Your API’s and HAL

HAL – Hypertext Application Language

HAL is a simple format that gives a consistent and easy way to hyperlink between resources in your API. Adopting HAL will make your API explorable, and its documentation easily discoverable from within the API itself. In short, it will make your API easier to work with and therefore more attractive to client developers.

APIs that adopt HAL can be easily served and consumed using open source libraries available for most major programming languages. It’s also simple enough that you can just deal with it as you would any other JSON. HAL provides a set of conventions for expressing hyperlinks in either JSON or XML. The rest of a HAL document is just plain old JSON or XML. Instead of using ad-hoc structures, or spending valuable time designing your own format; you can adopt HAL’s conventions and focus on building and documenting the data and transitions that make up your API. Its conventions make the documentation for an API discoverable from the API messages themselves. This makes it possible for developers to jump straight into a HAL-based API and explore its capabilities, without the cognitive overhead of having to map some out-of-band documentation onto their journey.

The HAL conventions revolve around representing two simple concepts: Resources and Links.

Resources have: Links (to URIs), Embedded Resources (i.e. other resources contained within them), State (your standard JSON or XML data).

Links have: A target (a URI), A relation aka. ‘rel’ (the name of the link), a few other optional properties to help with deprecation, content negotiation, etc.

HAL is designed for building APIs in which clients navigate around the resources by following links. Links are identified by link relations. Link relations are the lifeblood of a hypermedia API: they are how you tell client developers about what resources are available and how they can be interacted with, and they are how the code they write will select which link to traverse.

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