Jacob Kaplan-Moss

A REST wankery question

I wrote this post in 2011, more than 11 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

Consider a simple photo storage service as an API. Users can only interact with the API if they’ve got an account. Let’s say authorization happens over HTTP Basic.

Given that, would you use URIs like /photos and /photos/{id} (as a photo list and photo detail resource, respectively)? What’s weird about those URIs is that my /photos is a different list of photos than your /photos – in other words, the resource represented depends on the information in the Authorization header.

It seems like URIs like /people/{my-uid}/photos and /people/{my-uid}/photos/{photo-id} are more “pure.” But now that’s weird because only one single user ever has access to a given URI (e.g only user #7 gets to access the entire space under /people/7). And the information in the URI is redundant with the information in the Authorization header.

I guess the question comes down to whether HTTP headers “should” be allowed to determine the resource returned.

So which would you use? Why?