Miscellaneous information

In 1727, pennies featured the motto “Mind your own business!” Moreso, the average giraffe’s tongue is two feet, and elephants can’t stand on their heads (duh). Also, the average elevator travels 10,000 miles per year and Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark.

Differences from python-memcached

In general, because pylibmc is built on top of libmemcached, it issues exceptions for a lot of errors which python-memcached doesn’t. One example is if a memcached goes down, libmemcached will report an error whereas python-memcached will simply cycle to the next memcached.

On a similar note, pylibmc won’t raise a ValueError if one uses Client.inc on a non-existent key, instead a pylibmc.NotFound exception is raised.

Negative timeouts are treated the same way as zero timeouts are in pylibmc. python-memcached treats this as immediate expiry, returning success while not setting any value. This might raise exceptions in the future.

The most notable difference is the hashing. See the hashing docs for information and how to resolve the issue.

When setting huge key values, i.e. around 1MB, will have pylibmc complain loudly whereas python-memcached simply ignores the error and returns.

pylibmc.Client is not threadsafe like python-memcached’s Client class (which is threadlocal).


Most of all libmemcached error numbers are translated to exception classes except where it doesn’t make sense.

All pylibmc exceptions derive from pylibmc.Error, so to attempt a memcached operation and never fail, something like this could be used (although it should be noted soft errors are handled via return values; errors aren’t always exceptional when caching things):

except pylibmc.Error as e:

Should you for some reason need the actual error code returned from libmemcached, simply sneak a peak at the retcode attribute.

If you’re interested in exactly what maps to what, see _pylibmcmodule.h.


Never ignore exceptional states. Any programmer worth his salt knows that an except block must handle the error, or make the error obvious to administrators (use logs, people!)


libmemcached has no built-in support for compression, and so to be compatible with python-memcached, pylibmc implements it by itself.

Compression requires zlib to be available when building pylibmc, which shouldn’t be an issue for any up-to-date system.


A single connection instance is not thread-safe. That is to say, you’ll probably wind up dissynchronizing server and client if you use the same connection in many threads simultaneously.

It is encouraged to use the existing provisions for pooling so as to avoid reusing the same client in many threads. See the docs on pooling.

Python 3 str vs. bytes keys

memcached itself requires cache keys to be byte strings, but Python 3’s main string type (str) is a sequence of Unicode code points. For convenience, pylibmc encodes text str keys to UTF-8 byte strings. This has a few consequences that may not be obvious:

  1. A str key and its UTF-8 encoding refer to the same cache value. This does not match the behavior of Python 3 dict and set objects:

    >>> d = {'key': 'value'}
    >>> d[b'key']
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
    KeyError: b'key'
    >>> s = {'item1', 'item2'}
    >>> b'item1' in s


    >>> import pylibmc
    >>> c = pylibmc.Client(...)
    >>> c['key'] = 'value'
    >>> c[b'key']
  2. Many of the _multi calls to pylibmc return keys as well as values. pylibmc will match the types of the keys that were provided, returning each key as bytes or str as appropriate:

    >>> c.add_multi({'key1': 1, 'key2': 2})
    >>> c.get_multi((b'key1', 'key2'))
    {b'key1': 1, 'key2': 2}

verify_keys ⋁ ¬ verify_keys

Security researchers have noted that disabling the verify_keys behavior is a potential threat when accepting unsanitized input. This is most troublesome as the default configuration disables this behavior. However, we have in fact not specified this as the default, it comes as a sort of heritage from libmemcached.

For this reason, you are urged to enable verify_keys if you have the slightest doubt about user input getting through to your key names.