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  • Start Date: 2016-07-01
  • Version: 0.8.0-DRAFT


An opinionated guide to designing, structuring and maintaining microservice RESTful HTTP APIs.

Table of Contents


The purpose of this RFC is to provide guidance on building microservice RESTful HTTP APIs by detailing sane best practice conventions, more importantly, why we should use them.

These conventions are not made up. They are sourced primarily from open source and community standards, and most importantly, should be authored, owned and the developers who use them.

If conventions are not managed carefully and implemented consistently, integration and maintenance costs can grow exponentially as microservices proliferate. Standards can and should be leveraged to mitigate this overhead by setting expectations for all new services ahead of time, both intuitively and programmatically.

Our goal is to set forth a set of sensible, lightweight conventions and standards which facilitate development and integration of microservices. If implemented correctly, these guidelines should make microservice development faster and attainment of company goals easier.

Detailed Design

This document establishes the guidelines all RESTful HTTP APIs should follow so these RESTful interfaces are developed consistently.

These days, developers access most resources via HTTP interfaces. Although some services provides language-specific frameworks to wrap API calls, almost all operations eventually boil down to HTTP requests. Developers must support a wide range of clients and services, and we cannot assume on rich frameworks are available for every API consumer and development environment. Thus, the goal of these guidelines is to ensure RESTful HTTP APIs can be easily and consistently consumed by any client with basic HTTP support.

To provide the smoothest possible experience for developers, it's important to have our APIs follow consistent design guidelines, rendering them intuitive and easy-to-use.

The benefits of consistency accrue in aggregate as well; consistency allows teams to leverage common code, patterns, documentation and design decisions.

These guidelines aim to achieve the following:

  • Define consistent practices and patterns for all API endpoints.
  • Adhere as closely as possible to accepted HTTP/REST best practices in the developer community at-large.
  • Make accessing services via REST interfaces easy and intuitive for all application developers and API consumers.
  • Allow service developers to leverage and reuse prior work on other services to implement, test and document consistently defined RESTful endpoints.
  • Enable partners (e.g. non-developers, third parties) to use these guidelines as a playbook for building API-consuming applications and integrations.


Each guideline describes either a good or bad practice, and all have a consistent presentation.

The wording of each guideline indicates the strength of the recommendation.

Do is one that should always be followed. Always might be a bit too strong of a word. Guidelines that literally should always be followed are extremely rare. On the other hand, we need a really unusual case for breaking a Do guideline.

Consider guidelines should generally be followed. If you fully understand the meaning behind the guideline and have a good reason to deviate, then do so. Please strive to be consistent.

Avoid indicates something we should almost never do.

The keywords "MUST," "MUST NOT," "REQUIRED," "SHALL," "SHALL NOT," "SHOULD," "SHOULD NOT," "RECOMMENDED," "MAY," and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in IETF RFC 2119.


These guidelines are applicable to any RESTful HTTP API exposed publicly. Private and internal APIs SHOULD also follow these guidelines, not least because internal services are quite often exposed publicly later in their life cycles. Consistency is valuable not only to external customers and front end applications, but also internal service consumers, and these guidelines offer best practices useful for any service.

There are legitimate reasons for exemptions to these guidelines. A REST service which implements or must interoperate with some externally defined API must be compatible with that API, and not necessarily with these guidelines. Some services MAY also have special performance needs that require a different format, such as a binary protocol.

Existing Services

Services which pre-date these guidelines SHOULD become compliant at the next version release which incorporates a breaking change. Respective service owners should develop a strategy for bringing their services within compliance at or before the service's next major release.

Dormant or deprecated services SHOULD become compliant if their use is forecast to continue more than 12 months following the ratification of these guidelines.

Design Principles

If we are ever in doubt on an API design or implementation choice, may these Design Principles help guide us to the correct decision.

  1. Build for the consumer.
    APIs do not exist for their own sake, and are almost never the entry point for end users. Be mindful of which applications will be consuming our services, and go out of your way to cater to their requirements.
  2. Convention over configuration.
    Our APIs should be intuitive, and should adhere to and implement community standards wherever possible. Problem-solving is at the core of development, and is also the great expense. Avoid implementing custom solutions to problems others have already solved, and in doing so we'll avoid creating new problems of our own design for API consumers and code base maintainers.
  3. Optimize close to the metal.
    From authorization and serialization to filtering and sorting, we will gain greater efficiencies the closer we are to the database. Keep this in mind when building multi-layer and service-dependent APIs.


When modeling an API’s resources, we can start with the some basic resource archetypes. Like design patterns, the resource archetypes help us consistently communicate the structures and behaviors that are commonly found in REST API designs. A REST API is composed of four distinct resource archetypes: docroot, resource, collection, and controller.

Each of these resource archetypes is described in the subsections that follow.


A REST API’s root resource is commonly referred to as a docroot, also known as a "reference document", and is typically the advertised entry point to an API.

