HTTPRPC 4.2.1

HTTPRPC 4.2.1

TestsTested
LangLanguage Obj-CObjective C
License Apache 2
ReleasedLast Release Dec 2017

Maintained by Greg Brown.


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HTTPRPC 4.2.1

  • By
  • Greg Brown

Introduction

HTTP-RPC is an open-source framework for simplifying development of REST applications. It allows developers to access REST-based web services using a convenient, RPC-like metaphor while preserving fundamental REST principles such as statelessness and uniform resource access.

The project currently includes support for consuming web services in Objective-C/Swift and Java (including Android). It provides a consistent, callback-based API that makes it easy to interact with services regardless of target device or operating system. An optional library for implementing REST services in Java is also provided.

For example, the following code snippet shows how a Swift client might access a simple web service that returns a friendly greeting:

serviceProxy.invoke("GET", path: "/hello") { (result: Any?, error) in
    if (error == nil) {
        print(result!) // Prints "Hello, World!"
    }
}

In Java, the code might look like this:

serviceProxy.invoke("GET", "/hello", (result, exception) -> {
    if (error == null) {
        System.out.println(result); // Prints "Hello, World!"
    }
});

In both cases, the request will be executed asynchronously and the result printed when the call returns.

This guide introduces the HTTP-RPC framework and provides an overview of its key features. For additional information and examples, see the wiki.

Contents

Objective-C/Swift Client

The Objective-C/Swift client enables iOS and tvOS applications to consume REST-based web services. It is distributed as a universal framework that contains a single WSWebServiceProxy class, discussed in more detail below.

The iOS and tvOS frameworks can be downloaded here. They are also available via CocoaPods. iOS 9 or later or tvOS 10 or later is required.

WSWebServiceProxy Class

The WSWebServiceProxy class serves as a client-side invocation proxy for REST services. Internally, it uses an instance of NSURLSession to issue HTTP requests.

Service proxies are initialized via the initWithSession:serverURL: method, which takes the following arguments:

  • session - an NSURLSession instance that is used to dispatch service requests
  • serverURL - the base URL of the service

Service operations are initiated by calling one of the following methods:

  • invoke:path:resultHandler:
  • invoke:path:arguments:resultHandler:
  • invoke:path:arguments:responseHandler:resultHandler:

These methods accept the following arguments:

  • method - the HTTP method to execute
  • path - the path to the requested resource
  • arguments - an optional dictionary containing the request arguments as key/value pairs
  • responseHandler - an optional callback that will be used to decode the server response
  • resultHandler - a callback that will be invoked upon completion of the method

The methods return an instance of NSURLSessionTask representing the invocation request. This allows an application to cancel a task, if necessary.

Arguments

As with HTML forms, arguments are submitted either via the query string or in the request body. Arguments for GET and DELETE requests are always sent in the query string. POST arguments are always sent in the request body, and may be submitted using either standard W3C URL-encoded or multi-part form encodings or as JSON. PUT and PATCH arguments may be submitted either as JSON or via the query string.

The request encoding is specified via the encoding property of the service proxy instance. HTTP-RPC provides the following constants representing the supported encoding types:

  • WSApplicationXWWWFormURLEncoded
  • WSMultipartFormData
  • WSApplicationJSON

The default value is WSMultipartFormData.

Arguments sent via the query string or using one of the form encodings are generally converted to parameter values via the argument's description method. However, array instances represent multi-value parameters and behave similarly to <select multiple> tags in HTML. Further, when using the multi-part form data encoding, instances of NSURL represent file uploads and behave similarly to <input type="file"> tags in HTML forms. Arrays of URL values operate similarly to <input type="file" multiple> tags.

When using the JSON encoding, a single JSON object containing the entire argument dictionary is sent in the request body. The dictionary is converted to JSON using the NSJSONSerialization class.

