Tutorial :REST api versioning (only version the representation, not the resource itself)



Question:

I had a look at Best practices for API versioning?, but am not quite convinced of the answer, so I am question the versioning part again with a more specific example. I am having two URIs (one with versioning as part of the URI and one without):

http://xxxx/v1/user/123    -> favored solution in discussed thread  http://xxxx/user/123               

I am having my doubts whether the first link expresses the idea of REST. I find http://xxxx/v1/user/123 confusing as it suggests that there will be a higher api-version someday like http://xxxx/v2/user/123. But this does not make sense in REST terms, the api version itself is HTTP 1.0 or 1.1, which is already sent inside the HTTP request. This REST resource centric view differs very from other api-interfaces like SOAP or Java-interfaces (where it is common to have api-versions in qualified names).

At REST the only thing where versioning makes sense is the representation of that resource (e.g. new fields are added or removed). This versioning belongs to the part of content-negotiation like:

http://xxx/user/123 + HTTP 'Accept' Header -> Content negotation through header  http://xxx/user/123?v=1                    -> for perma-links/hyperlinks  

One could also argue that such version content-negotiation could be part of the URI inside the path, but I find it counter-intuitive, because you could end-up with different URIs for the same resource and have to maintain redirects at some point.

To sum-up: In REST URIs there is no api-versioning, only versioning of the resource's representation. Representation version-info belongs to content-negotiation (as queryParam or HTTP 'Accept').

What do you think? In which things would you disagree/agree?


Solution:1

I completely agree; a URI expresses identity, identity doesn't change when a new version is introduced. There might be new URIs for additional concepts, of course, and existing URIs might redirect … but including a "v2" in the URI smells RPCish to me.

Note that this has got nothing to do with REST, really, as from a REST perspective it's all just characters.


Solution:2

You could listen for an X-API-Version HTTP request header. If the header exists, then the server must use that version of the API. If the header does not exist, the server may use the latest version of the API.

> GET /user/123 HTTP/1.1  > Host: xxx  > X-API-Version: >=1.5.1, <2.0.0  > Accept: application/json  >    < HTTP/1.1 200 OK  < X-API-Version: 1.6.12  <  < { "user": { "id": 123, "name": "Bob Smith" } }  <  


Solution:3

For what it is worth, I agree with you Manuel. You can see my reasoning in this question How to version REST URIs

There are plenty of people that seem to disagree but I would not worry. What your url looks like really does not have a big impact on your client as long as you respect the hypertext constraint.


Solution:4

I agree that you don't want to see versions in the URIs of the resources presented in your API. That makes them not "cool". Also agree that the it is representations that are most likely to change.

However it does then raise the question of what happens when you change the contents of a particular representation. For instance if your original JSON representation of a frobnitz is

{"x": "bam", "y": "hello"}  

and you want to add a "z" field you may feel that the client should have some awareness that we're now on version 2 of some kind of data scheme.

I'm not sure about that. I think you've got a few options:

  • Make your clients flexible in the face a gently changing representations. In the above example we're still generating a JSON dictionary.
  • If you must, put a version in the representation itself (a version field in this example). By doing so you're effectively declaring a sub-representation within the JSON content-type. I reckon that's pretty limiting though.
  • Use your own MIME types and version them: application/x-my-special-json1.0, application/x-my-special-json1.1. This allows you to version your representations independently of each other. Again, with this one you are making a significant demand on your clients to know what's going on.

In general I think you want to optimize your API and your representations for clients that you haven't invented yourself; ones that other people will create upon discovering your resources. I believe this is useful even in the case when you are making something that is private because it builds in a useful design constraint that will help make your system more robust.


Solution:5

I find http://xxxx/v1/user/123 confusing as it suggests that there will be a higher api-version someday like http://xxxx/v2/user/123

It doesn't suggest that - however you have that ability in the future.

But this does not make sense in REST terms, the api version itself is HTTP 1.0 or 1.1, which is already sent inside the HTTP request.

The version of YOUR API and the version of HTTP that you are using to make requests do not have to be equal.

One could also argue that such version content-negotiation could be part of the URI inside the path, but I find it counter-intuitive, because you could end-up with different URIs for the same resource and have to maintain redirects at some point.

Its okay to have the version as a URI parameter as you demonstrated.

http://xxx/user/123?v=1 -> for perma-links/hyperlinks


Solution:6

Another approach could be to say that "one representation has multiple APIs":

http://xxx/user/123/api/1.json  

And if you wish, you could return the representation using the latest API when requesting like this:

http://xxx/user/123.json  

Personally I like other solutions better but this is another approach that I haven't seen suggested here yet.


Solution:7

For REST, what most answers forget is the data element. I assume multiple version API's still share that same data layer. This means that the data layer forces you to think in a backward compatible way. Big changes that have to be done are only possible if your API changes in a backward compatible way. In practice this means that additional properties are added silently to your entities while using deprecation by date in your API document to indicate when something will be removed. Ideally you use a register scheme with email address of your API key users, so you can notify them about deprecation within a certain scope (a la Facebook).Therefore, I don't think you need to specify a version anywhere.


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