A simple search could be modeled as a resourceful API by appending ‘?’ after the path of the URL and adding query parameters.


Please refer to the filtering section in Filtering, sorting, field selection and paging.

A more complex search across multiple resources requires a different design.

This will sound familiar if you’ve read the topic about using verbs not nouns when results don’t return a resource from the database - rather the result is some action or calculation.

If you want to do a global search across resources, we suggest you follow the Google model:


Here, search is the verb and ?q represents the query.

Using POST

Another way to implement a RESTful search is to consider the search itself to be a resource. Then you can use the POST verb because you are creating a search. You do not have to literally create something in a database in order to use a POST.

Accept: application/json
Content-Type: application/json
POST http://example.com/user_management/v1/users/searches
   "name": "Mustermann"

You are creating a search from the user’s standpoint. The implementation details of this are irrelevant. Some RESTful APIs may not even need persistence. That is an implementation detail.

For long running searches it is a good solution to split the the search request into the POST request to create the search and a GET request to retrieve the search results.

Otherwise, it is ok to deliver the search results in the response of the POST call. This solution is more convenient for the client.

Empty Result Sets

Typically, when a search returns any results, the status code will be 200 OK and the body of the response will contain a list of found items.

But in case a search does not yield any results, there are two different ways to handle this situation:

  1. HTTP status code is 200 OK and the response body MUST be an empty list, e.g. [] in JSON
  2. HTTP status code is 204 NO CONTENT and the response body MUST be empty

The first solution is preferred as the resulting interface (a list) is the same as with a non-empty result so no special case handling has to be implemented when parsing the response body.

Empty search results MUST NOT make use of the HTTP status code 404 NOT FOUND since that would indicate that the searched resource itself does not exist.