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REST API versioning

user1896
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user1896 Published in June 20, 2018, 7:43 am

I currently work on a Java based web application. Recently we created some REST endpoints using Spring. The reason for this was because we developed a hybrid mobile app that integrates with our main application via these end points.

The problem is that going forward we are not quite sure how to handle updates. If we update our API, e.g. we change the method signatures of the end point methods or we change the attributes on the DTOs that we return as JSON, then we would have an issue if our mobile users are running an out dated version of the mobile app.

What we want to implement is something that will force our users to update the app if it is out of date. I have seen a lot of mobile apps that do this. So we thought of having an API version for our REST API and then have the mobile app check if the version it is using is the same as the version being run by our server and if not, then force the user to do an update.

The problems we have are:

  1. We only have one version of our server running at any time. So how would we time our releases? What happens in the event that we release a new version of our API and our mobile app but the app store does not yet have the latest version publicly available. Then the user will be forced to do an update but the updated app is not yet available to them.

  2. How do we maintain the API version number? On the mobile app we can just configure that. But on the server it is not great to have to maintain a version number. The reason I say this is what if we make a change to a method signature or DTO, etc, and forget to update this version number manually before releasing? Surely there is a more automatic way to do this where some unique "API key" is generated based on the current definition of the API? We could then use this instead of an API version number.

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