The example URI below identifies the docroot for a contrived Soccer REST API:

When determining an API’s URL structure, it is helpful to consider that all of its resources exist in a single reference document in which each resource is addressable at a unique path. Resources are grouped by type at the top level of this document. Individual resources are keyed by ID within these typed collections. Attributes and links within individual resources are uniquely addressable according to the resource object structure described above.

This concept of a reference document is used to determine appropriate URLs for resources as well as their relationships. It is important to understand that this reference document differs slightly in structure from documents used to transport resources due to different goals and constraints. For instance, collections in the reference document are represented as sets because members must be addressable by ID, while collections are represented as arrays in transport documents because order is significant.


A resource is a singular concept that is akin to an object instance or database record. A resource's state representation typically includes both fields with values and links to other related resources. With its fundamental field and link-based structure, the resource type is the conceptual base archetype of the other resource archetypes. In other words, the three other resource archetypes can be viewed as specializations of the resource archetype.

Each URI below identifies a resource:

A document may have child resources, also known as nested resources, which represent its specific subordinate concepts.

Each URI below identifies a nested resource.


A collection is a server-managed directory of resources. Clients may propose new resources to be added to a collection. However, it is up to the collection to choose to create a new resource, or not. A collection resource chooses what it wants to contain and also decides the URIs of each contained resource. Collections may also be nested.

Each URI below identifies a collection resource:


A controller models a procedural concept. Controllers are like executable functions, with parameters and return values; inputs and outputs.

Like a traditional web application’s use of HTML forms, a REST API relies on controllers to perform application-specific actions that cannot be logically mapped to one of the standard methods (create, retrieve, update, and delete, commonly referred to as "CRUD"). See the Methods section below for more details.

Controller names typically appear as the last segment in a URI path, with no child resources to follow them in the hierarchy. The example below shows a controller resource that allows a client to resend an alert to a user:

POST /alerts/245743/resend

Note: Controller endpoints are exceptionally rare in modern RESTful APIs. If we find ourselves implementing more than a couple of controller endpoints, it may be worth rethinking our API design.

Naming Conventions

Do start and end member names with the characters "a-z" (U+0061 to U+007A).

Do limit member names to the characters "a-z" (U+0061 to U+007A), "0-9" (U+0030 to U+0039), and hyphen minus (U+002D HYPHEN-MINUS, “-“) as separator between multiple words.

Allowed and recommended characters for URL-safe naming of members, response objects and attributes are defined as part of the JSON API Specification.

URL Structure

Do build API URLs which are easy for humans to read and for applications to construct.

Do make resource names nouns with easy, conventional plurals (i.e. add an "s").

Avoid nesting child resource relationships more than once. Instead, prefer to locate resources at the root path.

Human-readable URL structures facilitate discovery and ease cross-platform adoption without requiring a heavyweight or language-specific client library.

An example of a well-structured URL is:

An example URL that is not friendly is:'')/Folders('AAMkADdiYzI1MjUxAAAAAACzMsPHYH6HQoSwfdpDx-2bAAA=')

Using URLs as parameters is a common design pattern. Services MAY use URLs as values. For example, the following is acceptable:

In data models with nested parent/child resource relationships, paths could become deeply nested if you're not careful. Related collections should be nested at most one level deep.

Don't do this.


Limit nesting depth by preferring to locate resources at the root path. Use nesting to indicate scoped collections. For example, for the case above where a dyno belongs to an app, which belongs to an org, this API structure is preferable:


URLs for Resource Collections

Do form the URL for a collection of resources from the resource type.

For example, a collection of resources of type photos will have the URL:


URLs for Individual Resources

Do treat collections of resources as sets keyed by resource ID.

The URL for an individual resource can be formed by appending the resource’s ID to the collection URL.

For example, a photo with an ID of "1" will have the URL:


Relationship URLs and Related Resource URLs

Do follow the relationship and related resource URL guidelines below, if our API supports relationship URLs and/or related resource URLs.

Consider forming a related resource URL by appending the name of the relationship to the resource’s URL.

Consider forming a relationship URL by appending /relationships/ and the name of the relationship to the resource’s URL.

As described in the JSON API Specification, there are two URLs that can be exposed for each relationship:

  • "Related Resource URL" – a URL for the related resource(s), which is identified with the related key within a relationship’s links object. When fetched, it returns the related resource object(s) as the response’s primary data.
  • "Relationship URL" – a URL for the relationship itself, which is identified with the self key in a relationship’s links object. This URL allows the client to directly manipulate the relationship. For example, it would allow a client to remove an author from a post without deleting the people resource itself.

For example, the URL for a photo’s comments will be:


And the URL for a photo’s photographer will be:


A photo’s comments relationship will have the URL:


And a photo’s photographer relationship will have the URL:


Canonical Identifier

Do expose a URL containing a stable, unique identifier for any and all resources which can be moved or renamed.

Consider exposing a URL containing a stable, unique identifier for all resources.

Consider using a GUID as the stable identifier for resources, where appropriate (e.g. when backed by a non-relational database).

It MAY be necessary to interact with the service to obtain a stable URL from the friendly name for the resource, as in the case of the /my shortcut used by some applications.

