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The Hypermedia Project

Making the generation and consumption of Hypermedia messages for multiple media types in multiple programming languages accessible to the masses.

Checkout the genesis of the project if you are interested.

Hypermedia Libraries

Libraries in the following languages are currently planned:

Language Status
Swift Implemented
Python WIP
Ruby WIP
Java Planned. Contributors Welcome
JavaScript Planned. Contributors Welcome
.net C# Planned. Contributors Welcome
Scala Planned. Contributors Welcome

Representor Pattern

Hypermedia is about self-describing, runtime messages that represent a resource in a client-server system. These messages are not the resource itself. Rather, they are a local expression of some underlying data and the possible state transitions associated with that data, as defined by the related remote resource.

Practically, a resource can be described as a recursive Finite State Machine (FSM). It may contain data, application and resource state transitions available based on the current state of the data (and possibly the context of a request for the resource) and possibly other recursively embedded resources (finite state machines).

Formally, the representation of a resource is tied to a particular media type that has a strictly specified way of describing a resource in a message. Servers must generate messages in the format of these media types and programmatic clients must be written to understand these media types. But, irrespective of the media type, the definition of a resource exists completely independent of its possible representations.

The Representor Pattern is based on this idea that a canonical resource exists, independent of media type and domain data models. By programmatically building a Representor instance associated with a resource, generating hypermedia messages server-side or consuming them client-side can be significantly simplified.

Representor Pattern Diagram

The heart of The Hypermedia Project is developing a suite of libraries in different languages that provide tooling for implementing the Representor Pattern. For details on how this pattern can be applied to full-stack development of Hypermedia applications, checkout the Components discussion.

Server-side Representor

On the server, a Representor abstracts the underlying data model implementation so that the definition of a resource is completely decoupled from the details of how data is persisted or organized in models. A server need only, based on the context of a client request, build a Representor instance associated with the resource and it's current state. It does this through a simple state-machine related builder interface that adds attributes, optional meta data, transitions, and possibly embedded resources.

Since the Representor knows how to render itself as a Hypermedia message in different media types, the server can simply request a representation from the Representor based on a media type negotiated by a client and return it. Because of this, service developers can focus on the domain of their application, the definition of resources and the state-machine interface of their API vs. the details of generating Hypermedia messages.

Client-side Representor

On the client, a Representor abstracts away the underlying protocol and media-type the message was transported by. The simple state machine interface of the Representor allows client applications to appropriately introspect and interact with a Hypermedia message.

One of the reasons for the generic state-machine interface is that client applications should not interact with a Representor as if they are interacting with some remote object. Rather, they should write client code that "assumes nothing" and checks what is in the message received and respond accordingly. This subtle, but significant, difference is at the heart of the loose coupling and evolvability associated with Hypermedia APIs.

That being said, a client application could interact with a Representor instance of a message directly, or it could define an optional "Semantic Presentor" that translates the message into a loosely-coupled local interface that can be used to present information in a UI based on mapping the elements that it "semantically" understands. Alternately, an optional "Semantic Model" could be developed as a loosely-coupled local model for interacting with the message.

The primary point is that how a client application decides to interact with a particular resource is not associated with some remote data/object model that is tunneled across the wire, but rather is decided by locally the client for its own convenience keeping it de-coupled and free to evolve on its own terms as an underlying Hypermedia API evolves.

Project Manifesto

Architecture is about constraints that produce a desired result. Project Members have agreed to develop a common set of constraints and designs to guide implementation of tooling in their respective languages in order to:

  1. Maintain commonality of ideas for developers learning and using these tools.
  2. Facilitate open-source participation in developing the various language-specific libraries.
  3. Avoid RPC, OOP and/or Remote Type Marshalling anti-patterns.
  4. Abstract the complexity of media types and protocols when interacting with Hypermedia APIs to focus on the functionality the APIs support.

As such, The Hypermedia Project is about a non-exclusive, opinionated approach to Hypermedia tooling. That is, we are working on Hypermedia tools in an agreed upon fashion without making any universal value statement as to how others MAY or SHOULD (RFC2119) develop tooling of their own.


Overview of the project goals.



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