Data Formats

Must: Use JSON to Encode Structured Data

Use JSON-encoded body payload for transferring structured data. The JSON payload must follow RFC-7159 by having (if possible) a serialized object as the top-level structure, since it would allow for future extension. This also applies for collection resources where one naturally would assume an array. See the pagination section for an example.

May: Use non JSON Media Types for Binary Data or Alternative Content Representations

Other media types may be used in following cases:

  • Transferring binary data or data whose structure is not relevant. This is the case if payload structure is not interpreted and consumed by clients as is. Example of such use case is downloading images in formats JPG, PNG, GIF.
  • In addition to JSON version alternative data representations (e.g. in formats PDF, DOC, XML) may be made available through content negotiation.

Must: Use Standard Date and Time Formats

JSON Payload

Read more about date and time format in Json Guideline.

HTTP headers

Http headers including the proprietary headers. Use the HTTP date format defined in RFC 7231.

May: Use Standards for Country, Language and Currency Codes

Use the following standard formats for country, language and currency codes:

Must: Define Format for Type Number and Integer

Whenever an API defines a property of type number or integer, the precision must be defined by the format as follows to prevent clients from guessing the precision incorrectly, and thereby changing the value unintentionally:

type format specified value range
integer int32 integer between -231 and 231-1
integer int64 integer between -263 and 263-1
integer bigint arbitrarily large signed integer number
number float IEEE 754-2008/ISO 60559:2011 binary64 decimal number
number double IEEE 754-2008/ISO 60559:2011 binary128 decimal number
number decimal arbitrarily precise signed decimal number

The precision must be translated by clients and servers into the most specific language types. E.g. for the following definitions the most specific language types in Java will translate to BigDecimal for Money.amount and int or Integer for the OrderList.page_size:

  type: object
      type: number
      description: Amount expressed as a decimal number of major currency units
      format: decimal
      example: 99.95

  type: object
      type: integer
      description: Number of orders in list
      format: int32
      example: 42

Should: Prefer standard Media type name application/json

Previously, this guideline allowed the use of custom media types like application/x.zalando.article+json. This usage is not recommended anymore and should be avoided, except where it is necessary for cases of media type versioning. Instead, the standard media type name application/json (or application/problem+json for HTTP error details) should be used for JSON-formatted data.

Custom media types with subtypes beginning with x bring no advantage compared to the standard media type for JSON, and make automated processing more difficult. They are also discouraged by RFC 6838.