An example of a URL containing a friendly name is:

And an example of a URL containing a canonical identifier is:

URL Controllers and Verbs

Avoid using CRUD HTTP methods or verbs (e.g. GET, DELETE, etc.) in URL paths.

URIs SHOULD NOT be used to indicate that a CRUD function is performed. URIs SHOULD be used to uniquely identify resources, and they SHOULD be named as described in the sections below. HTTP methods and verbs MUST be used to indicate which CRUD function is performed.

For example, this API interaction design is valid:

DELETE /users/1234

While the following anti-patterns exemplify what not to do:

GET /deleteUser?id=1234
GET /deleteUser/1234
DELETE /deleteUser/1234
POST /users/1234/delete

See the Methods section below for more details.

URL Length

The HTTP 1.1 message format, defined in IETF RFC 7230 Section 3.1.1, defines no length limit on the Request Line, which includes the target URL.

Do respond with a 414 (URI Too Long) status code to any request with a target URI longer than we wish to parse.

Consider making accommodations for the clients we wish to support when implementing a service which generates URLs longer than 2,083 characters.

Note: Some technology stacks have hard and adjustable URL limits, so keep this in mind as you design services with longer than usual URLs.


Do use the proper HTTP methods for API operations whenever possible.

Do respect operational idempotency (see the table below).

Below is a list of methods RESTful HTTP APIs / services SHOULD support. Not all resources will support all methods, but all resources using one or more of the methods below MUST conform to their usage.

Method Description Is Idempotent
GET Return the current value of an object. True
PUT Replace an object, or create a named object, when applicable. True
DELETE Delete an object. True
POST Create a new object based on the data provided, or submit a command. False
HEAD Return metadata of an object for a GET response. Resources which support the GET method MAY support the HEAD method as well. True
PATCH Apply a partial update to an object. False
OPTIONS Get information about a request; see below for details. True


Consider supporting deletion of multiple resources at once via a GET-style filtering of resource IDs (e.g. /users?id=[20,30,40,60,90]).

Consider supporting deletion of multiple resources at once via a comma-separated list of resource IDs (e.g. /users/20,30,40,60,90).

Deleting resources is defined as part of the JSON API Specification. See the link below for full DELETE implementation requirements and specification details.


Fetching resources is defined as part of the JSON API Specification. See the link below for full GET implementation requirements and specification details.


Do respond to OPTIONS requests with an Allow header denoting the valid methods for the resource.

Consider including a Link response header to point to documentation for the requested resource.

OPTIONS allows a client to retrieve information about a resource. See IETF RFC 5988 for more information on Link headers.

For example, in an OPTIONS respond we MAY include:

Link: <{help}>; rel="help"

Where {help} is the URL to a documentation resource.

For more examples OPTIONS use cases, see preflighting CORS cross-domain calls.


PATCH has been standardized by IETF as the method used for incrementally updating an existing object (see IETF RFC 5789).

Do support creation of resources using PATCH, if our service DOES support UPSERT semantics.

Do respond with an HTTP "409 Conflict" error code to a PATCH request against a resource that does not exist, if our service DOES NOT support UPSERT semantics.

Consider supporting UPSERT semantics in services which allow callers to specify key values on create.

Consider supporting updates to multiple resources at once via a GET-style filtering of resource IDs (e.g. /users?id=[20,30,40,60,90]).

Consider supporting updates to multiple resources at once via a comma-separated list of resource IDs (e.g. /users/20,30,40,60,90).

Avoid treating a PATCH request as an insert if it contains an If-Match header.

Avoid treating a PATCH request as an update if it contains an If-None-Match header with a value of "*".

Under UPSERT semantics, a PATCH call to a nonexistent resource is handled by the server as a "create," and a PATCH call to an existing resource is handled as an "update." To ensure that an update request is not treated as a create or vice-versa, the client MAY specify precondition HTTP headers in the request.

Updating resources is defined as part of the JSON API Specification. See the link below for full PATCH implementation requirements and specification details.


Do support the Location response header to specify the location of any created resource that was not explicitly named, via the Location header.

Consider returning full metadata for the created item in the response.

As an example, imagine a service that allows creation of hosted servers, which will be named by the service:


The response should resemble:

201 Created

Where asset321 is the service-allocated Asset name.

Creating resources is defined as part of the JSON API Specification. See the link below for full POST implementation requirements and specification details.


Do use replacement semantics (i.e after the PUT, the resource's properties MUST match what was provided in the request, including deleting any extant properties which are not provided), for any service which supports PUT requests.

Consider supporting PUT requests to update (via replacement semantics) existing resources.

Because PUT is defined as a complete replacement of the content, it is dangerous for clients to use PUT to modify data. Clients that do not understand (and hence ignore) properties on a resource are not likely to provide them on a PUT when trying to update a resource, hence such properties MAY be inadvertently removed.

See the PATCH section above for more details.

Request Headers

Do support request headers consistently across all endpoints and resources.

