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This tutorial uses a deprecated micro-framework called Silex. The fundamentals of REST are still ?valid, but the code we use can't be used in a real application.

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We just added a link to our API endpoint for getting a single battle. I want to see the response again, so let's add "And print last response" then run the test - it starts on line 26.

vendor/bin/behat features/api/battle.feature:26

We just invented this idea to put a field on a link called programmerUri. Part of the issue is that we have this link mixed up with other real data fields on this property. It's not totally obvious if we can follow this link, or if maybe this is just a field that happens to be a URL, and that we could actually change that URL by sending a PUT request if we wanted to.

A lot of smart people have thought about this and have invented different standardized formats for how your data and links should be organized inside of JSON or XML. One popular one right now is called HAL. I'll click into a document that has a really nice example:

    "_links": {
        "self": {
            "href": ""
    "id": "matthew",
    "name": "Matthew Weier O'Phinney"

You can see that down here is the data, and above that, you have a _links property that holds the links. You'll also notice that there's this link called self, and that's something we're going to see over and over again. self is kind of a standard thing where each resource has a link to itself, and you keep that on a key called self. What's cool about this is that it's used on a lot of APIs. So if you ever see a link with the key self, you already know what they're talking about. We're going to add this to our stuff too.

Right now, we're using the serializer to create our JSON. And it works just by looking at the class of whatever object we're serializing and grabs the properties off of it. And of course we have some control over which properties to use.

But if you look at the _links.self thing, you might be wondering how we're going to do this. Are we going to need a bunch of these VirtualProperty things for _links?

Installing HATEOAS

Fortunately, there's a really nice library that integrates with the serializer and helps us add links. It's called HATEOAS, which is a REST term that we'll talk about later.

Before we look at how this library works, let's get it installed. Copy the name, then run composer require and the library name:

composer require willdurand/hateoas

Composer will figure out the best version to bring into the project.


Since the latest version of willdurand/hateoas is incompatible with some of our dependencies, double-check that you got installed the version ^2.3


Just like the serializer, this library works via annotations:

use Hateoas\Configuration\Annotation as Hateoas;

 * @Hateoas\Relation("self", href = "expr('/api/users/' ~ object.getId())")
class User
    private $id;
    private $firstName;
    private $lastName;

    public function getId() {}

It basically says the User class has a relation called self, and its href should be set to /api/users, and then the id of the user. And we'll talk about this syntax in a second. The end result will be something that looks like this:

    "_links": {
        "self": {
            "href": "/api/users/12"
    "id": "12",
    "firstName": "Leanna",
    "lastName": "Pelham"

It'll create the _links key with self and any other links you add below it.


Getting this setup is pretty easy. Find the HateoasBuilder code and copy it. Quickly, I'll make sure Composer is done downloading the library.

There's always a place inside a Silex application - and most frameworks - to define services, which are just re-usable objects. You might remember from earlier, that in my project, this is done inside this Application class. A few chapters ago, we used this to configure the serializer object. The HATEOAS library hooks right into this, so we just need to modify a few things. Instead of returning the serializer, we'll set it to a variable and take off the call to build(). Now we'll paste the new code in, return it, and pass the $serializerBuilder into the create() method, which is what ties the two libraries together:

349 lines | src/KnpU/CodeBattle/Application.php
// ... lines 1 - 5
use Hateoas\HateoasBuilder;
// ... lines 7 - 149
private function configureServices()
$app = $this;
// ... lines 153 - 216
$this['serializer'] = $this->share(function() use ($app) {
// configure the underlying serializer
$jmsBuilder = \JMS\Serializer\SerializerBuilder::create()
->setPropertyNamingStrategy(new IdenticalPropertyNamingStrategy());
// create the Hateoas serializer
return HateoasBuilder::create($jmsBuilder)->build();
// ... lines 227 - 230
// ... lines 232 - 349

Now of course, my editor is angry because I'm missing my use statement, so I'll use a shortcut to add that, which puts use statement at the top of this file.

So that's it. We're already using the serializer object everywhere, and now the HATEOAS library will be working with that to add these links for us.

Before we add our first link, let's add a scenario to look for it. Go into programmer.feature and find the scenario for getting one programmer. As I mentioned before. it's always a really good idea to have a self link. And if we look at the structure of HAL, this means we're going to have a _links.self.href property, and it'll be set to the URI of our programmer.

So let's add that here: And the "_links.self.href" property should equal - and we know what the URL of this is going to be - /api/programmers/UnitTester:

131 lines | features/api/programmer.feature
// ... lines 1 - 65
Scenario: GET one programmer
// ... lines 67 - 69
When I request "GET /api/programmers/UnitTester"
// ... lines 71 - 78
And the "userId" property should not exist
And the "nickname" property should equal "UnitTester"
And the "_links.self.href" property should equal "/api/programmers/UnitTester"
// ... lines 82 - 131

And as always, let's run this to see it fail. This scenario is on line 66 of programmer.feature:

vendor/bin/behat features/api/programmer.feature:66

And it fails because the property doesn't even exist yet.

Go back to the HATEOAS docs and scroll back up. Grab the use statement and put it inside of the Programmer class. I'll go back and copy the HATEOAS\Relation annotation - beautiful. This says self, because we want this to be the self link and we'll change the href to be /api/programmers/ and then object.nickname:

54 lines | src/KnpU/CodeBattle/Model/Programmer.php
// ... lines 1 - 7
use Hateoas\Configuration\Annotation as Hateoas;
// ... line 9
* @Serializer\ExclusionPolicy("all")
* @Hateoas\Relation("self", href = "expr('/api/programmers/' ~ object.nickname)")
class Programmer
// ... lines 16 - 52

The Expression Language

Now, what the heck is this expr thing? This comes from Symfony's expression language, which is a small library that gives you a mini, PHP-like language for writing simple expressions. It has things like strings, numbers and variables. There are also functions and operators - very similar to PHP, but with some different syntax. You only have access to a few variables and a few functions, so you're sandboxed a bit.

In this case, we're saying the URL is going to be this string, then the tilde (~) is the concatenation character, so like the dot (.) in PHP. After that, we have object.nickname. When you use the HATEOAS\Relation, it takes whatever object you're serializing - so Programmer in this case - and makes it available as a variable in the expression called object. So by saying object.nickname, we're saying go get the nickname property.

Let's try this test!

vendor/bin/behat features/api/programmer.feature:66

Awesome, it passes that easily. Let's print out the response temporarily. And you can see that we do have that _links property with self and href keys inside of it. That transformation is all being taken care of by the HATEOAS library.