Tutorial: Developing a RESTful API with Go and Gin

This tutorial introduces the basics of writing a RESTful web service API with Go and the Gin Web Framework (Gin).

You’ll get the most out of this tutorial if you have a basic familiarity with Go and its tooling. If this is your first exposure to Go, please see Tutorial: Get started with Go for a quick introduction.

Gin simplifies many coding tasks associated with building web applications, including web services. In this tutorial, you’ll use Gin to route requests, retrieve request details, and marshal JSON for responses.

In this tutorial, you will build a RESTful API server with two endpoints. Your example project will be a repository of data about vintage jazz records.

The tutorial includes the following sections:

  1. Design API endpoints.
  2. Create a folder for your code.
  3. Create the data.
  4. Write a handler to return all items.
  5. Write a handler to add a new item.
  6. Write a handler to return a specific item.

Note: For other tutorials, see Tutorials.

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Prerequisites

Design API endpoints

You’ll build an API that provides access to a store selling vintage recordings on vinyl. So you’ll need to provide endpoints through which a client can get and add albums for users.

When developing an API, you typically begin by designing the endpoints. Your API’s users will have more success if the endpoints are easy to understand.

Here are the endpoints you’ll create in this tutorial.

/albums

/albums/:id

Next, you’ll create a folder for your code.

Create a folder for your code

To begin, create a project for the code you’ll write.

  1. Open a command prompt and change to your home directory.

    On Linux or Mac:

    $ cd
    

    On Windows:

    C:\> cd %HOMEPATH%
    
  2. Using the command prompt, create a directory for your code called web-service-gin.

    $ mkdir web-service-gin
    $ cd web-service-gin
    
  3. Create a module in which you can manage dependencies.

    Run the go mod init command, giving it the path of the module your code will be in.

    $ go mod init example/web-service-gin
    go: creating new go.mod: module example/web-service-gin
    

    This command creates a go.mod file in which dependencies you add will be listed for tracking. For more about naming a module with a module path, see Managing dependencies.

Next, you’ll design data structures for handling data.

Create the data

To keep things simple for the tutorial, you’ll store data in memory. A more typical API would interact with a database.

Note that storing data in memory means that the set of albums will be lost each time you stop the server, then recreated when you start it.

Write the code

  1. Using your text editor, create a file called main.go in the web-service directory. You’ll write your Go code in this file.

  2. Into main.go, at the top of the file, paste the following package declaration.

    package main
    

    A standalone program (as opposed to a library) is always in package main.

  3. Beneath the package declaration, paste the following declaration of an album struct. You’ll use this to store album data in memory.

    Struct tags such as json:"artist" specify what a field’s name should be when the struct’s contents are serialized into JSON. Without them, the JSON would use the struct’s capitalized field names – a style not as common in JSON.

    // album represents data about a record album.
    type album struct {
        ID     string  `json:"id"`
        Title  string  `json:"title"`
        Artist string  `json:"artist"`
        Price  float64 `json:"price"`
    }
    
  4. Beneath the struct declaration you just added, paste the following slice of album structs containing data you’ll use to start.

    // albums slice to seed record album data.
    var albums = []album{
        {ID: "1", Title: "Blue Train", Artist: "John Coltrane", Price: 56.99},
        {ID: "2", Title: "Jeru", Artist: "Gerry Mulligan", Price: 17.99},
        {ID: "3", Title: "Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown", Artist: "Sarah Vaughan", Price: 39.99},
    }
    

Next, you’ll write code to implement your first endpoint.

Write a handler to return all items

When the client makes a request at GET /albums, you want to return all the albums as JSON.

To do this, you’ll write the following:

Note that this is the reverse of how they’ll be executed at runtime, but you’re adding dependencies first, then the code that depends on them.

Write the code

  1. Beneath the struct code you added in the preceding section, paste the following code to get the album list.

    This getAlbums function creates JSON from the slice of album structs, writing the JSON into the response.

    // getAlbums responds with the list of all albums as JSON.
    func getAlbums(c *gin.Context) {
        c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusOK, albums)
    }
    

    In this code, you:

    • Write a getAlbums function that takes a gin.Context parameter. Note that you could have given this function any name – neither Gin nor Go require a particular function name format.

      gin.Context is the most important part of Gin. It carries request details, validates and serializes JSON, and more. (Despite the similar name, this is different from Go’s built-in context package.)

    • Call Context.IndentedJSON to serialize the struct into JSON and add it to the response.

      The function’s first argument is the HTTP status code you want to send to the client. Here, you’re passing the StatusOK constant from the net/http package to indicate 200 OK.

      Note that you can replace Context.IndentedJSON with a call to Context.JSON to send more compact JSON. In practice, the indented form is much easier to work with when debugging and the size difference is usually small.