Consider supporting each of the requests headers defined in the following table.

The following table of request headers below SHOULD be supported by RESTful HTTP APIs and services. Supporting all of these headers is not mandatory, but if supported they MUST be supported consistently.

All header values MUST follow the syntax rules set forth in the specifications below, where each header field is defined. Many HTTP headers are defined in IETF RFC 7231, however a complete list of approved headers can be found in the IANA Header Registry.

Header Type Description
Authorization String Authorization header for the request.
Date Date Timestamp of the request, based on the client's clock, in RFC 5322 date and time format. The server SHOULD NOT make any assumptions about the accuracy of the client's clock. This header MAY be included in the request, but MUST be in this format when supplied. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) MUST be used as the time zone reference for this header when it is provided. For example: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 18:41:30 GMT. Note that GMT is exactly equal to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) for this purpose.
Accept Content type The requested content type for the response such as:
  • application/json; version=1.0
  • application/vnd.api+json; version=1.0
  • application/xml; version=1.0
  • text/javascript; version=1.0
Per the HTTP guidelines, this is just a hint and responses MAY have a different content type, such as a blob fetch where a successful response will just be the blob stream as the payload. Must also include requested API version.
Accept-Encoding Gzip, deflate REST endpoints SHOULD support GZIP and DEFLATE encoding, when applicable. For very large resources, services MAY ignore and return uncompressed data.
Accept-Language "en", "es", etc. Specifies the preferred language for the response. Services are not required to support this, but if a service supports localization it MUST do so through the Accept-Language header.
Accept-Charset Charset type like "UTF-8" Default is UTF-8, but services SHOULD be able to handle ISO-8859-1.
Content-Type Content type Mime type of request body (PUT/POST/PATCH).
Prefer return=minimal, return=representation If the return=minimal preference is specified, services SHOULD return an empty body in response to a successful insert or update. If return=representation is specified, services SHOULD return the created or updated resource in the response. Services SHOULD support this header if they have scenarios where clients would sometimes benefit from responses, but sometimes the response would impose too much of a hit on bandwidth.
If-Match, If-None-Match, If-Range String Services that support updates to resources using optimistic concurrency control MUST support the If-Match header to do so. Services MAY also use other headers related to ETags as long as they follow the HTTP specification.

Response Headers

Do return all of response headers defined in the following table, except where noted in the "required" column.

Response Header Required Description
Date All responses. Timestamp the response was processed, based on the server's clock, in RFC 5322 date and time format. This header MUST be included in the response. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) MUST be used as the time zone reference for this header. For example: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 18:41:30 GMT. Note that GMT is exactly equal to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) for this purpose.
Content-Type All responses. Content type.
Content-Encoding All responses. GZIP or DEFLATE, as appropriate.
ETag When requested resource has an entity tag. ETag response-header field provides the current value of the entity tag for the requested variant. Used with If-Match, If-None-Match and If-Range to implement optimistic concurrency control.
Preference-Applied When specified in request. Whether a preference indicated in the Prefer request header was applied.
X-API-Version All responses. Return the version of the API responding to the request.
X-API-Warn When deprecated API version is requested, or endpoint has been deprecated. Header value should include: WARNING! You are using a deprecated version of this API. For information on upgrading see <{link}>., where {link} is a URL to a relevant API documentation resource.

Custom Headers

Avoid requiring custom headers for the basic operation of an API.

Some of the guidelines in this document prescribe the use of domain-specific HTTP headers. In addition, some services MAY expose extra functionality via custom HTTP headers. The following guidelines help maintain consistency across usage of custom headers.

Headers that are not standard HTTP headers MUST have one of two formats:

  1. A generic format for headers IANA-registered as "provisional" (see [IETF RFC 3864][rfc-3864]).
  2. A scoped format for headers too usage-specific for registration.

@TODO: Clarify what is required above / provide an example of a custom header.

Response Formatting

For organizations to have a successful platform, they must serve data consistently and in formats developers are accustomed to using, allowing developers to handle responses with common code.

Golden Rules

If we are ever in doubt on an API formatting decision, may these Golden Rules help guide us to the correct decision.

  1. Flat is better than nested.
  2. Simple is better than complex.
  3. Strings are better than numbers.
  4. Consistency is better than customization.


Do provide JSON as the default API response encoding.

Do camelCase JSON property names.

Do default to "application/json" response formatting if no Accept header is provided.

Consider supporting alternative response formats requested by the client using the Accept header.

Consider returning a 406 Not Acceptable HTTP error code when rejecting a client request due an incompatible or malformed Accept request header.

In HTTP, response format SHOULD be requested by the client using the Accept header. This is a hint, and the server MAY ignore it if it chooses to, even if this isn't typical of well-behaved servers. Clients MAY send multiple Accept headers and the service MAY choose one of them.

The default response format (no Accept header provided) SHOULD be application/json, and all services MUST support application/json.

