Building Blocks for HTTP APIs


APIs are Languages, and like with any language, it is important to think about who is using them and how to design the language.

When it comes to resource-oriented APIs, most APIs today use HTTP and JSON — and then build on the foundation. How can you make this process more effective, so that more things can be reused and fewer wheels have to be reinvented?

The Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) has now chartered a working group that is tasked specifically with standardizing “Building Blocks for HTTP APIs.”


One of the reasons why this is special is because this makes it official that the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) no longer is mainly for browsers and APIs sort of accidentally use it as well.

Instead, the share of API-based HTTP traffic is constantly growing, and it makes sense to think about how to support this by specifically looking at HTTP as a protocol for APIs.

For this reason, the “Building Blocks for HTTP APIs” working group has a very specific charter that specifically highlights that the working group should focus on exploring how to develop API-specific HTTP extensions and how to use other ways of extending HTTP-based API landscapes. The charter lists the following as possible focus areas:

  • Specifications for HTTP extensions that relate to HTTP APIs (typically, new HTTP header and/or trailer fields)
  • Specifications for new message body formats, or conventions for their use in HTTP APIs (e.g., patterns of JSON objects)
  • Best practices and other documentation for HTTP API designers, consumers, implementers, operators, etc.

The charter also mentions specifically that vertical standards (i.e., standards that focus on a specific domain or industry) are out of scope, as are considerations around how to standardize SDKs for APIs.

Good compromise

This probably is a good compromise to make sure that the working group focuses on issues that can be widely used and focus on how to improve HTTP-based API landscapes.

If you’re interested to learn more about this new working group and its goals and mission, check out the following interview with Darrell Miller, one of the two chairs of the new working group.

Darrell clearly outlines why this working group is important, and he also finishes the interview with a request for everybody in the HTTP API space to consider joining the effort.

After all, IETF has a tradition of working in a very open and community-oriented way, so if you feel you have something to say in the HTTP API space, check out this video and join the new “Building Blocks for HTTP APIs” effort!

If you liked this video, why don’t you check out Erik’s YouTube channel for more “Getting APIs to Work” content?

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Digital Catalyst, Erik works in the Axway Catalyst team and focuses on API strategy, API programs, and API platforms. His main goal is to make sure that organizations make the right decisions for using APIs as the foundation of their digital transformation initiatives. Erik has a Ph.D. from ETH Zurich, is the author of many articles, papers, and books. He is a frequent speaker at global API events and contributes to standardization activities to help improve the way APIs are designed, managed, and used."


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