  2. Near the top of main.go, just beneath the albums slice declaration, paste the code below to assign the handler function to an endpoint path.

    This sets up an association in which getAlbums handles requests to the /albums endpoint path.

    func main() {
        router := gin.Default()
        router.GET("/albums", getAlbums)
    
        router.Run("localhost:8080")
    }
    

    In this code, you:

    • Initialize a Gin router using Default.

    • Use the GET function to associate the GET HTTP method and /albums path with a handler function.

      Note that you’re passing the name of the getAlbums function. This is different from passing the result of the function, which you would do by passing getAlbums() (note the parenthesis).

    • Use the Run function to attach the router to an http.Server and start the server.

  3. Near the top of main.go, just beneath the package declaration, import the packages you’ll need to support the code you’ve just written.

    The first lines of code should look like this:

    package main
    
    import (
        "net/http"
    
        "github.com/gin-gonic/gin"
    )
    
  4. Save main.go.

Run the code

  1. Begin tracking the Gin module as a dependency.

    At the command line, use go get to add the github.com/gin-gonic/gin module as a dependency for your module. Use a dot argument to mean “get dependencies for code in the current directory.”

    $ go get .
    go get: added github.com/gin-gonic/gin v1.7.2
    

    Go resolved and downloaded this dependency to satisfy the import declaration you added in the previous step.

  2. From the command line in the directory containing main.go, run the code. Use a dot argument to mean “run code in the current directory.”

    $ go run .
    

    Once the code is running, you have a running HTTP server to which you can send requests.

  3. From a new command line window, use curl to make a request to your running web service.

    $ curl http://localhost:8080/albums
    

    The command should display the data you seeded the service with.

    [
            {
                    "id": "1",
                    "title": "Blue Train",
                    "artist": "John Coltrane",
                    "price": 56.99
            },
            {
                    "id": "2",
                    "title": "Jeru",
                    "artist": "Gerry Mulligan",
                    "price": 17.99
            },
            {
                    "id": "3",
                    "title": "Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown",
                    "artist": "Sarah Vaughan",
                    "price": 39.99
            }
    ]
    

You’ve started an API! In the next section, you’ll create another endpoint with code to handle a POST request to add an item.

Write a handler to add a new item

When the client makes a POST request at /albums, you want to add the album described in the request body to the existing albums data.

To do this, you’ll write the following:

Write the code

  1. Add code to add albums data to the list of albums.

    Somewhere after the import statements, paste the following code. (The end of the file is a good place for this code, but Go doesn’t enforce the order in which you declare functions.)

    // postAlbums adds an album from JSON received in the request body.
    func postAlbums(c *gin.Context) {
        var newAlbum album
    
        // Call BindJSON to bind the received JSON to
        // newAlbum.
        if err := c.BindJSON(&newAlbum); err != nil {
            return
        }
    
        // Add the new album to the slice.
        albums = append(albums, newAlbum)
        c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusCreated, newAlbum)
    }
    

    In this code, you:

    • Use Context.BindJSON to bind the request body to newAlbum.
    • Append the album struct initialized from the JSON to the albums slice.
    • Add a 201 status code to the response, along with JSON representing the album you added.
  2. Change your main function so that it includes the router.POST function, as in the following.

    func main() {
        router := gin.Default()
        router.GET("/albums", getAlbums)
        router.POST("/albums", postAlbums)
    
        router.Run("localhost:8080")
    }
    

    In this code, you:

    • Associate the POST method at the /albums path with the postAlbums function.

      With Gin, you can associate a handler with an HTTP method-and-path combination. In this way, you can separately route requests sent to a single path based on the method the client is using.

Run the code

  1. If the server is still running from the last section, stop it.

  2. From the command line in the directory containing main.go, run the code.

    $ go run .
    
  3. From a different command line window, use curl to make a request to your running web service.

    $ curl http://localhost:8080/albums \
        --include \
        --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
        --request "POST" \
        --data '{"id": "4","title": "The Modern Sound of Betty Carter","artist": "Betty Carter","price": 49.99}'
    

    The command should display headers and JSON for the added album.

    HTTP/1.1 201 Created
    Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
    Date: Wed, 02 Jun 2021 00:34:12 GMT
    Content-Length: 116
    
    {
        "id": "4",
        "title": "The Modern Sound of Betty Carter",
        "artist": "Betty Carter",
        "price": 49.99
    }
    
  4. As in the previous section, use curl to retrieve the full list of albums, which you can use to confirm that the new album was added.

    $ curl http://localhost:8080/albums \
        --header "Content-Type: application/json" \
        --request "GET"
    

    The command should display the album list.

