Naturally grow your rails API through sane versioning.

Is it any good?


Why is it good?

I've seen versionist used to version rails APIs in the wild. I think the pathway of copying an entire application to create a new version borders insanity. The most illustrative case of this is when the difference between v2 and v3 of an API is the addition of a new resource, with no changes to the existing resouces. With versionist you would re-implement all existing resources in v3 api in addition adding a new one (including new tests, etc).

Your SLOC goes up dramatically with each version if you follow the route of duplicating your entire application. That means each bug, defect, security hole and other nasty defect that is yet to be discovered in your code has now dug in deeper. It means your test suite will never run in a reasonable amount of time. It means that if you refactor a public method on a model you have to address its upstream callers repeatedly, even though they differ only by a namespace.

The mitigation strategies for sharing some behaviors between the versions aren't really improvements. The most common is to create a Module in app/controllers/concerns that encapsulates some baseline functionality to be shared between the controllers in the different versions' namespaces. Ruby modules are a tool for defining behaviors. Using modules to isolate code for architectural reasons is an anti-pattern. Each controller is spliced together from one or more concerns, its overrides to the methods exposed by the concerns, and the additional functionality the contoller provides for its particular version.

The dead weight you carry between v1 and v2 may seem small. When you reach v5 you will be crying yourself to sleep each night.

Instead of making our future-selves unhappy we want to:

  • make explicit changes between versions with minimal code
  • be able to enumerate and easily discover differences between versions
  • make the change in the most appropraite place: view, controller, route, etc without effecting the others
  • not fight a broken inheritance pattern: know exactly how your components are coupled
  • reduce copy-pasting of code
  • not replay the same change/refactor over-and-over when once will suffice

Don't build apps that resist refactoring.

Just don't do it. Ever.

How Maturate provides better options

The actual implementation notes are wrtten as RDoc in lib/maturate.rb. Please browse there as well.

Tiny footprtint

Maturate is very small. You can read the entire codebase in less time than it took to reach this point in the README. You can understand its plain ruby (with a few rails helpers) very quikcly. You can implment it in your project in short order.

View-only changes

Adding, removing, or renaming fields in your responses is a common change in APIs between versions. This change can be made in Maturate by only creating a new view file.


json.extract @user, :id
json.handle @user.nickname


json.extract @user, :id, :nickname

In this case, v1 of the API has its own explit response, and every other version will use the file without a version specification in the filename. This is achieved using rails' variants, which allows us to serve different content to a particular client.

You can also check the api version in use through a helper method.


json.extract @user, :id
if api_version == 'v1'
  json.handle @user.nickname
  json.extract @user, :nickname

Controller-only changes

If v2 of the API only returns active records, but v1 returns records of any state, we can implement that change quickly!


def index
  @records = Auctions.all
  unless api_version == 'v1'
    @records = @records.where(status: 'active')

How it works

Defining API verions

You, as the app's maintainer, will specify the API versions the application will respond to.


class ApplicationController < ActionControler::Base
  extend Maturate
  self.api_versions = ['v1', 'v2']

You will expose those versions to clients through the urls used to access your application.


scope '/:api_version' do
  resources :auctions

As long as an api_version parameter is specificed, Maturate will work as expected. This includes automatically building links using rails' route helpers (eg: auctions_path) without explictly specifying the version in the call to the helper.

The symbolic current version is defined as well. In the default case it will point to the last element of the versions array provided to self.api_versions= in your controller class. You can explictly set the current version, which can be useful if you have a pre-release version in the list, but you aren't ready to ship it as the default yet.


self.current_api_version = 'v1'

Version requests that don't match a known version number will match current.

Using variants for view selection

Rails introduced the capability to serve views to different clients using a system called "variants." Originally intended to show different views for phones, tables, and desktops, it makes perfect sense to use for api versioning. In the API world we don't show preference to the user-agent, but our outputs will be varied based on the data specification used for a particular version of the API.

All you need to do to take advantage of variants is to name your view files according to a pattern. The rails naming convention for variant-capable view files is action.mime+variant.renderer. An example might be show.json+v1.jbuilder.

If there is no match for a particular variant, the standard view file of action.mime.renderer will be used.

Overriding URL auto-versioning

It may come up in your project that you want to link to an unversioned resource, or to a different version of the api.

In this case you can explictly set api_version: nil or api_version: 'v1' in your route helper. You can stop the api_version parameter from being added by urls by default using the skip_versioned_url_generation class-level method in a controller.


class AuctionsController
  skip_versioned_url_generation only: [:post_pament]

  def post_payment
    # invoices are documents that don't have a versioned api,
    # you just get to download them directly.
    @invoice_url = invoice_url(auction.invoice)

  def review
    @invoice_url = invoice_url(auction.invoice, api_version: nil)

Help Welcomed

Please contribute!

I'm not interested in adding features like HTTP-header based version specification, or other goofy things that make life harder on clients. I'm not interested in offering bells, whistles, or trying to keep pace with other libraries.

I am interested in maintaing the leanest versioning solution for rails.

I'm especially interested in working with the rails 5 api changes, so if you have knowledge about how the API-only controllers in rails 5 work, please get in touch and lets make fun things.


This is how I test and build the gem.

docker build --tag=maturate .
docker run -it --rm -v $PWD:/usr/src/app maturate rake
docker run -it --rm -v $PWD:/usr/src/app maturate gem build maturate.gemspec