Accept Header Response Type Notes
application/json Payload SHOULD be returned in JSON format. Also accept text/javascript for JSONP cases.
application/vnd.api+json Payload SHOULD be returned as JSON API format. MAY be used interchangably with application/json for services which support JSON API as a first-class format.

Request example.

Accept: application/json

See the JSON API Specification section below for full response formatting details.

Date Formatting

@TODO: This section is a stub. Consider expanding.

Do use the Iso8601Literal date format, unless there are very compelling reasons to do otherwise.

This W3C NOTE provides an overview of the recommended formats.

JSON API Specification

Do adhere to the JSON API Specification formatting guidelines, detailed below, as closely as possible.

Do respond to requests with "application/json" Accept headers with JSON API formatted data and a "application/vnd.json-api" Content-Type header, if no other non-vendored JSON format is supported by the API.

Consider supporting alternative JSON response formats, as necessitated by application or business requirements.

JSON API is a specification for how a client should request that resources be fetched or modified, and how a server should respond to those requests.

Familiarity with the JSON API specification is strongly encouraged.

We SHOULD model our API response structures on JSON API as closely as possible. The full specification along with examples and popular libraries can be referenced at the link below.

Booleans, NULLs and Stringification

Do format all binary field types as boolean.

Do format all numbers as strings in the response body, including numeric resource IDs and primary keys.

Do format booleans as booleans (non-strings), and nulls as nulls (non-strings).

Do return NULL for fields with no value, when a value has been deleted, and when a value never existed.

Do return NULL for non-existing boolean, number and string field values.

Avoid representing string fields without value as "". Return a NULL value instead (they mean two different things).

Avoid returning NULL for empty arrays as sets. Instead, return a literal empty array ([]) and/or set ({}).

Avoid typecasting field values to numbers. This is almost never a good idea, as it often leads to double-casting, hidden inefficiencies, testing complexity and client difficulties.

These guidelines exist to avoid confusion, minimize complexity and make front end developers’ work a lot easier.

Remember, a field type shall be boolean if its value is binary.

Don’t use 0 and 1, don’t use "0" and "1", and don’t try to come up with a better solution. Use what we already have: true and false (type cast here need be). It’s universal and objective.


GET /customers/16784

  "type": "customers",
  "id": "16784",
  "attributes": {
    "name": "Joe Smith",
    "age": null,
    "relatives": [],
    "address": null

Note: "id" is represented as a string.

Much like date/time localization, type casting and type transformation should only happen once, and as close to the client as possible. Trust the client to know how it wants its data formatted, and save ourselves unnecessary work by returning field values as glorious, JavaScript-native "Strings" wherever feasible.


Do reserve the filter query parameter to be used as the basis for any filtering strategy.

Consider supporting filtering of a resource collection based upon associations by allowing query parameters that combine filter with the association name.

For example, the following is a request for all comments associated with a particular post:

GET /comments?filter[post]=1 HTTP/1.1

Multiple filter values can be combined in a comma-separated list. For example:

GET /comments?filter[post]=1,2 HTTP/1.1

Furthermore, multiple filters can be applied to a single request:

GET /comments?filter[post]=1,2&filter[author]=12 HTTP/1.1

See the JSON API Specification section above for full filtering implementation requirements and specification details.


Consider limiting the number of resources returned in a response to a subset (“page”) of the whole set available.

Consider providing links to traverse a paginated data set (“pagination links”).

Here's an illustration of a page-based implementation of pagination links.

Example Request:

GET /articles?page[number]=3&page[size]=1 HTTP/1.1

Example Response:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: application/vnd.api+json

  "meta": {
    "total-pages": 13
  "data": [
      "type": "articles",
      "id": "3",
      "attributes": {
        "title": "JSON API paints my bike shed!",
        "body": "The shortest article. Ever.",
        "created": "2015-05-22T14:56:29.000Z",
        "updated": "2015-05-22T14:56:28.000Z"
  "links": {
    "self": "[number]=3&page[size]=1",
    "first": "[number]=1&page[size]=1",
    "prev": "[number]=2&page[size]=1",
    "next": "[number]=4&page[size]=1",
    "last": "[number]=13&page[size]=1"

Pagination is defined as part of the JSON API Specification. See the link below for full pagination implementation requirements and specification details.


Do sort NULL values as "less than" non-NULL values, for services which support sorting.

Consider supporting sorting the results of a collection query based on property values.

Sorting is defined as part of the JSON API Specification. See the link below for full sorting implementation requirements and specification details.




RESTful HTTP services MUST implement the /health and /version API endpoints according to the guidelines defined below.

/debug, /metrics and /status endpoints are highly recommended.


Do respond to requests to /health with a 200 OK status code.

Do respond with a 503 Service Unavailable to indicate a severely degraded or offline service.

Avoid returning anything in the response body, or otherwise over-complicating the /health endpoint.

/health endpoints are designed specifically for load balancers and service discovery solutions. As such, they should be exceedingly simple, indicating the health of an API via HTTP response codes.

A load balancer should know whether to keep a service in the pool or eject it after sending a HEAD request to the service health endpoint.

