Renku REST API guidelines

This page describes a set of rules and recommendations that a developer of any Renku related web service should follow when developing new or refactoring existing code.


This is not a formal specification.

0. First steps

Make sure that your data model has started to stabilize. Focus on consistent and concrete naming of your resources and possible relations between them.

1. Specification and Best Practices

The focus is on finding a right balance between standards and pragmatic API design which should serve its purpose.

There are some key principles that the developer of an API should aim for.

2. HTTP verbs

Most of the resources should support the four basic functions of CRUD:


POST method should be used when a request is non-idempotent (for example a new resource is added to a database).


GET method should not change the state of the object itself. Side effects are possible for endpoints that require authorization only, but in any case these side effects should only create new objects used for capturing the resource lineage.


PUT method should be used to replace a full state of an existing object. To avoid lost update, each request must include an ETag of the resource it is replacing. The ETag must be part of the If-Match header.

PATCH method should be used for partial modification of a resource. Each request should include an ETag of the resource it is replacing.


DELETE method deletes the specified resource.

2.1 Beyond CRUD

Furthermore, resources should also support the following methods:


OPTIONS method should be used to query for the allowed methods of the target resource. The response must contain an Allow header listing the allowed methods. This method may be combined with the following two request headers:


HEAD method can be used to request the headers that would be returned if a given resource were requested using GET. The response to HEAD must not include a body.

In case you need more verbs or you are not working with a resource, you should pause since you might be designing a new communication protocol. However, there might be actions which are hard to be expressed through CRUD operations in a straightforward and comprehensible way. In these cases a pragmatic approach can be followed.

3. Content Negotiation

All meta-data endpoints should support application/json and optionally they may support application/vnd.api+json if they conform with JSON API specification.

4. Errors

In case of an error, the Content-Type of the response must match the Accept header of the request. A JSON error response must contain an error object in the response body. The error object should contain a unique error code (that can be looked up for more details), an error message and possibly a detailed description:

    "code": 1234,
    "message": "Something went wrong.",
    "description": "What exactly went wrong."

Furthermore, every error response must use a meaningful HTTP status code. The status code may also be part of the error object in the response body.

5. URL structure

URLs should be RESTful in the sense that they represent logical resources or collections of resources. The plural form should be used as endpoint names. Whenever possible, a single word should be used to describe resources. Where compound words cannot be avoided, they are built using dashes. For complex queries (filtering, sorting) query parameters should be used.

  • URL for the entire collection of contexts:
  • URL for a specific context:

5.1 Relations

A relation between resources must be represented in the URL structure if the related resources only exist in the context of the relation. The github API for example represents commits always as part of a repository.

  • Listing commits on a repository:
    GET /repos/{owner}/{repo}/commits
  • Retrieving a single commit:
    GET /repos/{owner}/{repo}/commits/{sha}

If a related resource does exist independently of the related resource, relations are still represented in the URL structure, however individual resources are accessed independently.

  • URL for all executions related to a given context:

All relations of a resource should be made available following such patterns.

  • /projects/{id}/creator - single resource can be a 301 redirect to the resource base URL (e.g. Location: /users/1234).
  • /projects/{id}/buckets

In contrast, a specific resource is accessed independently of the relations which have been followed.

  • URL for a specific execution whose id was retrieved trough a context: /executions/{id}

To make following relations more convenient, links to the related resources should be included in the response body when a given relation is queried. In case of a single resource response the links may also be included in the response link header.

6. Query Parameters

6.1 Filtering

Unique query parameters must be used for each field that allows filtering. The list of query parameters that allow filtering must be documented for each API endpoint.

  • Retrieving all executions which are currently running:
    GET /executions?status=running

6.2 Sorting

A generic sort parameter must be used to describe sorting rules. If there are multiple fields that a collection can be sorted by, the sort parameter must accept a list of comma separated fields. The format of the sort parameter values has to follow: field:ASC|DESC.

  • Retrieving all files, ordered alphabetically by file type and by descending file size: GET /files?sort=type:ASC,size:DESC