    [
            {
                    "id": "1",
                    "title": "Blue Train",
                    "artist": "John Coltrane",
                    "price": 56.99
            },
            {
                    "id": "2",
                    "title": "Jeru",
                    "artist": "Gerry Mulligan",
                    "price": 17.99
            },
            {
                    "id": "3",
                    "title": "Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown",
                    "artist": "Sarah Vaughan",
                    "price": 39.99
            },
            {
                    "id": "4",
                    "title": "The Modern Sound of Betty Carter",
                    "artist": "Betty Carter",
                    "price": 49.99
            }
    ]
    

In the next section, you’ll add code to handle a GET for a specific item.

Write a handler to return a specific item

When the client makes a request to GET /albums/[id], you want to return the album whose ID matches the id path parameter.

To do this, you will:

Write the code

  1. Beneath the postAlbums function you added in the preceding section, paste the following code to retrieve a specific album.

    This getAlbumByID function will extract the ID in the request path, then locate an album that matches.

    // getAlbumByID locates the album whose ID value matches the id
    // parameter sent by the client, then returns that album as a response.
    func getAlbumByID(c *gin.Context) {
        id := c.Param("id")
    
        // Loop over the list of albums, looking for
        // an album whose ID value matches the parameter.
        for _, a := range albums {
            if a.ID == id {
                c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusOK, a)
                return
            }
        }
        c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusNotFound, gin.H{"message": "album not found"})
    }
    

    In this code, you:

    • Use Context.Param to retrieve the id path parameter from the URL. When you map this handler to a path, you’ll include a placeholder for the parameter in the path.

    • Loop over the album structs in the slice, looking for one whose ID field value matches the id parameter value. If it’s found, you serialize that album struct to JSON and return it as a response with a 200 OK HTTP code.

      As mentioned above, a real-world service would likely use a database query to perform this lookup.

    • Return an HTTP 404 error with http.StatusNotFound if the album isn’t found.

  2. Finally, change your main so that it includes a new call to router.GET, where the path is now /albums/:id, as shown in the following example.

    func main() {
        router := gin.Default()
        router.GET("/albums", getAlbums)
        router.GET("/albums/:id", getAlbumByID)
        router.POST("/albums", postAlbums)
    
        router.Run("localhost:8080")
    }
    

    In this code, you:

    • Associate the /albums/:id path with the getAlbumByID function. In Gin, the colon preceding an item in the path signifies that the item is a path parameter.

Run the code

  1. If the server is still running from the last section, stop it.

  2. From the command line in the directory containing main.go, run the code to start the server.

    $ go run .
    
  3. From a different command line window, use curl to make a request to your running web service.

    $ curl http://localhost:8080/albums/2
    

    The command should display JSON for the album whose ID you used. If the album wasn’t found, you’ll get JSON with an error message.

    {
            "id": "2",
            "title": "Jeru",
            "artist": "Gerry Mulligan",
            "price": 17.99
    }
    

Conclusion

Congratulations! You’ve just used Go and Gin to write a simple RESTful web service.

Suggested next topics:

Completed code

This section contains the code for the application you build with this tutorial.

package main

import (
    "net/http"

    "github.com/gin-gonic/gin"
)

// album represents data about a record album.
type album struct {
    ID     string  `json:"id"`
    Title  string  `json:"title"`
    Artist string  `json:"artist"`
    Price  float64 `json:"price"`
}

// albums slice to seed record album data.
var albums = []album{
    {ID: "1", Title: "Blue Train", Artist: "John Coltrane", Price: 56.99},
    {ID: "2", Title: "Jeru", Artist: "Gerry Mulligan", Price: 17.99},
    {ID: "3", Title: "Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown", Artist: "Sarah Vaughan", Price: 39.99},
}

func main() {
    router := gin.Default()
    router.GET("/albums", getAlbums)
    router.GET("/albums/:id", getAlbumByID)
    router.POST("/albums", postAlbums)

    router.Run("localhost:8080")
}

// getAlbums responds with the list of all albums as JSON.
func getAlbums(c *gin.Context) {
    c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusOK, albums)
}

// postAlbums adds an album from JSON received in the request body.
func postAlbums(c *gin.Context) {
    var newAlbum album

    // Call BindJSON to bind the received JSON to
    // newAlbum.
    if err := c.BindJSON(&newAlbum); err != nil {
        return
    }

    // Add the new album to the slice.
    albums = append(albums, newAlbum)
    c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusCreated, newAlbum)
}

// getAlbumByID locates the album whose ID value matches the id
// parameter sent by the client, then returns that album as a response.
func getAlbumByID(c *gin.Context) {
    id := c.Param("id")

    // Loop through the list of albums, looking for
    // an album whose ID value matches the parameter.
    for _, a := range albums {
        if a.ID == id {
            c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusOK, a)
            return
        }
    }
    c.IndentedJSON(http.StatusNotFound, gin.H{"message": "album not found"})
}