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RESTEasy: Where did the hypermedia go to?

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Some friends have asked what are the major differences between Restfulie and RESTEasy client frameworks.

Strong coupling and hypermedia awareless

As of today, Resteasy requires you to create an interface mapping every resource operation to a specific method, using @VerbName and @Path annotations to specify the desired target URI.

RESTEasy is ignoring the power of hypermedia content on the client side, thus being level 2 according to Leonard Richardson, and not matching Roy Fielding’s description.

RESTEasy is not Roy’s REST

According to Roy Fielding:

But hypertext as the engine of hypermedia state is also about late binding of application alternatives that guide the client through whatever it is that we are trying to provide as a service.

And any effort spent describing what methods to use on what URIs of interest should be entirely defined within the scope of the processing rules for a media type

Guess what? Java interfaces with @VerbName + @Path annotations means early binding, means an effort trying to describe which methods to use on which URI’s: tighter coupling, less space to evolve your server systems.

Going further:

It is fundamental to the goal of removing all coupling aside from the standardized data formats and the initial bookmark URI.

Restfulie provides a way to access only the initial bookmark URI, everything else is derived from navigating through your resources and its states.

Roy’s dissertation puts his believe quite clear in hypermedia being an important point of the web in chapter 5, his first paragraph: “Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style for distributed hypermedia systems”.

RESTEasy got it right when it allows the user to access multiple URIs and the http protocol as the application protocol. But it still helps creating strongly coupled systems. Those who use JAXB (JAX-RS required) and fixed xml schemas do not allow server to evolve without prior notice to their clients. Ian Robinson has written about links in his blog and – another option – contract based systems in ThoughtWorks Anthology.

Back in 2007, there was a nice discussion on SOA allowing the users to create strongly coupled systems, where Mark Baker cleared it: SOA is constraintless, therefore one can create strongly and loosely coupled systems.

RESTEasy not supporting hypermedia content by default matches Roy’s definition of unrestful:

In other words, not RESTful at all. REST without the hypertext constraint is like pipe-and-filter without the pipes: completely useless because it no longer induces any interesting properties.

Although RESTEasy supports atom feeds, which is a good point, if the client wants a real hypemedia aware resource, he has to work on the deserialization process on his own.

RESTEasy does not provide the class generation mechanism that Restfulie (both Java and Ruby) provides so end users are able to transverse your resource’s tree and states without prior knowledge of every other URI.

According to Roy, one of the key benefits of the REST archicture style is its visibility through out the entire layered system:

REST is an architectural style that, when followed, allows components to carry out their functions in a way that maximizes the most important architectural properties of a multi-organizational, network-based information system. In particular, it maximizes the growth of identified information within that system, which increases the utility of the system as a whole.

By fixing all URI’s on the client side, along with not supporting hypermedia content by default, RESTEasy provides less information to layers contained between the server and the client: thus less visibility.

Server side

The same issues arrive when talking about the server side: RESTEasy does not provide any default interface for hypermedia content, but JAX-RS default support to JAXB: plain xml. It is up to (good) programmers to know how to make use of hypermedia systems in order to create a loosely coupled system.


Another key point on Restfulie’s approach is that it is Java-INdependent. Every month we see a larger number of integration software being developed in other languages: Restfulie can already help Java and Ruby developers.

Written by guilhermesilveira

December 3, 2009 at 6:05 am

Posted in java, restful, ruby

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