Happy Little Monoliths is available for pre-order.

Nearly 10 years ago, Leonard Richardson and Sam Ruby published RESTful Web Services. I remember eagerly waiting for that book before it came out. Today, REST is still regarded as the state-of-the-art API architecture. It's not hard to see its benefit in comparison to preceding RPC solutions of that time. RESTful APIs make sense, because of the obvious HTTP verb mapping to CRUD methods, and the ease at which individual resources may be addressed and cached in HTTP middleware.

When you're implementing client software to talk to RESTful APIs though, naturally the HTTP gets abstracted: GET /resource/id becomes resource.get(id) and POST /resource becomes resource.create(). The vast majority of applications I touched in the past two years weren't so data intensive to warrant even thinking about HTTP caching strategies. And if there were one or two endpoints that did require caching, a localized implementation worked best.

So having RESTfulness as a design constraint, in this case, is just unnecessary complexity. In order to streamline our client's calls to our core RESTful API at STORED e-commerce, we created a gateway that maps certain URLs to method calls, and let the code inside those methods peform the actual RESTful requests to our core API. First we added it directly to our Nuxt stack as a Koa middleware:

app.use(async (ctx, next) => {
  if (!ctx.path.startsWith('/api') || ctx.request.method !== 'POST') {
    await next()
  } else {
    const apiMethod = ctx.path.split('/api/')[1]
    let [resource, method] = apiMethod.split('/')
    method = translatePath(method)
    const request = { payload: ctx.json.payload }
    const response = await api[resource][ethod](request)

translatePath() translates /resource/method to resource.method() on the server. Our actual code does quite a bit more, such as checking and refreshing auth tokens on-the-fly, but you get the idea.

The takeaway here is that if you're writing a RPC-like proxy to perform RESTful API calls that do not require any caching, you might as well remove the extra call and place all your code in that RPC method and basically have a JSON-pure API.

David Gilbertson, Michael S. Mikowski and Thomas Jetzinger have written similar pieces about REST's unnecessary complexity.

An API gateway in Go

Our Koa-based API proxy gets the job done, but looking forward we wanted to turn this into a fast and reliable piece of our toolset. At STORED e-commerce we already do a lot of Python, with our core RESTful API written entirely in it. But we have had an infatuation with Go that's been growing over the years, and decided to give it a try.

For references we looked at many HTTP client implementations in Go but eventually settled on go-github, written by Google developers. go-github offers an excellent starting point with carefully crafted yet minimal net/http package abstractions.

Each set of methods associated with a resource is kept in a separate file (such as activity.go), with all key interfaces and methods defined in the main github.go file.

The problem is that we need to infer what resource and method are being called from the request URI. Not a trivial task in Go. I started with the main request handler, using gorilla's mux as my routing library, and parsing the necessary parts to make the method call:

func APIGateway(w http.ResponseWriter, request *http.Request) {
  body, err := ioutil.ReadAll(request.Body)
  if err != nil {
    http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
  apiCall := new(APICall)
  if err := json.Unmarshal(body, &apiCall.Payload); err != nil {
    http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
  methodParts := strings.Split(mux.Vars(request)["method"], "/")
  resource := strings.Title(methodParts[0])
  method := translatePath(methodParts[1])
  apiClient := NewClient()
  data, _, err := apiClient.CallMethodByName(
  parsedData, err := json.Marshal(&data) 
  if err != nil {
    http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
  w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "application/json")
  io.WriteString(w, string(parsedData))

func main() {
  router := mux.NewRouter().StrictSlash(true)
  router.HandleFunc("/api/{method:.*}", APIGateway)
  log.Println("Running API gateway at port 4000")
  log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":4000", router))

Several helper functions and type definitions have been omitted for brevity. The most challenging part is of course CallMethodByName(). This did take a lengthy research but thanks to this StackOverflow thread and subsequent reading of The Laws of Reflection, I was able to put it together below. The cool thing about Go's reflect package is that it can give access to nearly everything in the language, making it as malleable as JavaScript if you manage to wrap your head around it.

func (c *Client) CallMethodByName(
  resource string,
  method string,
  payload json.RawMessage,
) (
) {
  resourceObj, err := resourceByName(c, resource)
  if err != nil {
  methodFunc, err := methodByName(resourceObj, method)
  if err != nil {
  in := []reflect.Value{
  results := methodFunc.Call(in)
  data := results[0].Interface().(*json.RawMessage)
  response := results[1].Interface().(*Response)
  return data, response, nil

As you can see, values are passed to the final method in the form of a reflect.Value slice. Return values are then cast back to their expected types before returning. Our code is still evolving, and there are of course several potential errors that need to be addressed, but it now successfully translates resource/get-something to Resource.GetSomething() and all you have to do is add the service definitions and methods you'll use.

A working boilerplate is available at github.com/stored/pathway.

Follow me on X and GitHub.

Go to the index page.