Exposition formats

Prometheus implements two different wire formats which clients may use to expose metrics to a Prometheus server: a simple text-based format and a more efficient and robust protocol-buffer format. Prometheus servers and clients use content negotiation to establish the actual format to use. A server will prefer receiving the protocol-buffer format, and will fall back to the text-based format if the client does not support the former.

NOTE: Prometheus 2.0 removed support for the protocol-buffer format and only supports the text-based format.

The majority of users should use the existing client libraries that already implement the exposition formats.

Format version 0.0.4

This is the current metrics exposition format version.

As of this version, there are two alternate formats understood by Prometheus: a protocol-buffer based format and a text format. Clients must support at least one of these two alternate formats.

In addition, clients may optionally expose other text formats that are not understood by Prometheus. They exist solely for consumption by human beings and are meant to facilitate debugging. It is strongly recommended that a client library supports at least one human-readable format. A human-readable format should be the fallback in case the HTTP Content-Type header is not understood by the client library. The version 0.0.4 text format is generally considered human readable, so it is a good fallback candidate (and also understood by Prometheus).

Format variants comparison

Protocol buffer format Text format
Inception April 2014 April 2014
Supported in Prometheus version >=0.4.0, <2.0.0 Prometheus version >=0.4.0
Transmission HTTP HTTP
Encoding 32-bit varint-encoded record length-delimited Protocol Buffer messages of type io.prometheus.client.MetricFamily UTF-8, \n line endings
HTTP Content-Type application/vnd.google.protobuf; proto=io.prometheus.client.MetricFamily; encoding=delimited text/plain; version=0.0.4 (A missing version value will lead to a fall-back to the most recent text format version.)
Optional HTTP Content-Encoding gzip gzip
  • Cross-platform
  • Size
  • Encoding and decoding costs
  • Strict schema
  • Supports concatenation and theoretically streaming (only server-side behavior would need to change)
  • Human-readable
  • Easy to assemble, especially for minimalistic cases (no nesting required)
  • Readable line by line (with the exception of type hints and docstrings)
  • Not human-readable
  • Verbose
  • Types and docstrings not integral part of the syntax, meaning little-to-nonexistent metric contract validation
  • Parsing cost
Supported metric primitives
  • Counter
  • Gauge
  • Histogram
  • Summary
  • Untyped
  • Counter
  • Gauge
  • Histogram
  • Summary
  • Untyped
Compatibility Version 0.0.3 protocol buffers are also valid version 0.0.4 protocol buffers. none

Protocol buffer format details

Reproducible sorting of the protocol buffer fields in repeated expositions is preferred but not required, i.e. do not sort if the computational cost is prohibitive.

Each MetricFamily within the same exposition must have a unique name. Each Metric within the same MetricFamily must have a unique set of LabelPair fields. Otherwise, the ingestion behavior is undefined.

Text format details

The protocol is line-oriented. A line-feed character (\n) separates lines. The last line must end with a line-feed character. Empty lines are ignored.

Within a line, tokens can be separated by any number of blanks and/or tabs (and have to be separated by at least one if they would otherwise merge with the previous token). Leading and trailing whitespace is ignored.

Lines with a # as the first non-whitespace character are comments. They are ignored unless the first token after # is either HELP or TYPE. Those lines are treated as follows: If the token is HELP, at least one more token is expected, which is the metric name. All remaining tokens are considered the docstring for that metric name. HELP lines may contain any sequence of UTF-8 characters (after the metric name), but the backslash and the line-feed characters have to be escaped as \\ and \n, respectively. Only one HELP line may exist for the same metric name.

If the token is TYPE, exactly two more tokens are expected. The first is the metric name, and the second is either counter, gauge, histogram, summary, or untyped, defining the type for the metric of that name. Only one TYPE line may exist for the same metric name. The TYPE line for a metric name has to appear before the first sample is reported for that metric name. If there is no TYPE line for a metric name, the type is set to untyped. Remaining lines describe samples, one per line, with the following syntax (EBNF):

metric_name [
  "{" label_name "=" `"` label_value `"` { "," label_name "=" `"` label_value `"` } [ "," ] "}"
] value [ timestamp ]

metric_name and label_name have the usual Prometheus expression language restrictions. label_value can be any sequence of UTF-8 characters, but the backslash, the double-quote, and the line-feed characters have to be escaped as \\, \", and \n, respectively. value is a float, and timestamp an int64 (milliseconds since epoch, i.e. 1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC, excluding leap seconds), represented as required by the Go strconv package (see functions ParseInt and ParseFloat). In particular, Nan, +Inf, and -Inf are valid values.

