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This is Volume 42 of This week in REST, for December 30 2011 – March 6 2012. For more information on this blog see this post. If I missed an interesting blog post, discussion or paper – just e-mail me the links, tweet or leave a comment on the latest blog post. Thanks! And I’m sorry for not blogging more often – I’ve been very busy over the last few months.

Around the Web

Fitful Sleep – A Savage Chickens cartoon about the 404 status code.

Civilisational HTTP Error Codes – “To be truly useful, HTTP error codes need to take into account possible future issues.”

RFC for the 7XX Range of HTTP Status codes – Developer Errors – “There are many ways for a developer to screw up their implementation, but no code to share the nature of the error with the end user.We humbly suggest the following status codes are included in the HTTP spec in the 7XX range.”


When “identification” and “representation” fight, who wins? – “Let’s now enter the fantasy world where “resource”, “identification”, and “representation of” have meanings consonant with what is found in the Web architecture documents RFC 3986, the HTTPbis draft (I’m looking at version 18), and AWWW. To make any sense of these documents the words have to be assumed to have something close to their ordinary language meanings (which are rather squishy), since they are otherwise effectively undefined.” (by Jonathan A Rees)

Entities and actions – “hypermedia designs focus on the actions taking place in the problem domain. things like “get a list of customers sorted by date” and “allow users to filter the order list by sales region” and “allow selected users to add new customers”, etc. are all actions. when implementing a system using these actions as the centerpiece, hypermedia designs select the appropriate affordances (within the selected media type) and map those affordances to the identified actions.” (by Mike Amundsen)

Building a Modern Web Stack for the Real-time Web – “The new protocols are here, but the supporting “back office” architecture requires a serious update: SSL is becoming the default, streaming is no longer an option, and long-lived persistent connections are in. SPDY is gaining momentum, and I have no doubts that in the not so distant future it will be an IETF approved protocol. Similarly, ØMQ is not the only alternative for internal routing, but it is definitely one that has been gaining momentum. Fast HTTP parsing and routing is simply not enough to support the modern web use cases. Likewise, punching “TCP holes” in our infrastructure is not a viable long-term solution – in 2012 we should be asking for more. Yes, I’m looking at you Varnish, Nginx, Apache and friends.” (by Ilya Grigorik)

S: A Scripting Language for High-Performance RESTful WebServices – a presentation for the paper by the same name, from the 17th ACM SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles and Practice.

Building Hypermedia Web APIs – “Many of the media types we use nowadays for building Web API’s such as JSON or XML don’t have a built-in concept for representing hypermedia links as HTML does with links and forms. You can leverage those media types by defining a way to express hypermedia, but again, it requires client to understand how the hypermedia semantics are defined on top of those. Other media types like XHtml or ATOM already support some of the hypermedia concepts like links or forms.” (by Pablo M. Cibraro)

WS-* vs REST for the Internet of Things – “I wanted to discuss this choice and base it on data, first looking at quantitative results (e.g., performances of REST vs WS-*) but then also getting some qualitative data: does REST really makes it easier to build upon smart things? WS-* and REST have previously been compared with respect to performance and features, but no work has been done to elicit the developers’ preferences and programming experiences in an Internet of Things context…”

JSON, HTTP and data links – “… I sensed that the community at large is ready for the next aspect of the Web. A scalable, machine-targeted way to realise a global dataspace. And it’s happening as we speak.Take JSON and HTTP (some use REST for marketing purposes) and add the capability of following (typed) links that lead you to more data (context, definitions, related stuff, whatever).And here are the three current contenders in this space.” (by Michael Hausenblas)

HTTP at a glance – “Many web developers using HTTP don’t think about the protocol itself. This site should provide a basic understanding of HTTP 1.1 and ease the development of web applications that use HTTP.This “HTTP explanation” is an incomplete, simplified, human-readable summary of the full specification.”

Object Network -mapping the web – (talk) “Duncan Cragg will give a talk for the London Android User Group on Object Network. Instead of writing a whole new, dedicated HTTP API to your site, publish your data using common JSON object formats, and link your data up, both within your own sites and to other sites. Become part of a global Object Network! See” (by Duncan Cragg)

REST vs. Websockets, Oh My – “There is an entirely absurd discussion going on about “REST vs. Websockets”, predictably claiming that in the long term, REST will be succeeded by Websockets. This is stupid on many levels. I’ll try to be brief” (by Stefan Tilkov)

Additional HTTP Status Codes – “This document specifies additional HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)status codes for a variety of common situations.” (IETF document, by Mark Nottingham)

HTTP is not a transport protocol, HTTP is not RPC – “This has deep implications in your API design. Once you accept that the thing that you are exposing is an HTTP resource which clients interact with via the uniform interface and not a class with standard OOP methods, you design them differently. Your APIs become a gateway where HTTP concerns are addressed and then work is delegated off to the business domain rather than being part of the business domain.” (by Glenn Block)

