm via the web IDE

If you prefer to continue creating your algorithm in the Web IDE, simply close the modal and you should see the algorithm console for your newly created algorithm:

Algorithm descrption page

Notice the tabs: Run, Docs, Cost, Discussion, Manage, and Source.

The tab currently showing “Run” is where users can run the algorithm with the default input that you will provide during the publishing step of the algorithm or they can run their own input to test out your algorithm. Also, on this tab, you can add a short summary stating what your algorithm is and why people might be interested in it (for example how it solves a particular problem in a use case).

“Docs” consists of the section that you will want to show how to use your algorithm including complete information about the input types allowed and what the expected outputs will be.

“Cost” will be filled out automatically once you publish your algorithm and will show if you’ve chosen to charge royalites or if you’ve decided to open source your algorithm. It will also give the estimated cost so the user consuming your algorithm can see how much it will cost.

The “Discussion” tab shows the comments and questions from users so you can keep up to date regarding user feedback.

Under the “Manage” tab you can see how to clone your algorithm, see what items are checked off in the Algorithm Checklist and see permissions for your algorithm which were set when you created your algorithm.

Finally click on the “Source” tab which will display the UI for creating your algorithm if you prefer it over the CLI.

Algorithmia creates the skeleton for your algorithm and bring you to the Edit Algorithm page. The editor will have the “Hello world” code already filled out for you, as shown below.

Algorithm console Rust

Write your First Algorithm

As you can see in your algorithm editor, there is a basic algorithm already written that takes a string as input and returns the string “Hello” followed by the user input.

The main thing to note about the algorithm is that it’s wrapped in the apply() function.

The apply() function defines the input point of the algorithm. We use the apply() function in order to make different algorithms standardized. This makes them easily chained and helps authors think about designing their algorithms in a way that makes them easy to leverage and predictable for end users.

Take note of the algo_entrypoint! macro which precedes the apply function, which itself returns a Result<T, E> for some type T that can be converted into AlgoOutput and some type E can be converted into a boxed Error. The algo_entrypoint! documentation covers this in more detail, but this guide will cover several common usages.

To run this algorithm first hit the “Compile” button on the top right hand corner of the algorithm editor and then at the bottom of the page in the console you’ll see a confirmation that it has compiled and the version number of that commit. Until you have Published your algorithm, the version number will be a hash such as 4be0e18fba270e4aaa7cff20555268903f69a11b - only you will be able to call this version. After you’ve Published an algorithm, it will be given a major.minor.revision number as described in the Versioning Documentation.

Compiling your algorithm will also save your work, but note that the first time you compile your algorithm it might take some time while subsequent compiles will be quicker.

To test the algorithm, type your name or another string in the console and hit enter on your keyboard:

Run basic algorithm in console Rust

Managing Dependencies

Algorithmia supports adding 3rd party dependencies via Cargo. Cargo dependencies typically come from (though it is also possible to specify dependencies from a git URL). If working locally, you can edit Cargo.toml and run cargo install to update your lockfile. Alternatively, from the web IDE, there is a button on the top right that says “Dependencies”. Click that button and you’ll see a modal window:

Rust Dependency File

Add dependencies at the end of the file, under the [dependencies] section (for details on versioning and on git-based dependencies, see the cargo documentation). Then click “Save dependencies” to close the modal window.

Note: Editing the [bin] and [lib] sections may break compilation, either immediately or during future platform maintenance. If you believe your scenario requires such changes, contact us as we’d love to learn more about your usage scenario to better support it.

I/O for your Algorithms

Now that you’ve compiled and ran a basic algorithm in the console, we’ll briefly go through some of the inputs and outputs you would expect to work with when creating an algorithm.

The first algorithm that we’ll create will take a JSON formatted object, which has been passed as input by the user. However, you don’t need to worry about deserializing the JSON; it is done automatically before the call to apply().

Your algorithm will output a JSON formatted object, which the user will consume via an API call to the algorithm path found at the bottom of the algorithm description page. This path is based on your Algorithmia user name and the name of your algorithm, so if you are “demo” and your algorithm is “TokenizeText”, then the path for version 0.1.1 of your algorithm will be demo/TokenizeText/0.1.1

Working with Basic Data Structures

Use the algo_entrypoint! macro to declare the data type you wish to handle in your entry point. We recommend accepting JSON-encoded Objects, and the easiest way to work with them is to derive an automatic deserialization from a wrapper type. So, if I was expecting to receive a JSON Object containing “name” (a string) and “values” (a list of numbers), I might write:

use algorithmia::prelude::*;

#[macro_use] extern crate algorithmia;
#[macro_use] extern crate serde_derive;
#[macro_use] extern crate serde_json;

pub struct Input {
    name: String,
    values: Vec<u32>,

fn apply(input: Input) -> Result<JsonValue, Box<std::error::Error>> {
    let sum: u32 = input.values.iter().sum();
    Ok(json!({ "name":, "sum": sum }))

Go ahead and type or paste the code sample above in the Algorithmia code editor after removing the “Hello World” code.

Now compile the new code sample and when that’s done test the code in the console by passing in the input and hitting enter on your keyboard:

{"name": "ages", "values": [8,6,7,5,3,0,9]}

This should return:

{"name": "ages", "sum": 38}

Note that this returns well-formatted JSON which will be easy for the user to consume.

To change the exact structure of the JSON which you wish to accept, simply change the struct Input. The derive macro will do its best to automatically convert incoming JSON into a compatible struct. For specialized cases such as accepting raw binary input (such as encoded files), see the algo_entrypoint documentation.

Algorithmia’s Rust compiler is highly optimized, so builds can take several minutes (this will get faster as caching improves in future versions of Rust). For now, we highly recommend developing most of your code locally, then doing a final compile in the Algorithmia console. To do so, simply clone your project, install rust, then run cargo build in your project directory.

