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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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Project Routing

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Project Routing

Ok, let’s get start by downloading (see the Download button for subscribers) or cloning the CodeBattles project. Now, follow the file to get things working. It involves downloading Composer and installing the vendor libraries:

$ git clone
$ cd rest
$ curl -sS | php
$ php composer.phar install


If you’re new to Composer, watch The Wonderful World of Composer.

When that’s done, start up the app by using PHP’s awesome built-in web server:

$ cd web
$ php -S localhost:8000


The built-in web server requires PHP 5.4, which all of you should have! If you’re using PHP 5.3, you’ll need to configure a VirtualHost of your web server to point at the web/ directory.

If it worked, then load up the site by going to http://localhost:8000. Awesome!

About the App

CodeBattles is built in Silex, a PHP microframework. If this is your first time using Silex, take a few minutes with its Documentation to get to know it. It basically let’s us design routes, or pages and easily write the code to render those pages. Our setup will look just a little bit different than this, but the idea is the same.

But this is not a tutorial on building a REST API on only Silex! Most of what we’ll do is basically the same across any framework. You will need to do a little bit of work here and there. But trust me, these things are a pleasure to do compared with all the tough REST stuff.

First Endpoint: POST /api/programmers

Let’s pretend we’re building the API for an iPhone app. Ignoring authentication, what’s the first thing the user will do in the app? Create a programmer of course! And that’s our first API endpoint.

Separate URLs from our Web Interface?

But hold up! In the web version of our app, we’re already able to create a programmer by filling out a form and submitting it via POST to /programmers/new. This either re-renders the HTML page with errors or redirects us.

Why not just reuse the code from this URL and make it work for our API? To do this we’d need to make it accept JSON request data, become smart enough to return errors as JSON and do something other than a redirect on success. Then, /programmers could be used by a browser to get HTML or by an API client to pass JSON back and forth.

That would be sweet! And later, we’ll talk about how you could do that. But for now, things will be a lot easier to understand if we leave the web interface alone, prefix our API URLs with /api, and write separate code for it.

This does break a rule of REST, because each resource will now have 2 URLs: one for HTML and one for the JSON representation. But REST has a lot of rules, too many for our rebel Codebattles site. We’ll break this one, like many APIs. But later, I’ll show you how we could use 1 URL to return multiple representation.

Basic Routing

So let’s build the endpoint. Find the src/KnpU/CodeBattle/Controller/Api/ProgrammerController.php file and uncomment the route definition:

// src/KnpU/CodeBattle/Controller/Api/ProgrammerController.php
// ...

protected function addRoutes(ControllerCollection $controllers)
    $controllers->post('/api/programmers', array($this, 'newAction'));

Next, create a newAction inside of this class and return let's battle!:

// src/KnpU/CodeBattle/Controller/Api/ProgrammerController.php
// ...

public function newAction()
    return 'let\'s battle!';

And just like that, we’re making threats and we have a new endpoint with the URL /api/programmers. If we make a POST request here, the newAction function will be executed and these famous last words will be returned in the response. This is the core of what Silex gives us.

URLs and Resources

My choice of a POST request to create a programmer isn’t accidental. /api/programmers is a collection resource. And according to some HTTP rules I’ll show you later, when you want to create a resource, you should send a POST request to its collection.

In other words, I’m not making this all up: I’m following the rules of the web. And in the API world, if you follow the rules, you’ll have more friends.

Testing the Endpoint

Well let’s try it already! That’s actually not easy in a browser, since we need to make a POST request. Instead, open up the testing.php file at the root of the project that I’ve already prep’ed for us:

// testing.php
require __DIR__.'/vendor/autoload.php';

use Guzzle\Http\Client;

// create our http client (Guzzle)
$client = new Client('http://localhost:8000', array(
    'request.options' => array(
        'exceptions' => false,

This is a plain PHP file that creates a Guzzle Client object. Guzzle is a simple library for making HTTP requests and receiving responses.

Let’s make a POST request to /api/programmers and print out the response:

// testing.php
// ...
$client = new Client('http://localhost:8000', array(
    'request.options' => array(
        'exceptions' => false,

$request = $client->post('/api/programmers');
$response = $request->send();

echo $response;
echo "\n\n";

Try it out by running the file from the command line. You’ll need to open a new terminal tab and make sure you’re at the root of the project where the file is:

$ php testing.php
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Host: localhost:8000
Connection: close
Cache-Control: no-cache
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

let's battle!