Resource Profiles – “in our work on RESTful services, we have repeatedly run into the situation where we want to have a runtime mechanism how a resource can represent the fact that it follows additional constraints and/or rules. creating media types at runtime is not such a great idea, and it would also not allow us to represent the fact that a resource is still using a representation based on some media type, but also can be treated according to additional constraints and/or rules. a profile mechanism would be a good way of doing this, and thus we would like it to become a recognized link relation type.” (by Erik Wilde)

Hypermedia Analysis – “This project tries to establish a baseline concerning HATEOAS deployment on the Web, that is, collecting a statistically relevant sample of representations offered by so called RESTful APIs and determine to what degree they ‘contain hypermedia’. We will do this in two phases:First, we will use the Programmable Web API to determine target APIs and retrieve representative samples of representations from those APIs in an automated fashion.Second, we will, manually, evaluate the repository of API representations and determine how to measure the ‘degree of hypermedia’ used.”

ROCA Resource-oriented Client Architecture – A collection of simple recommendations for decent Web application frontends – “ROCA is an attempt to define a set of recommendations – independent of any particular framework, programming language, or tooling – that embodies the principles of what we consider to be good web application architecture. Its purpose is to serve as a reference, one that can be implemented as is or be compared to other approaches to highlight diverging design decisions.”

Someone Save Us From REST – “REST is a fascinating and illuminating set of ideas and, as it turns out, is a handy guideline for effectively preparing an API. As it turns out – digging deep into what you think REST means runs the perils of digging deep into any religious philosophy: adherence turns into devotion.I like REST like I like any [Religious Doctrine]. I dislike the people who drop Fielding Passages in some apostolic attempt to save my non-RESTful soul. My relationship with REST is a personal one and, frankly, I like to think REST guides me in my application development walk in the way Fielding intended for me, and my web app.” (by Rob Conery)

POST-PUT-PATCH illustrated – “the announcement that Rails is adding support for PATCH has caused some gum-flapping on the Inter-Tubes and this all came up in a recent convo w/ some of my colleagues today. it turned out most of them don’t have much experience in “talking HTTP” but know T-SQL really well. so i decided to illustrate the differences between HTTP’s POST, PUT, and PATCH methods using simple T-SQL examples.” (by Mike Amundsen)

REST will stay – you can wash your SOAP away – “REST web services will stay. It is a bad thing to predict future of technology. But I am ready to bet on this one. REST will stay. It will stay because of multiple reasons, and today I am going to give you mine.” (by Samik Chakraborty)

Afforded agents – “data needs to be “afforded” – we need to see not just the “what” in a message, but also the “how.” i appreciate the work the Semantic Web community has done in order to get folks thinking about the idea of messages having “meaning”; that’s great. unfortunately, the same community has not done well in getting folks thinking about the idea of messages having “affordance” – use-ability built right into the data itself.” (by Mike Amundsen) – Consuming HTTP at Scale – presentation on from the Node Summit , Jan 24, 2012

Nobody Understands REST or HTTP – “The more that I’ve learned about web development, the more that I’ve come to appreciate the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the authors of the HTTP RFC and Roy Fielding’s dissertation. It seems like the answers to most problems come down to “There’s a section of the spec for that.” Now, obviously, they’re not infallible, and I’m not saying that there’s zero room for improvement. But it really disappoints me when people don’t understand the way that a given issue is supposed to be solved, and so they make up a partial solution that solves their given case but doesn’t jive well with the way that everything else works. There are valid criticisms of the specs, but they have to come from an informed place about what the spec says in the first place.Let’s talk about a few cases where either REST or HTTP (which is clearly RESTful in its design) solves a common web development problem.” (by Steve Klabnik)

Discussion groups

Rechartering HTTPbis – epic thread on HTTP 2.0 and SPDY “When this effort was started we took great pains to make it clear that we weren’t working on a new version of HTTP, because there wasn’t implementer support to do so and we wanted to focus upon interoperability and security.That’s clearly changed in the intervening time; two major browsers have implemented SPDY, a non-textual serialisation of HTTP’s semantics, and there are now several other implementations as well (full disclosure: including an experimental one in Python by yours truly).I’ve been talking to a number of folks — including those implementing SPDY, as well as HTTP implementers and the W3C TAG — about this recently. There seems to be broad agreement that the time is ripe to start work on a new version of HTTP in the IETF, and that it should happen in this Working Group.”

Where should I POST to? – “Here are different ideas to create a comment:- “POST on /posts/43” – According to the definition of POST [1], this should be acceptable under “annotation of existing resources”.- “POST on /posts/43/comments” – According to the definition of POST [1], this should be acceptable under “posting a message […]”The question: which one(s) of the above seem acceptable, which one is “best”?”

