Nikita Nikita - 3 months ago 13
reST (reStructuredText) Question

find-or-create idiom in REST API design?

say we have a 'user' resource with unique constraint on 'name'. how would you design a REST API to handle a find-or-create (by name) use case? I see the following options:

option 1: multiple requests



client:

POST /user
{"name":"bob"}


server:

HTTP 409 //or something else


client:

GET /user?name=bob


server:

HTTP 200 //returns existing user


option 2: one request, two response codes



client:

POST /user
{"name":"bob"}


server:

HTTP 200 //returns existing user


(in case user is actually created, return HTTP 201 instead)

option 3: request errs but response data contains conflicting entity



client:

POST /user
{"name":"bob"}


server:

HTTP 409 //as in option1, since no CREATE took place
{"id": 1, "name":"bob"} //existing user returned

Answer

I believe the "correct" RESTful way to do this would be :

GET /user?name=bob
   200: entity contains user
   404: entity does not exist, so
        POST /user { "name" : "bob" }
           303: GET /user?name=bob
                200: entity contains user

I'm also a big fan of the Post-Redirect-Get pattern, which would entail the server sending a redirect to the client with the uri of the newly created user. Your response in the POST case would then have the entity in its body with a status code of 200.

This does mean either 1 or 3 round-trips to the server. The big advantage of PRG is protecting the client from rePOSTing when a page reload occurs, but you should read more about it to decide if it's right for you.

If this is too much back-and-forth with the server, you can do option 2. This is not strictly RESTful by my reading of https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2616#section-9.5:

The action performed by the POST method might not result in a resource that can be identified by a URI. In this case, either 200 (OK) or 204 (No Content) is the appropriate response status, depending on whether or not the response includes an entity that describes the result.

If you're okay with veering away from the standard, and you're concerned about round-trips, then Option 2 is reasonable.

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