Example Request:

HEAD /health HTTP/1.1

Example Response:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2012 20:50:55 GMT
X-API-Version: 1.0


Do disable /debug endpoint by default.

Do require explicit DEBUG=true configuration or environment variable at application start-up to enable /debug endpoint.

Avoid exposing /debug endpoint in non-development environments.

/debug endpoints are designed specifically internal use, to expose sensitive configuration, environment and logging information to aid in development. These endpoints are NOT for public consumption, as such should be disabled by default, requiring an explicit non-default configuration setting or environment variable to enable at start-up.

Useful /debug endpoint responses might include.

  • A copy of package.json.
  • Date of last service restart.
  • Last few debug-level log messages.


Do expose application counters and statistics via the /metrics endpoint.

Avoid calculating difficult-to-compute or resource-intensive metrics.

/metrics endpoints are designed specifically for dashboard tools and time series database integrations. A metrics endpoint should produce live results, and should be able to serve applications at 1 QPS without any impact on application performance. As such, avoid exposing difficult-to-compute or resource-intensive metrics, or if we must, average or cache them for as long as necessary and name them accordingly (e.g. response_time_avg_60_sec).

Useful /metrics endpoint responses might include.

  • Uptime in seconds.
  • Average response time.
  • Average QPS over last minute.
  • Number of 500 errors.


Do respond to requests to /status with a JSON object describing the current service status.

Do respond with a 500 Internal Server Error to indicate a degraded or offline dependency, when no more specific message is suitable.

Avoid calculating difficult-to-compute or resource-intensive metrics.

/status endpoints are designed for both human consumption, and also for dynamic load balancing. Outputs should be intuitive and easy-to-read, should also be able to serve applications at 1 QPS without any impact on application performance. Avoid exposing difficult-to-compute or resource-intensive values, or if we must, background-compute and cache them for as long as necessary to make the performance hit negligible.

Example Request:

GET /status HTTP/1.1

Example Response:

HTTP/1.1 500 Internal Server Error
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2012 20:50:55 GMT
X-API-Version: 1.0

  "status": "degraded",
  "build": "2",
  "connections": {
    "database": "ok",
    "google": "ok",
    "files": "ok",
    "permissions": "down"
  "restarted": "2016-11-10T10:30:00Z",
  "updated": "2016-10-30T13:15:30Z"


Do respond to requests to /version with a JSON object describing running version of the service.

Do load application runtime version into memory at start-up, and then serve the version value from memory.

Avoid sourcing version information from files on disk, or other mutable sources external to the application runtime.

Loads version information AT STARTUP, then serves from memory. Independent of changes to files on disk.

/version endpoints are designed for both human consumption and dynamic service discovery. Responses should be exceedingly simple, indicating the version of an API and nothing else.

It is very important to ensure the application returns the running version of the application, and not the installed version. Always load version information into memory at application start-up, rather than sourcing from any external or mutable location.

Example Request:

GET /version HTTP/1.1

Example Response:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2012 20:50:55 GMT
X-API-Version: 1.0

  "version": "1.0"

Schema Documentation

Human-readable, machine-ingestible.

@TODO. API Blueprint, Swagger, etc.

Asynchronous Processing and Long-Running Operations

Consider returning a status 202 Accepted with a link in the Content-Location header asynchronously for long-running operations.

Imagine a situation when we need to create a resource and the operation takes long time to complete.

POST /photos HTTP/1.1

The request SHOULD immediately return a status 202 Accepted with a link in the Content-Location header.

HTTP/1.1 202 Accepted
Content-Type: application/vnd.api+json

  "data": {
    "type": "queue-jobs",
    "id": "5234",
    "attributes": {
      "status": "Pending request, waiting other process"
    "links": {
      "self": "/photos/queue-jobs/5234"

To check the status of the job process, a client can send a request to the location provided in the Content-Location header.

GET /photos/queue-jobs/5234 HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/vnd.api+json

When job process is done, the request SHOULD return a status 303 See other with a link in Location header.

HTTP/1.1 303 See other
Content-Type: application/vnd.api+json

Push Notifications



@TODO. Unit tests should run independently, without requiring an internet connection, database, or any other running service. Integration tests should encapsulate tests between dependencies. Acceptance tests should verify end-to-end functionality.

All three should be invokable separately.


Do require the client to specify the version as part of the media type in the Accept request header.

Versioning and the transition between versions can be one of the more challenging aspects of designing and operating an API. As such, it is best to build in some mechanisms to mitigate this pain point from the start.

To prevent surprises and breaking changes to API consumers, it is best to require a version be specified with all requests. Default versions should be avoided as they are very difficult to change in the future (by design, any change to the default version would be a breaking change).

Accept header versioning requires a version to be included as a media type parameter that supplements the main media type in every client request.

Here's an example HTTP request using the accept header versioning style.

GET /bookings/ HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/json; version=1.0

In the example request above request.version attribute would return the string "1.0".

Here's another example HTTP request requesting the JSON API vendor media type.

