OpenMarket – July 6, 2020
by Vicente Martinez
Modeling Actions: Nouns vs Verbs. AKA “How to model actions?”
The URI Structure of an API should be as meaningful and predictable as possible. The idea is to have something that the user can understand.
An API is resource-centric: it deals with resources and with operations on those resources.
Operations (verbs) should be represented via HTTP verbs on resources. This way we work with the HTTP protocol and its semantics.
A verb in the URI is – always, always, always – a design smell
When it comes down to a single verb, the URI semantic means that there is only 1 operation available to do in this URI, which is to “pay”. Since it is a verb, it also means that it is not the actual resource of the API. There is not a table in our database named “pay”. So, this entire URI is render useless for anything else than “pay”
When using a noun, it makes a representation of a relation in the URI. It means we can work with the resource instead of the action. We can set more than just 1 operation like the verb in this UIR, which is a better approach and makes more sense to the user. All operations related to this entity, can be done in a noun URI.
EVEN BETTER …/accounts/payments
Although both are simply fine, plurals over singulars are widely accepted.
To keep consistency, do not mix them in your URI architecture once you have made up your mind.
IDs vs UUIDs in URIs
|Smaller||IDs are less flexible than UUIDs (exposes underlying technology used)|
|No brainer, already available||IDs are guessable (susceptible to web crawlers and bots)|
|More flexible. (Migrating databases is less of a pain and won’t compromise URI architecture)||Require more space in memory|
|Can’t be simply guessed. (Resistance to crawlers)||Requires an initial setup|
Representing DATA formats in a URL
Adding data representation in the URL is a terrible idea.
EVEN WORSE: …/users/vicentem?format=json
The HTTP protocol already defines the semantics to ask different types of representation.
BETTER: Use the Accept (Accept-Language) headers
Further good URI practices
- If there are 2 URIs for the same resource, send the canonical URI to the client.
- Hyphens ( – ) are more usable than underlines ( _ ).
- Use always lowercase