Return Values

The result handler is called upon completion of the operation. If successful, the first argument will contain a deserialized representation of the content returned by the server. Otherwise, the first argument will be nil, and the second argument will be populated with an NSError instance describing the problem that occurred.

WSWebServiceProxy accepts the following response types:

  • application/json
  • image/*
  • text/*

By default, NSJSONSerialization is used to decode JSON response data, and UIImage is used to decode image content. Text content is returned as a string. Custom deserialization can be implemented via the optional response handler callback; for example, the following code uses Swift's JSONDecoder class to return a strongly-typed result value:

serviceProxy.invoke("GET", path: "/example", arguments: [:], responseHandler: { data, contentType in
    let decoder = JSONDecoder()

    return try? decoder.decode(Example.self, from: data)
}) { (result: Example?, error) in
    // Handle result
}

Note that, while requests are actually processed on a background thread, result handlers are called on the same operation queue that initially invoked the service method. This is typically the application's main queue, which allows result handlers to update the application's user interface directly, rather than posting a separate update operation to the main queue.

Authentication

Although it is possible to use the URLSession:didReceiveChallenge:completionHandler: method of the NSURLSessionDelegate protocol to authenticate service requests, this method requires an unnecessary round trip to the server if a user's credentials are already known up front, as is often the case.

HTTP-RPC provides an additional authentication mechanism that can be specified on a per-proxy basis. The authorization property can be used to associate a set of user credentials with a proxy instance. This property accepts an instance of NSURLCredential identifying the user. When specified, the credentials are submitted with each request using basic HTTP authentication.

IMPORTANT Since basic authentication transmits the encoded username and password in clear text, it should only be used with secure (i.e. HTTPS) connections.

Example

The following code sample demonstrates how the WSWebServiceProxy class might be used to access the operations of a hypothetical math service:

// Create service proxy
let serviceProxy = WSWebServiceProxy(session: URLSession.shared, serverURL: URL(string: "https://localhost:8443")!)

// Get sum of "a" and "b"
serviceProxy.invoke("GET", path: "/math/sum", arguments: ["a": 2, "b": 4]) { (result: Int?, error) in
    // result is 6
}

// Get sum of all values
serviceProxy.invoke("GET", path: "/math/sum", arguments: ["values": [1, 2, 3, 4]]) { (result: Int?, error) in
    // result is 6
}

Java Client

The Java client enables Java applications (including Android) to consume REST-based web services. It is distributed as a JAR file that contains the following types, discussed in more detail below:

  • WebServiceProxy - web service invocation proxy
  • WebServiceException - exception thrown when a service operation returns an error
  • ResultHandler - callback interface for handling service results

Additionally, the framework includes two classes, JSONEncoder and JSONDecoder, that are used internally for processing JSON data. However, these classes are public and may also be used by application code.

The Java client library can be downloaded here. It is also available via Maven:

<dependency>
    <groupId>org.httprpc</groupId>
    <artifactId>httprpc</artifactId>
    <version>...</version>
</dependency>

In Android Studio:

dependencies {
    ...
    compile 'org.httprpc:httprpc:...'
}

Java 8 or later is required.

WebServiceProxy Class

The WebServiceProxy class serves as a client-side invocation proxy for REST services. Internally, it uses an instance of HttpURLConnection to send and receive data.

Service proxies are initialized via a constructor that takes the following arguments:

  • serverURL - an instance of java.net.URL representing the base URL of the service
  • executorService - an instance of java.util.concurrent.ExecutorService that is used to dispatch service requests

Service operations are initiated by calling one of the following methods:

  • public <V> Future<V> invoke(String method, String path, ResultHandler<V> resultHandler) { ... }
  • public <V> Future<V> invoke(String method, String path, Map<String, ?> arguments, ResultHandler<V> resultHandler) { ... }
  • public <V> Future<V> invoke(String method, String path, Map<String, ?> arguments, ResponseHandler<V> responseHandler, ResultHandler<V> resultHandler) { ... }

These methods accept the following arguments:

  • method - the HTTP method to execute
  • path - the path to the requested resource
  • arguments - an optional map containing the request arguments as key/value pairs
  • responseHandler - an optional callback that will be used to decode the server response
  • resultHandler - an optional callback that will be invoked upon completion of the request

The methods return an instance of java.util.concurrent.Future representing the invocation request. This object allows a caller to cancel an outstanding request, obtain information about a request that has completed, or block the current thread while waiting for an operation to complete.

