Go comes with a great standard library including net/http which allow a developer to create a reliable http server very easily.

TL;DR

Code and example can be found here: https://github.com/creack/ehttp

Basic http server

To provide context, let’s take a look at a basic http server in Go:

package main

import (
        "fmt"
        "log"
        "net/http"
)

func handler(w http.ResponseWriter, req *http.Request) {
        fmt.Fprintln(w, "hello world")
}

func main() {
        http.HandleFunc("/", handler)
        log.Fatal(http.ListenAndServe(":8080", nil))
}

The first step is to define a handler. In order to be understood by the Go’s http library, the handler needs to follow this specific prototype: func(http.ResponseWriter, *http.Request) which is defined as the http.HandlerFunc type. Once we have our handler, we can register it on a specific route and then start the server.

This is great! In very few lines of code, we have a working web server ready to go!

Error management

You might have noticed: our handler does not return an error… But luckily, the net/http package exposes the http.Error function in order to report an error to the client. This will set the Content-Type, send a custom http status header and write the error as the body.

Small example:

func handler(w http.ResponseWriter, req *http.Request) {
        if err := doSomething(); err != nil {
                http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)
                return
        }
        fmt.Fprintln(w, "hello world")
}

As you can imagine, this can become cumbersome pretty fast. We could imagine writing a wrapper for http.Error which is going to log the error, send instrumentations and then call http.Error, but when doing a lot in a handler, we always need to have that call + return. A nice way to go would be to consider the handler as a simple entrypoint and avoid doing any logic directly in the handler. This is a good approach, especially when you don’t want to be tight to http and able to switch to other protocols.

Custom Handler

A solution is to create a custom handler, let’s try:

type HandlerFunc func(http.ResponseWriter, *http.Request) error

Pretty straight forward for now, but wait, http.HandleFunc expects a different prototype, so we won’t be able to use it anymore, right? Kind of.. Right in a sense that we can’t use it directly, but we always can work around anything ;)

http.HandlerFunc

In order to “convert” our custom handler to the native http one, we need to write a middleware and we are going to use that to handle our error management.

So, what is a middleware? It a simple “layer” that comes in between the client’s request and our final handler.

// MWError is the main middleware. When an error is returned, it send
// the data to the client if the header hasn't been sent yet, otherwise, log them.
func MWError(hdlr HandlerFunc) http.HandlerFunc {
        return func(w http.ResponseWriter, req *http.Request) {
                if err := hdlr(w, req); err != nil {
						http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalError)
                        return
                }
        }
}

So, we have a function that takes our custom handler function as a parameter and return a native http HandlerFunc.

router.HandleFunc("/", MWError(hdlr))

When the client calls our server, it ends up in that newly generated native http Handler which in turn calls our custom one and then handle the error.

http.Handler

Alternatively, we can implement the http.Handler interface on our custom type so it can be used by all the http functions expecting that interface (I am thinking mainly about http.Handle and http.ListenAndServe

type HandlerFunc func(http.ResponseWriter, *http.Request) error

func (hdlr HandlerFunc) ServeHTTP(w http.ResponseWriter, req *http.Request) {
        if err := hdlr(w, req); err != nil {
				http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalError)
                return
        }
}

Going further

Now that we have a custom http handler and we can return error, we can think about improvements: - smarter error management - custom error type holding the HTTP Status - panic recovery - adaptors for non-standard library routers (gorilla, httprouter, etc) - headers detection (we can’t send error headers if they have already been sent)

I started a small library that implements all this: https://github.com/creack/ehttp, it is very very simple and close to the standard library.