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s3gw-ui backend API

Using POST instead of GET for some operations

While we should strive to ensure that we are compliant with the RESTful API paradigm, in some instances this is not viable.

One such instance is when we have a lot of information that needs to be provided to the API during a GET call. In such a situation it would make sense to rely on the GET request's body to pass the additional context we need, but unfortunately browsers tend to drop the body for GET requests before sending the request to the server (1 3).

We are left with one of the following options:

  1. Pass all the information we need as query parameters during the GET call
  2. Pass additional parameters in the HTTP request's headers
  3. Use another operation, instead of GET, to pass the additional information to the server in the request's body.

The first approach has the downside that we are limited to a predefined hard limit of characters in the URL, which is browser dependent. For instance, Chrome is limited to 2083 characters, while Firefox is limited to 65536 characters. We must thus assume the lower bound, being effectively limited to 2083 characters.

Given some operations require object names to be provided, and given S3 object names may have up to 1024 characters, we become slightly limited in the number of remaining characters available for additional parameters. Additionally, the S3 protocol allows object names to contain certain characters that are considered reserved for URLs, meaning we would have to URL-encode them, putting additional pressure on the limit we have already established. In the worst case scenario, an object name composed solely of reserved characters would take three times as many characters after being URL-encoded than its original form. That by itself is more than the available characters we have for a URL if the object has the maximum number of allowed characters of 1024.

The second approach, we believe, is less obvious. Could we pass these values as HTTP headers? We think so. But we find that ugly and not at all obvious. It would mean passing potentially huge payloads in the header, and that's the bit we find ugly; it's not obvious because headers are not exactly the first place one would think to look into for large payloads.

We are thus left with the third option. By using a different operation for which the request's body is not stripped away, we can provide as much context as we want or need to the server, with little to no modification of the original payload.

Therefore, we have chosen to use POST operations for selected operations that are semantically the equivalent to a GET operation. This breaks the RESTfulness of our API for some operations, but we believe this to be a reasonable tradeoff.


Versioning of an API makes sense if it is public, but the UI backend API is not meant for public use. Since the UI and the associated backend REST API are always delivered together and are therefore tightly coupled, there is no real API versioning required. Nevertheless, for certain situations a simple API versioning is needed. To prevent situations where the UI does not know that the API and its behavior has changed, a custom header S3GW-Accept-Version: X.Y.Z is sent along. This version is incremented in case of serious changes to the API. If the client sends a request with an API version unknown on the server, it will be rejected with an error. If the custom header is not sent, then no check is performed on the server side.