Arguments

As with HTML forms, arguments are submitted either via the query string or in the request body. Arguments for GET and DELETE requests are always sent in the query string. POST arguments are always sent in the request body, and may be submitted using either standard W3C URL-encoded or multi-part form encodings or as JSON. PUT and PATCH arguments may be submitted either as JSON or via the query string.

The request encoding is specified via the setEncoding() method of the service proxy instance. The WebServiceProxy class provides the following constants representing the supported encoding types:

  • APPLICATION_X_WWW_FORM_URLENCODED
  • MULTIPART_FORM_DATA
  • APPLICATION_JSON

The default value is MULTIPART_FORM_DATA.

Arguments sent via the query string or using one of the form encodings are generally converted to parameter values via the argument's toString() method. However, Iterable values (such as lists) represent multi-value parameters and behave similarly to <select multiple> tags in HTML. Further, when using the multi-part form data encoding, instances of java.net.URL represent file uploads and behave similarly to <input type="file"> tags in HTML forms. Iterables of URL values operate similarly to <input type="file" multiple> tags.

When using the JSON encoding, a single JSON object containing the entire argument map is sent in the request body. Arguments are converted to their JSON equivalents as follows:

  • Number: number
  • Boolean: true/false
  • CharSequence: string
  • Iterable: array
  • java.util.Map: object

Map implementations must use String values for keys. Nested structures are supported, but reference cycles are not permitted.

Note that PATCH requests may not be supported by all platforms. For example, PATCH works correctly on Android as of SDK 24 but produces a ProtocolException in the Oracle Java 8 runtime.

Argument Map Creation

Since explicit construction and population of the argument map can be cumbersome, WebServiceProxy provides the following static convenience methods to help simplify map creation:

public static <K> Map<K, ?> mapOf(Map.Entry<K, ?>... entries) { ... }
public static <K> Map.Entry<K, ?> entry(K key, Object value) { ... }

Using these methods, argument map declaration can be reduced from this:

HashMap<String, Object> arguments = new HashMap<>();
arguments.put("a", 2);
arguments.put("b", 4);

to this:

mapOf(entry("a", 2), entry("b", 4));

A convenience method for declaring lists is also provided:

public static List<?> listOf(Object... elements) { ... }

Return Values

The result handler is called upon completion of the operation. ResultHandler is a functional interface whose single method, execute(), is defined as follows:

public void execute(V result, Exception exception);

If successful, the first argument will contain a deserialized representation of the content returned by the server. Otherwise, the first argument will be null, and the second argument will contain an exception representing the error that occurred.

WebServiceProxy accepts the following response types:

  • application/json
  • image/*
  • text/*

JSON values are mapped to their Java equivalents as follows:

  • string: String
  • number: Number
  • true/false: Boolean
  • array: java.util.List
  • object: java.util.Map

Image data is decoded via the decodeImageResponse() method of the WebServiceProxy class. The default implementation throws an UnsupportedOperationException. However, subclasses can override this method to provide custom image deserialization behavior. For example, an Android client might override this method to produce Bitmap objects:

@Override
protected Object decodeImageResponse(InputStream inputStream, String imageType) {
    return BitmapFactory.decodeStream(inputStream);
}

Text data is decoded via the decodeTextResponse() method. The default implentation simply returns the text content as a string. Subclasses may override this method to produce alternate representations (for example, loading an XML document into a document object model).

