Home How to handle many-to-many relationships in a RESTful API?
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How to handle many-to-many relationships in a RESTful API?

user1935
1#
user1935 Published in June 20, 2018, 10:52 pm

Imagine you have 2 entities, Player and Team, where players can be on multiple teams. In my data model, I have a table for each entity, and a join table to maintain the relationships. Hibernate is fine at handling this, but how might I expose this relationship in a RESTful API?

I can think of a couple ways. First, I might have each entity contain a list of the other, so a Player object would have a list of Teams it belongs to, and each Team object would have a list of Players that belong to it. So to add a Player to a Team, you would just POST the player's representation to an endpoint, something like POST /player or POST /team with the appropriate object as the payload of the request. This seems the most "RESTful" to me but feels a little weird.

/api/team/0:

{
    name: 'Boston Celtics',
    logo: '/img/Celtics.png',
    players: [
        '/api/player/20',
        '/api/player/5',
        '/api/player/34'
    ]
}

/api/player/20:

{
    pk: 20,
    name: 'Ray Allen',
    birth: '1975-07-20T02:00:00Z',
    team: '/api/team/0'
}

The other way I can think of to do this would be to expose the relationship as a resource in its own right. So to see a list of all the players on a given team, you might do a GET /playerteam/team/{id} or something like that and get back a list of PlayerTeam entities. To add a player to a team, POST /playerteam with an appropriately built PlayerTeam entity as the payload.

/api/team/0:

{
    name: 'Boston Celtics',
    logo: '/img/Celtics.png'
}

/api/player/20:

{
    pk: 20,
    name: 'Ray Allen',
    birth: '1975-07-20T02:00:00Z',
    team: '/api/team/0'
}

/api/player/team/0/:

[
    '/api/player/20',
    '/api/player/5',
    '/api/player/34'        
]

What is the best practice for this?

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