GET /bookings/ HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/vnd.api+json; version=1.0

Versioning based on Accept headers with a vendor media type is generally considered as best practice.

Breaking Change

Changes to the contract of an API are considered a breaking change. Changes that impact the backwards compatibility of an API are a breaking change. Typically, adding of endpoints, resources and fields is not considered breaking, while the modification or removal of the same is considered breaking.

Clear examples of breaking changes:

  • Removing or renaming APIs or API parameters.
  • Changes in behavior for an existing API.
  • Changes in Error Codes and Fault Contracts.
  • Anything that would violate the Principle of Least Astonishment.


Do always return the API version responding to the request in an X-API-Version response header.

Do include an X-API-Warn response header when a deprecated API version is requested in the Accept request header, or endpoint has been deprecated.

Do include a warning in the meta member of the JSON response if a request is made with deprecated fields or query parameters.

Do indicate in the API documentation when deprecated API versions will reach end-of-life.

In a deprecated requested API version or endpoint scenario, return an X-API-Warn response header with a value which looks something like this:

WARNING! You are using a deprecated version of this API. For information on upgrading see <{link}>.

In a deprecated field or query parameter scenario, return a warning in the meta member of the JSON response which looks something like this:

  "meta": {
    "warning": "You are using a deprecated version of this API. For information on upgrading see <{link}>."
  "data": {
    // ...

Where {link} is a URL to a relevant API documentation resource.

The idea is this message will appear in server logs, hopefully prompting API consumers to upgrade.

How and When to Version

Do increment an API's version number in response to any breaking change.

Do indicate the current support status of each API version, past and present, in the API's documentation.

Do support version numbers in the format {majorVersion}.{minorVersion}.

Consider incrementing an API's version number for non-breaking changes.

Use a new major version number to signal that support for existing clients will be deprecated in the future. When introducing a new major version, services MUST provide a clear upgrade path for existing clients and develop a plan for deprecation that is consistent with their business group's policies. Services SHOULD use a new minor version number for all other changes.

Online documentation of versioned services MUST indicate the current support status of each previous API version.

Group Versioning

Consider supporting group versioning across multiple microservices to provide multi-API consumers with a unified versioning scheme.

Group versions allow for logical grouping of API endpoints under a common versioning moniker. This allows developers to look up a single version number and use it across multiple endpoints. Group version numbers are well known, and services SHOULD reject any unrecognized values.

Internally, each services will take a Group Version and map to its appropriate Major.Minor version.

The Group Version format is defined as YYYY-MM-DD, for example 2012-12-01 for December 1, 2012. This Date versioning format applies only to Group Versions and SHOULD NOT be used as an alternative to Major.Minor versioning.


Group API Major.Minor
2012-12-01 Assets 1.0
Files 1.1
Projects 1.2
2013-03-21 Assets 1.0
Files 2.0
People 3.0
Players 3.1
Projects 3.2
Users 3.3

Clients can specify either the group version or the endpoint-specific Major.Minor version.

For example:

GET /assets/ HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/vnd.api+json; version=1.0

Or equivalently, when Group Verions are supported:

GET /assets/ HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/vnd.api+json; version=2012-12-01

All supported Group Versions, along with their deprecation statuses and end-of-life dates, should be published and kept up-to-date in the public API documentation.


Do enforce HTTPS (TLS-encrypted) across all endpoints, resources and services.

Do enforce and require HTTPS for all callback URLs, push notification endpoints and web hooks.


Do support CORS (Cross Origin Resource Sharing) headers for all public-facing APIs.

Consider supporting a CORS allowed origin of "*", and enforcing authorization through valid OAuth tokens.

Avoid combining user credentials with origin validation.

There MAY be exceptions for special cases.

PII Parameters

Do obfuscate any PII parameters passed in from clients before logging the request.

Consider accepting PII parameters transmitted from the client to the server in the form of HTTP headers.

Avoid accepting PII parameters transmitted from the client to the server in the URL (as part of path or query string).

Consistent with best practice privacy policies, clients SHOULD NOT transmit personally identifiable information (PII) parameters in the URL (as part of path or query string) because this information can be inadvertently exposed via client, network, and server logs and other mechanisms. Similarly, a server MUST obfuscate any PII parameters passed in from clients before logging the request.

A service SHOULD accept PII parameters transmitted as headers.

Services which accept PII parameters as headers MUST be compliant with privacy policy standards dictated by common sense and best practices. Services accepting PII parameters must adhere to special precautions to ensure that logs and other service data collection are properly handled.

If we think our API or service may be handling PII parameters, we MUST consult with and seek approval from engineering leadership before releasing our service to customers.

Secure Connections

Do require secure connections with TLS to access our APIs, without exception.

Avoid responding to any non-TLS requests for HTTP or over port 80 to avoid any insecure data exchange.

It’s not worth trying to figure out or explain when it is OK to use TLS and when it’s not. Just require TLS for everything.

Reject any non-TLS requests by not responding to requests for HTTP or over port 80 to avoid any insecure data exchange. In environments where this is not possible, respond with 403 Forbidden.

Redirects are discouraged since they permit sloppy client behavior, without providing any clear gain. Clients relying on redirects double up on server traffic, and render TLS impotent since sensitive data will already have been exposed during the first unencrypted call.


RESTful HTTP services MUST comply with the taxonomy guidelines defined below.


Errors, or more specifically Service Errors, occur when a client makes an invalid or incorrect request to a service, or passes invalid or incorrect data to a service, and the service rejects the request. Examples include invalid authentication credentials, incorrect parameters, unknown version IDs, etc.

Do return "4xx" HTTP error codes when rejecting a client request due to one or more Service Errors.

Consider processing all attributes and then returning multiple validation problems in a single response.

Consider implementing fast-failing request validation—which protects a service from especially resource-intensive requests, for example—as Service Errors.

Avoid returning Service Errors to communicate overall API availability (e.g. Too Many Requests). Guidelines for communicating service availability are defined in a later section (see Faults).

See the JSON API Specification section above for full error requirements and specification details.


Faults, or more specifically Service Faults, occur when a service fails to correctly respond to a valid client request.

Do return "5xx" HTTP error codes when rejecting a client request due to one or more Service Faults.

Avoid returning Service Faults to communicate invalid or incorrect request formatting or data from a client. Guidelines for communicating > validation failures are defined in a previous section (see Errors).

Avoid returning Service Faults to communicate rate limiting or quota failures.


Consider calculating and emitting time series averages for each of the following metrics.


Availability is typically measured in terms of uptime (service is reachable), and the ratio of successful operations to faults. This is the single most important metrics for services to track; measuring and emitting these metrics within and as part of the service runtime is highly recommended.


Latency is defined as how long a particular API call takes to complete, measured as closely to the client as possible. This metric applies to both synchronous and asynchronous APIs in the same way. For long running calls, the latency is measured on the initial request and measures how long that call (not the overall operation) takes to complete.

Time to Complete

Services that expose long operations MUST track "Time to Complete" metrics around those operations.

Long Running API Faults

For a Long Running API call, it's possible for both the initial request to begin the operation and the request to retrieve the results to technically work (each passing back a 200), but for the underlying operation to have failed. Long Running faults MUST roll up as Faults into the overall Availability metrics.

Client Guidelines

To ensure the best possible experience for clients interfacing with a RESTful HTTP service, clients SHOULD adhere to the following best practices.

Ignore Rule

Do safely ignore unknown and unexpected data in API responses.

Do safely ignore additional fields and object attributes in API responses.

Some services MAY add fields to responses without changing versions numbers. Services that do so MUST make this clear in their documentation and clients MUST ignore unknown fields.

Silent Failures

Avoid tightly coupling client actions to optional service functionality.

Clients requesting OPTIONAL service functionality (such as optional headers) MUST be resilient to the server ignoring or not supporting that particular functionality.

Variable Ordering

Do rely only on ordering behavior explicitly defined in the service contract and identified by the service.

Consider explicitly specifying the ordering of order-sensitive arrays and elements as part of the service contract.

Avoid relying on the order in which data appears in API JSON responses, unless order is explicitly defined as part of the service contract.

Clients SHOULD be resilient to the reordering of fields within a JSON object. When supported by the service, clients MAY request that data be returned in a specific order. For example, services MAY support the use of the $orderBy query string parameter to specify the order of elements within a JSON array.



Reference APIs and Libraries

@TODO. Link to examples of well-designed APIs, exemplifying the best practices and standards outlined in this document.






See Also

Understanding the philosophy behind the REST Architectural Style is recommended for developing HTTP-based services. If you are new to RESTful design, here are some good introductory resources:

IETF RFC 7231 — Defines the specification for HTTP/1.1 semantics, and is considered the authoritative resource.

REST Dissertation — The chapter on REST in Roy Fielding's dissertation on Network Architecture, "Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures"

REST in Practice — Book on the fundamentals of REST.

REST on Wikipedia — Overview of common definitions and core ideas behind REST.



  • Conventions and standards implicitly involve some overhead. Standards must be maintained and conventions modernized from time to time, and when they do change a multiplicity of projects are often impacted. Ideally, conventions and standards do not change very often.


What other designs have been considered? What is the impact of not doing this?

Impact of Not Standardizing

  • Integration costs quickly become unmanageable.

    As microservices proliferate, standards become the contracts around which automation and economies of scale are built and implemented. Writing a generic API schema consumer, or a new automation role, should require critical thinking and standards review only once, and then should be rinse-and-repeat implementable everywhere.

    This is what conventions and standards afford us.

    Without a set of adopted standards, implementing each API consumer requires critical thinking and schema review, each automation role requires a fresh approach and service-specific tweaks, and the company cannot reap the economies of scale implicit in a unified approach. Bridging and integrating APIs and services requires custom interfaces on both ends, often resulting in a full mesh each-api-and-service-for-itself integration model—an exercise which costs time, money, and provides no tangible business value.

Unresolved Questions

Coming soon...

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