Custom deserialization can also be implemented via the response handler callback; for example, the following code uses the Jackson JSON parser to return a strongly-typed result value:

serviceProxy.invoke("GET", "/example", mapOf(), (inputStream, contentType) -> {
    ObjectMapper objectMapper = new ObjectMapper();

    return objectMapper.readValue(input, Example.class);
}, (Example result, Exception exception) -> {
    // Handle result
});

Accessing Nested Structures

WebServiceProxy provides the following convenience method for accessing nested map values by key path:

public static <V> V valueAt(Map<String, ?> root, String path) { ... }

For example, given the following JSON response:

{
    "foo": {
        "bar": 123
    }
}

this method could be used to retrieve the value at "foo.bar":

System.out.println(valueAt(result, "foo.bar")); // Prints 123

Additionally, WebServiceProxy provides the following method to assist in handling null values. This method identifies the first non-null value in a list of values:

public static <V> V coalesce(V... values) { ... }

For example:

System.out.println(coalesce(valueAt(result, "xyz"), "not found")); // Prints "not found"

Multi-Threading Considerations

By default, a result handler is called on the thread that executed the remote request. In most cases, this will be a background thread. However, user interface toolkits generally require updates to be performed on the main thread. As a result, handlers typically need to "post" a message back to the UI thread in order to update the application's state. For example, a Swing application might call SwingUtilities#invokeAndWait(), whereas an Android application might call Activity#runOnUiThread() or Handler#post().

While this can be done in the result handler itself, WebServiceProxy provides a more convenient alternative. The protected dispatchResult() method can be overridden to process result handler notifications. For example, the following Android-specific code ensures that all result handlers will be executed on the main UI thread:

WebServiceProxy serviceProxy = new WebServiceProxy(serverURL, executorService) {
    private Handler handler = new Handler(Looper.getMainLooper());

    @Override
    protected void dispatchResult(Runnable command) {
        handler.post(command);
    }
};

Command line applications can generally use the default dispatcher, which simply performs result handler notifications on the current thread.

Authentication

Although it is possible to use the java.net.Authenticator class to authenticate service requests, this class can be difficult to work with, especially when dealing with multiple concurrent requests or authenticating to multiple services with different credentials. It also requires an unnecessary round trip to the server if a user's credentials are already known up front, as is often the case.

HTTP-RPC provides an additional authentication mechanism that can be specified on a per-proxy basis. The setAuthorization() method can be used to associate a set of user credentials with a proxy instance. This method takes an instance of java.net.PasswordAuthentication identifying the user. When specified, the credentials are submitted with each request using basic HTTP authentication.

IMPORTANT Since basic authentication transmits the encoded username and password in clear text, it should only be used with secure (i.e. HTTPS) connections.

Example

The following code sample demonstrates how the WebServiceProxy class might be used to access the operations of a hypothetical math service:

// Create service proxy
WebServiceProxy serviceProxy = new WebServiceProxy(new URL("https://localhost:8443"), Executors.newSingleThreadExecutor());

// Get sum of "a" and "b"
serviceProxy.invoke("GET", "/math/sum", mapOf(entry("a", 2), entry("b", 4)), (result, exception) -> {
    // result is 6
});

// Get sum of all values
serviceProxy.invoke("GET", "/math/sum", mapOf(entry("values", listOf(1, 2, 3))), (result, exception) -> {
    // result is 6
});

Java Server

The optional Java server library allows developers to implement REST services in Java. It is distributed as a JAR file containing the following types:

  • DispatcherServlet - abstract base class for REST services
  • RequestMethod - annotation that associates an HTTP verb with a service method
  • ResourcePath - annotation that associates a resource path with a service method

The server JAR can be downloaded here. It is also available via Maven:

<dependency>
    <groupId>org.httprpc</groupId>
    <artifactId>httprpc-server</artifactId>
    <version>...</version>
</dependency>

The Java client library and Java 8 or later are required.

DispatcherServlet

DispatcherServlet is an abstract base class for REST services. Service operations are defined by adding public methods to a concrete service implementation.