Formats with native hypermedia support – “I’m trying to create a list of formats with native hypermedia support (HTTP)that goes beyond just links supporting a GET.. So far my list is quite shortand I can’t believe that that’s all:- HTML (GET/POST/PUT)- Atom & AtomPub (GET/POST/PUT/DELETE)- WSDL (GET/POST/PUT/DELETE)- WADL (GET/POST/PUT/HEAD/DELETE)- Collection+JSON (GET/POST/PUT/DELETE)”

Related resource: Inlined or linked – “It sounds like the related resource may be either linked or inlined – whatever the server decides. I can understand the approach if the media type explicitly says that there should be either a link OR an inlined resource. But when it says there should be an inlined resource and the server decides to return a link to it, then the server is not implementing the media type anymore. And vice versa, when media type says there should be a link, but the server returns an inline target resource.”

Design styles: OO/URIs compared to Media Types – a lengthy discussion about APIs: “I wonder if you (and anyone else on this list) would be wiling to talk about why you favor OO-URI design over message design (or vice-versa, if that’s the case)?Note I am not at all interested in what is “right/wrong” or “what Fielding sez should be done”, etc. I am most interested in the preferences people have and why they have them. This would help me a great deal in some explorations in which I am currently involved.”

either strengthen or retract httpRange-14(a) – “Personally I feel that the (a) clause of the httpRange-14(a)resolution MUST NOT stand as it is. It must be either strengthened orretracted. It is terribly confused, does not solve the problem the resolutionclaims to solve, and has divided the community in verydestructive ways.”

HATEOAS: concise description – “I am trying to get a clear and concise understanding of HATEOAS, and I am by no means an expert WRT REST. Can anyone suggest an equally enlighenting blog/article WRT HATEOAS?”

Introduction | The Object Network – “Let’s presume for a second that this succeeds, what could I then do that couldn’t do today. Or what could I do more easily than I could today?”

Review: – discussion about the SPDY protocol proposal.

Idempotent partial updates – interesting thread about PUT and PATCH for partial updates. “HTTPbis has amended the semantics of PUT to be unambiguous in its prevention of partial updates. I cannot understand the rationale behind this change, and I have a couple of questions for the group:”

[p3-payload] Media-Type — Two Values, One Cup Anti-Pattern? – “Early media types constrained themselves strictly to describing the format(syntax) of the representation (image/png, application/xml). As time woreon, though, media types sprang up that contained both syntactic & semantictype information (see the application/vnd.openxmlformats-*+xml series foran example). Negative ramifications seem obvious (add json, yaml => m*ntypes, parsing, querying, …); in fact, in other contexts (DB & objectfields), placing two values into a single cup/bucket is such a basicmistake with such obvious drawbacks, it’s rarely even discussed as an issue.Does anyone else see this as a problem?”

Events and books

“APIs: A Strategy Guide – Creating Channels with Application Programming Interfaces” – New book from O’Reilly: “Learn about the rise of APIs and why your business might need one. Understand the roles of asset owners, providers, and developers in the API value chain. Build strategies for designing, implementing, and marketing your product. Devise an effective process for security and user management. Address legal issues, such as rights management and terms of use. Manage traffic and user experience with a reliable operating model. Determine the metrics you need to measure your API’s success” (by Daniel Jacobson, Greg Brail, Dan Woods)

Interesting tweets

@fielding – “@robconery Partial PUT violates the HTTP standard, not REST. Broken hacks should be fixed before deployment, regardless of how it is argued.”

@blowdart – “There’s only one thing as far as I am concerned that HTTP 2.0 can do. FIX THE SPELLING OF REFERRER.”

@serialseb – “Design your media types for extensibility, versioning is not the right change control mechanism at the scale of the web.”

@duncancragg – “My HTTP/2.0 list has just 2 items: asynchronicity and bidirectionality. Which is really just ‘POST requests that look like GET responses'”

@dret – “wondering how much confusion is caused by #REST calling clients “applications”, and many others talking about “application servers”.”

@mamund – “dist-net comms distilled: each request is 1) mutable/immutable? 2) safe/unsafe? 3) idempotent/non-idempotent? 4) navigation/transclusion?”

@dret – “interested in #REST engineering positions at @EMCcorp in Pleasanton, CA? we’re hiring! 2012 summer interns are welcome to apply as well.”

@fielding – “Please don’t argue against principled design on the basis that “real developers” don’t care about design principles. They have no choice.”

@aphethean – “If I had to have a #REST motto, I think I’d like mine to be “resources are cool, so are URIs””

@kellabyte – “@ICooper +1 HTTP API. REST may not even fit for many probs, nobody is saying everything should be REST. Just don’t mislabel what you built”

@howard_dierking – “another day, another post describing “RESTful URLs”…sigh…I’m going to have to change all RESTbugs URLs to GUIDs just to make a point”

@dret – “wondering how many document types average media types define. #HTML: 2; #Atom: 2; #AtomPub: 2. does that translate to: usually few? #REST”

@mikekelly85 – “Web intents as a concept is fine, but why not re-use what we already have? i.e. just use <link> and @rel instead of <intent> and @action”

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