Wed 02 April 2008
I don't spend much time with web programming these days but I decided to give web.py (the minimalist python web framework) a shot and, while I was at it, try implementing a simple REST api.
First of all, web.py is truly everything it claims to be - small, light and easy to deploy behind lighttpd. It gives you a ton of flexibility to implement anything however you want - which is a plus or minus depending on how you look at it. I liked the inifinte flexibility but I can see alot of refactoring taking place and features needing to be implemented just to match the functionality built into a more structured framework like Django.
Back to the REST side of things. So I created a url-mapping to my "resources" or "nouns" and used the HTTP verbs (POST,GET,PUT,DELETE) to supply the interface. This was a joy to do in web.py which made it easy.
urls = ("/thing/(\d+)", "thing")
def GET(self, thingid):
# select query and render to template
def POST(self, thingid):
# insert query and redirect to /thing/thingid
def DELETE(self, thingid):
# delete query
def PUT(self, thingid):
# use cgi args to run update query on specified thing
The hard part came when I realized that HTML forms do not implement DELETE or PUT methods! 2 of the 4 cornerstone HTTP verbs are not implemented in HTML forms?
Surely this can be accomplished with a top-notch AJAX library. I tried Prototype.js and it appears that the PUT and DELETE methods are simply tunneled over POST with an extra arg attached and the server side has to handle it accordingly. So I ended up just using a straight XMLHttpRequest which works but has it's own problems.