All lines for a given metric must be provided as one uninterrupted group, with the optional HELP and TYPE lines first (in no particular order). Beyond that, reproducible sorting in repeated expositions is preferred but not required, i.e. do not sort if the computational cost is prohibitive.

Each line must have a unique combination of metric name and labels. Otherwise, the ingestion behavior is undefined.

The histogram and summary types are difficult to represent in the text format. The following conventions apply:

  • The sample sum for a summary or histogram named x is given as a separate sample named x_sum.
  • The sample count for a summary or histogram named x is given as a separate sample named x_count.
  • Each quantile of a summary named x is given as a separate sample line with the same name x and a label {quantile="y"}.
  • Each bucket count of a histogram named x is given as a separate sample line with the name x_bucket and a label {le="y"} (where y is the upper bound of the bucket).
  • A histogram must have a bucket with {le="+Inf"}. Its value must be identical to the value of x_count.
  • The buckets of a histogram and the quantiles of a summary must appear in increasing numerical order of their label values (for the le or the quantile label, respectively).

See also the example below.

# HELP http_requests_total The total number of HTTP requests.
# TYPE http_requests_total counter
http_requests_total{method="post",code="200"} 1027 1395066363000
http_requests_total{method="post",code="400"}    3 1395066363000

# Escaping in label values:
msdos_file_access_time_seconds{path="C:\\DIR\\FILE.TXT",error="Cannot find file:\n\"FILE.TXT\""} 1.458255915e9

# Minimalistic line:
metric_without_timestamp_and_labels 12.47

# A weird metric from before the epoch:
something_weird{problem="division by zero"} +Inf -3982045

# A histogram, which has a pretty complex representation in the text format:
# HELP http_request_duration_seconds A histogram of the request duration.
# TYPE http_request_duration_seconds histogram
http_request_duration_seconds_bucket{le="0.05"} 24054
http_request_duration_seconds_bucket{le="0.1"} 33444
http_request_duration_seconds_bucket{le="0.2"} 100392
http_request_duration_seconds_bucket{le="0.5"} 129389
http_request_duration_seconds_bucket{le="1"} 133988
http_request_duration_seconds_bucket{le="+Inf"} 144320
http_request_duration_seconds_sum 53423
http_request_duration_seconds_count 144320

# Finally a summary, which has a complex representation, too:
# HELP rpc_duration_seconds A summary of the RPC duration in seconds.
# TYPE rpc_duration_seconds summary
rpc_duration_seconds{quantile="0.01"} 3102
rpc_duration_seconds{quantile="0.05"} 3272
rpc_duration_seconds{quantile="0.5"} 4773
rpc_duration_seconds{quantile="0.9"} 9001
rpc_duration_seconds{quantile="0.99"} 76656
rpc_duration_seconds_sum 1.7560473e+07
rpc_duration_seconds_count 2693

Optional Text Representations

The following three optional text formats are meant for human consumption only and are not understood by Prometheus. Their definition may therefore be somewhat loose. Client libraries may or may not support these formats. Tools should not rely on these formats.

  1. HTML: This format is requested by an HTTP Content-Type header with value of text/html. It is a "pretty" rendering of the metrics to be looked at in a browser. While the generating client is technically completely free in assembling the HTML, consistency between client libraries should be aimed for.
  2. Protocol buffer text format: Identical to the protocol buffer format, but in text form. It consists of the protocol messages concatenated in their text format (also known as "debug strings"), separated by an additional new line character (i.e. there is an empty line between protocol messages). The format is requested as the protocol buffer format, but the encoding in the HTTP Content-Type header set to text.
  3. Protocol buffer compact text format: Identical to (2) but using the compact text format instead of the normal text format. The compact text format puts the whole protocol message on one line. The protocol messages are still separated by new line characters, but no "empty line" is needed for separation. (Simply one protocol message per line.) The format is requested as the protocol buffer format, but the encoding in the HTTP Content-Type header set to compact-text.

Historical versions

For details on historical format versions, see the legacy Client Data Exposition Format document.