Creating RESTful applications in CherryPy


REST (Representational State Transfer) is an architectural style that is well-suited to implementation in CherryPy. Both REST and CherryPy heavily leverage the HTTP protocol but otherwise carry minimal requisite overhead. This chapter briefly discusses the purpose of REST and an example implementation in CherryPy.

REST in a nutshell

The REST architectural style describes how domain models and their state are referenced and transferred. The primary goal of REST is promote certain advantageous qualities of a distributed system, namely high visibility, scalability, extensibility.


  • “resources” are concepual objects represented by the system - any information that can be named is a resource.
  • “state” is data held by or associated with resources
  • “representations” are information in state with a specific encoding
  • “methods” are invoked to transfer or mutate state.
  • an “identifier” is a URL or URI which uniquely and usually globally references a resource.

More information on REST can be found in abundance in Wikipedia and other readily-available resources.

Implementing REST in CherryPy

From the canonical Roy Fielding dissertation :

REST is defined by four interface constraints: identification of resources; manipulation of resources through representations; self-descriptive messages; and, hypermedia as the engine of application state

This section covers each of these four contstraints and demonstrates how each is applied in a CherryPy implementation.

Identification of Resources

As an HTTP service provider, resources represented in CherryPy are referenced by HTTP URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers). A URI consists of four parts: scheme, hierarchical identifier, query, and fragment. For HTTP, the scheme is always http or https. The hierarchical identifier consists of an authority (typically host/port) and a path (similar to a file system path, but not necessarily representing an actual path).

A single CherryPy instance is typically bound to a single server/port pair, such that the scheme://authority portion of the URI references the server. This aspect is configured through the server.socket_host and server.socket_port options or via another hosting server.

Within the CherryPy server, the remainder of the hierarchical identifier–the path–is mapped to Python objects via the Dispatch mechanism. This behavior is highly customizable and documented in Dispatching.

Using the default dispatcher and page handlers, the path of the URI maps to a hierarchy of Python identifiers in the CherryPy app. For example, the URI path /container/objects/pencil will result in a call to app.root.container.objects.pencil() where app is the CherryPy app.

Manipulation of Resources Through Representations

REST defines the use of the HTTP protocol and HTTP methods to implement the standard REST methods.

  • GET retrieves the state of a specific resource,
  • PUT creates or replaces the state of a specific resource,
  • POST passes information to a resource to use at it sees fit,
  • DELETE removes resources.

The default dispatcher in CherryPy stores the HTTP method name at cherrypy.request.method.

Because HTTP defines these invocation methods, the most direct way to implement REST using CherryPy is to utilize the MethodDispatcher instead of the default dispatcher. To enable the method dispatcher, add the following to your configuration for the root URI (“/”):

'/': {
    'request.dispatch': cherrypy.dispatch.MethodDispatcher(),

Now, the REST methods will map directly to the same method names on your resources. That is, a GET method on a CherryPy class implements the HTTP GET on the resource represented by that class.

For example:

class Resource(object):

    exposed = True

    def GET(self):
        return """Some representation of self"""

    def PUT(self):
        self.content = initialize_from_representation(

The concrete implementation of GET and PUT has been omitted, but the basic concepts remain: GET returns some meaningful representation of the resource and PUT stores an instance of an object represented by the content in the body of the request.

Self-Descriptive Messages

REST enables powerful clients and intermediaries by requiring messages to be self-descriptive; that is, everything you need to know about a message is carried within the message itself, either in headers or within the definition of the message’s declared media type.

CherryPy gives you easy access to the headers. It’s as simple as cherrypy.request.headers and cherrypy.response.headers! Each is a normal Python dictionary which you can read and write as you like. They also have additional functions to help you parse complex values according to the HTTP spec.

CherryPy also allows you to set whatever response Content-Type you prefer, just like any other response header. You have complete control. When reading request entities, you can register Custom Processors for different media types.

Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State

REST is designed as a stateless protocol–all application state is maintained with the application at the client. Thus, concepts such as a “session” need not be maintained by the server. CherryPy does not enable sessions by default, so it is well-suited to the RESTful style.

In order for the client to maintain meaningful state, however, the REST server implementer must provide meaningful URIs which supply semantic links between resources.

For example, a CherryPy application might have a resource index, which a client might retrieve to inspect the application for other resources:

class ResourceIndex(object):
    def GET(self):
        items = [item.get_href() for item in self.get_all_items()]
        return ', '.join(items)

This very simple example demonstrates how to create an index of comma-separated hypertext references. This example assumes the client can effectively interpret comma-separated references. In practice, another representation such as HTML or JSON might be used.

A Quick Example

For example, consider the following contrived REST+HTML specification.

  1. Resources store arbitrary key/value pairs with unique keys (represented as a Python dict).
  2. A GET request returns colon-separated key/value pairs in <div> elements.
  3. A PUT request accepts colon-separated key/value pairs in <div> elements.
  4. An index resource provides an HTML anchor tag (hypertext link) to objects which it indexes (where the keys represent the names and the values represent the link).

A REST+HTML implementation was chosen for this example as HTML defines relative links, which keeps the example simple yet functional.

Complete Example

Brining the above code samples together and adding some basic configuration results in the following program, which can be run directly:

import cherrypy

class Resource(object):

    def __init__(self, content):
        self.content = content

    exposed = True

    def GET(self):
        return self.to_html()

    def PUT(self):
        self.content = self.from_html(

    def to_html(self):
        html_item = lambda (name,value): '<div>{name}:{value}</div>'.format(\*\*vars())
        items = map(html_item, self.content.items())
        items = ''.join(items)
        return '<html>{items}</html>'.format(**vars())

    def from_html(data):
        pattern = re.compile(r'\<div\>(?P<name>.*?)\:(?P<value>.*?)\</div\>')
        items = [match.groups() for match in pattern.finditer(data)]
        return dict(items)

class ResourceIndex(Resource):
    def to_html(self):
        html_item = lambda (name,value): '<div><a href="{value}">{name}</a></div>'.format(\*\*vars())
        items = map(html_item, self.content.items())
        items = ''.join(items)
        return '<html>{items}</html>'.format(**vars())

class Root(object):

root = Root()

root.sidewinder = Resource({'color': 'red', 'weight': 176, 'type': 'stable'})
root.teebird = Resource({'color': 'green', 'weight': 173, 'type': 'overstable'})
root.blowfly = Resource({'color': 'purple', 'weight': 169, 'type': 'putter'})
root.resource_index = ResourceIndex({'sidewinder': 'sidewinder', 'teebird': 'teebird', 'blowfly': 'blowfly'})

conf = {
    'global': {
        'server.socket_host': '',
        'server.socket_port': 8000,
    '/': {
        'request.dispatch': cherrypy.dispatch.MethodDispatcher(),

cherrypy.quickstart(root, '/', conf)


CherryPy provides a straightforward interface for readily creating RESTful interfaces.