Methods are invoked by submitting an HTTP request for a path associated with a servlet instance. Arguments are provided either via the query string or in the request body, like an HTML form. Arguments may also be provided as JSON. DispatcherServlet converts the request parameters to the expected argument types, invokes the method, and writes the return value to the output stream as JSON.

The RequestMethod annotation is used to associate a service method with an HTTP verb such as GET or POST. The optional ResourcePath annotation can be used to associate the method with a specific path relative to the servlet. If unspecified, the method is associated with the servlet itself.

Multiple methods may be associated with the same verb and path. DispatcherServlet selects the best method to execute based on the provided argument values. For example, the following class might be used to implement the simple addition operations discussed earlier:

@WebServlet(urlPatterns={"/math/*"})
public class MathServlet extends DispatcherServlet {
    @RequestMethod("GET")
    @ResourcePath("/sum")
    public double getSum(double a, double b) {
        return a + b;
    }

    @RequestMethod("GET")
    @ResourcePath("/sum")
    public double getSum(List<Double> values) {
        double total = 0;

        for (double value : values) {
            total += value;
        }

        return total;
    }
}

The following request would cause the first method to be invoked:

GET /math/sum?a=2&b=4

This request would invoke the second method:

GET /math/sum?values=1&values=2&values=3

In either case, the service would return the value 6 in response.

Note that service classes must be compiled with the -parameters flag so their method parameter names are available at runtime.

Method Arguments

Method arguments may be any of the following types:

  • Numeric primitive or wrapper class (e.g. int or Integer)
  • boolean or Boolean
  • String
  • java.util.List
  • java.util.Map
  • java.net.URL

List arguments represent either multi-value parameters submitted using one of the W3C form encodings or array structures submitted as JSON. Map arguments represent object structures submitted as JSON, and must use strings for keys. List and map values are automatically converted to their declared types when possible.

URL arguments represent file uploads. They may be used only with POST requests submitted using the multi-part form data encoding. For example:

@WebServlet(urlPatterns={"/upload/*"})
@MultipartConfig
public class FileUploadServlet extends DispatcherServlet {
    @RequestMethod("POST")
    public void upload(URL file) throws IOException {
        ...
    }

    @RequestMethod("POST")
    public void upload(List<URL> files) throws IOException {
        ...
    }
}

Return Values

Return values are converted to their JSON equivalents as described earlier:

  • Number: number
  • Boolean: true/false
  • CharSequence: string
  • Iterable: array
  • java.util.Map: object

Methods may also return void or Void to indicate that they do not produce a value.

For example, the following method would produce a JSON object containing three values:

@RequestMethod("GET")
public Map<String, ?> getMap() {
    return mapOf(
        entry("text", "Lorem ipsum"),
        entry("number", 123),
        entry("flag", true)
    );
}

The service would return the following in response:

{
    "text": "Lorem ipsum",
    "number": 123,
    "flag": true
}

Request and Repsonse Properties

DispatcherServlet provides the following methods to allow a service to access the request and response objects associated with the current operation:

protected HttpServletRequest getRequest() { ... }
protected HttpServletResponse getResponse() { ... }

For example, a service might access the request to get the name of the current user, or use the response to return a custom header.

The response object can also be used to produce a custom result. If a service method commits the response by writing to the output stream, the return value (if any) will be ignored by DispatcherServlet. This allows a service to return content that cannot be easily represented as JSON, such as image data or alternative text formats.

Path Variables

Path variables may be specified by a "?" character in the resource path. For example:

@RequestMethod("GET")
@ResourcePath("/contacts/?/addresses/?")
public List<Map<String, ?>> getContactAddresses() { ... }

The getKeys() method returns the list of variables associated with the current request:

protected List<String> getKeys() { ... }

For example, given the following path:

/contacts/jsmith/addresses/home

getKeys() would return the following:

["jsmith", "home"]

Additional Information

For additional information and examples, see the wiki.