Working with Data Stored on Algorithmia

This next code snippet shows how to create an algorithm working with a data file that a user has stored using Algorithmia’s Hosted Data Source.

While users who consume an algorithm have access to both Dropbox and Amazon S3 connectors, algorithm developers can only use the Algorithmia Hosted Data Source to host data for algorithm development.


If you wish to follow along working through the example yourself, create a text file that contains any unstructured text such as a chapter from a public domain book or article. We used a chapter from Burning Daylight, by Jack London which you can copy and paste into a text file. Or copy and paste it from here: Chapter One Burning Daylight, by Jack London. Then you will can upload it into one of your Data Collections (create a collection, drop the file into the “Drop files here” area which appears at the bottom of the page).

This example shows how to create an algorithm that takes a user’s file stored in a data collection on the Algorithmia platform and read it into a local String. Next, it splits the text on any dot, then on whitespace characters. Once done, it passes back an Object containing the properties “text” (the raw text extracted from the file), and “words” (a Vector of Vectors representing sentences and words):

use algorithmia::prelude::*;
use std::io::Read;

#[macro_use] extern crate algorithmia;
#[macro_use] extern crate serde_derive;
#[macro_use] extern crate serde_json;

pub struct Input {
    user_file: String

fn apply(input: Input) -> Result<JsonValue, Box<std::error::Error>> {
    let client = Algorithmia::default();
    let mut text_reader = client.file(&input.user_file).get()?;
    let mut text = String::new();
    text_reader.read_to_string(&mut text)?;
    let words: Vec<Vec<_>> = text.split(".")
        .map(|sentence| sentence.split_whitespace().collect())
    Ok(json!({ "text": text, "words": words }))

After you paste the above code into the Algorithmia code editor, you can compile and then test the example by passing in a file that you’ve hosted in Data Collections.

Following the example below, replace the path to your data collection with your user name (it will appear already if you are logged in), data collection name, and data file name which you can find under “My Collections” in Data Collections:

{"user_file": "data://YOUR_USERNAME/data_collection_dir/data_file.txt"}

You should get back an structure like this, but longer:

    "text": "It was a quiet night in the Shovel...",
    "words": [["It","was","a","quiet","night","in","the","Shovel"],["At","the"...]]

Writing files for the user to consume

Sometimes it is more appropriate to write your output to a file than to return it directly to the caller. In these cases, you may need to create a temporary file, then copy it to a Data URI (usually one which the caller specified in their request, or a Temporary Algorithm Collection):

let mut file_uri = "data://username/collection/filename.txt"
let mut temp_file = tempfile().expect("failed to create temporary file");
save_some_output(&mut temp_file);

However, actually using a temporary file is often unnecessary, and can be better accomplished with an in-memory buffer:

let mut file_uri = "data://username/collection/filename.txt"
let mut data = Vec::new();
save_some_output(&mut data);

Calling Other Algorithms and Managing Data

To call other algorithms or manage data from your algorithm, use the Algorithmia Rust Client which is automatically available to any algorithm you create on the Algorithmia platform. For more detailed information on how to work with data see the Data API docs and learn about Algorithmia’s Hosted Data Source.

When designing your algorithm, don’t forget that there are special data directories, .session and .algo, that are available only to algorithms to help you manage data over the course of the algorithm execution.

You may call up to 24 other algorithms, either in parallel or recursively.

Error Handling

The example above uses Box<std::errror::Error>, which is quite convenient, as you can append the ? operator to any potentialy problematic line and the Error will get returned to the caller as a JSON String.

However, you may also choose to use your own Error type, which will allow you to return more useful, customized error messages to the caller. The error-chain crate provides a great way to generate helpful errors with minimal boilerplate:

#[macro_use] extern crate error_chain;

error_chain! { }

fn apply(input: &str) -> Result<String> {
    let f = File::open(input).chain_err(|| "Failed to open input file")?;
    /* ... */

If the File::open fails, the API response’s error message will look something like this:

Failed to open input file
caused by: No such file or directory (os error 2)

In addition, error-chain provides a bail! macro which you can use to return a custom error message at any time.

As with most Rust code, you should avoid panicking in your algorithm. API callers will not have access to the panic backtrace, and panicking will impact the latency of back-to-back requests from the same user.

Algorithm Checklist

Before you are ready to publish your algorithm it’s important to go through this Algorithm Checklist and check out this blog post for Advanced Algorithm Development .

Both links will go over important best practices such as how to create a good algorithm description, add links to external documentation and other important information.

Publish Algorithm

Once you’ve developed your algorithm, you can publish it and make it available for others to use.

On the upper right hand side of the algorithm page you’ll see a purple button “Publish” which will bring up a modal:

Publish an algorithm

In this modal, you’ll see a Changes tab, a Sample I/O tab, and one called Versioning.

Changes shows you your commit history and release notes.

Sample I/O is where you’ll create your sample input and output for the user to try under Try the API in the Run tab. When you add a sample input, make sure to test it out with all the inputs that you accept since users will be able to test your algorithm with their own inputs.

Under the Versioning tab, you can select whether your algorithm will be for public use or private use as well as set the royalty. The algorithm can either be royalty-free or charge per-call. If you opt to have the algorithm charge a royalty, as the author, you will earn 70% of the royalty cost.

Check out Algorithm Pricing for more information on how much algorithms will cost to run.

Under Semantic Versioning you can choose which kind of release your change should fall under: Major, Minor, or Revision.

If you are satisfied with your algorithm and settings, go ahead and hit publish. Congratulations, you’re an algorithm developer!

Conclusion and Resources

In this guide we covered how to create an algorithm, work with different types of data and learned how to publish an algorithm.

For more resources: