Declarative content negotiation for the Play Framework
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This library provides a more declarative way of content format negotiation for the Play framework.

Play's content negotiation support is based on pattern matching. Unfortunately, there is a problem with this approach: If the server needs to return a 406 Not Acceptable HTTP response, the Play framework has no way of providing a list of supported content types in the response, which would be very helpful for developers programming clients for your web application.

play-content-negotiation aims to solve this by allowing you to specify which content types are supported, and how to render them, declaratively. This way, content negotiation and rendering can be decoupled.


play-content-negotiation is compiled against Play 2.5.10 and Scala 2.11. To use it in your Play application, add the following to your build.sbt file:

resolvers += "restful-scala" at ""
libraryDependencies += "org.restfulscala" %% "play-content-negotiation" % "0.3.0"


play-content-negotiation introduces a few new types and a tiny DSL for creating instances of these types, and is built on top of Play's own content negotiation support.


First of all, the library adds a trait called Representation:

import play.api.mvc._

trait Representation[A] {
  def accepting: Accepting
  def respond(a: A, status: Int): Result

A Representation has an Accepting field, which is a class provided by Play and allows to determine whether a given mime type matches an HTTP Accept header. In addition, it provides a way to create a Play Result for a type A, using the given status code.


In addition to Representation, the library introduces the RespondWith type, which looks like this:

import play.api.mvc._

class RespondWith[A](representations: List[Representation[A]]) {
  def apply(a: Representation[A] => Result)(implicit req: RequestHeader): Result = ???
  def async(a: Representation[A] => Future[Result])(implicit req: RequestHeader): Future[Result] = ???

A RespondWith instance is created from a list of representations, and it knows how to create a Play Result from a function Representation[A] => Result or Representation[A] => Future[Result]. If the representations known by the RespondWith match the Accept header of the implicit Play RequestHeader, it will apply the matching Representation to the passed in function, which is responsible for getting the required value of A and returning a Result. If no Representation matches, it will instead return a Not Acceptable response whose body contains information about the supported content types. Use async if getting the value of A requires IO, for example, if you need to fetch it from a database.


In order to make use of play-content-negotiation, you need to mix the ContentNegotiation trait into your controller. ContentNegotiation defines two methods that, together, provide a tiny DSL for creating Representations and RespondWiths. Here are the signatures of these two methods:

trait ContentNegotiation {
  def represent[A](representations: Representation[A]*): RespondWith[A]
  def as[A, B : Writeable](accepting: Accepting, representationFactory: A => B): Representation[A]

Use represent to create a RespondWith from one or more Representations. Use as to create a Representation[A] from a Play Accepting and a function that turns A into a B for which a Play Writeable exists.

To illustrate this, here is an example controller:

import play.api.mvc._

class Sales(saleRepository: SaleRepository) extends Controller with ContentNegotiation {
  def negotiate()(implicit req: RequestHeader) = represent[Sale](
    as(Accepts.Json, Json.toJson(_))

Here, we support two representations of a Sale, text/html and application/json. The next step is to use the RespondWith[Sale] returned by our negotiate function in our actions. One such action may want to add to our controller could look like this:

def get(saleId: String) = Action.async { implicit req =>
  negotiate().async { variant =>
    saleRepository.findById(SaleId(saleId)) map {
      case Some(sale) => variant.respond(sale, 200)
      case None => NotFound

The first thing we do is call the async method of our RespondWith[Sale]. The function we pass to async fetches a Sale from a repository and, if it exists, it uses the Representation the RespondWith has determined to use in order to create a 200 result. If no Sale can be found, it returns a 404 response instead. If the client asks for an unsupported content type, the RespondWith will return a 406 response like this:

curl localhost:9000/sales/1 -H"Accept: application/xml"

HTTP/1.1 406 Not Acceptable
Content-Length: 51
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Vary: Accept

Acceptable media types: text/html, application/json


Daniel Westheide