Defining APIs and services

Simplifying (micro-)service development

Encore divides applications into systems, services, and components. See the backend architecture best practices guide for more information on this structure.

Defining a service

An Encore service consists of a regular Go package that defines one or more APIs. The package name is the service name.

Within a service, you can have multiple packages; this is a good way to define components. Note that only the service package can define APIs; sub-packages within a service cannot themselves define APIs. However, if it makes sense you can define an API in the service package that simply calls a function within one of the sub-packages.

Defining APIs

So if what defines a service is having one or more APIs, how do we define an API, then? It's simple:

package hello // service name

// PingParams is the request data for the Ping endpoint.
type PingParams struct {
    Name string

// PingResponse is the response data for the Ping endpoint.
type PingResponse struct {
    Message string

// Ping is an API endpoint that responds with a simple response.
// This is exposed as "hello.Ping".
//encore:api public
func Ping(ctx context.Context, params *PingParams) (*PingResponse, error) {
    msg := fmt.Sprintf("Hello, %s!", params.Name)
    return &PingResponse{Message: msg}, nil

In other words, you define a regular function and use the //encore:api annotation to tell Encore that this is an API.

Access controls

In fact, when you define an API you have three options in terms of how the API can be accessed:

  • //encore:api public defines a public API that anybody on the internet can call
  • //encore:api private defines a private API that only other backend services can call
  • //encore:api auth defines a public API that anybody can call, but that requires valid authentication.

For defining APIs that require authentication, see the authentication guide.

This approach is simple, but really powerful. It lets Encore use static analysis to understand the request and response schemas of all your APIs, which enables it to automatically generate API documentation and type-safe API clients, and much more.

Request and response schemas

APIs in Encore consist of a regular function with a request data type and a response data type. In the example above we have both: the request data is of type PingParams and the response data of type PingResponse. This is usually the case, but in fact they're both optional in case you don't need them. That means there are four different ways of defining an API:

  • func Foo(ctx context.Context, p *Params) (*Response, error) when you need both
  • func Foo(ctx context.Context) (*Response, error) when you only return a response
  • func Foo(ctx context.Context, p *Params) error when you only respond with success/fail
  • func Foo(ctx context.Context) error when you need neither request nor response data

As you can see there are two parts always present: the ctx context.Context parameter and the error return value.

The ctx parameter is used for cancellation. It lets you detect when the caller is no longer interested in the result, and therefore lets you abort the request processing and save resources that nobody needs. Learn more about contexts on the Go blog.

The error return value is always important because from the caller's perspective, API calls always can fail. Therefore even though our simple Ping API endpoint above never fails in its implementation, from the perspective of the caller perhaps the service is crashing or the network is down and the service cannot be reached.

Why does this matter to the implementation, you ask? Because in Encore, API calls look like function calls.

Calling an API

Calling an API endpoint with Encore looks like a regular function call. Import the service package as if it's a regular Go package, and then call the API endpoint as if it's a regular function.

For example:

import "" // import service

//encore:api public
func MyOtherAPI(ctx context.Context) error {
    resp, err := hello.Ping(ctx, &hello.PingParams{Name: "World"})
    if err == nil {
        log.Println(resp.Message) // "Hello, World!"
    return err

When building your application, Encore uses static analysis to find all API calls and compiles them to proper API calls. This provides all the benefits of function calls, like compile-time checking of all the parameters and auto-completion in your editor, while still allowing the division of code into logical components, services, and systems.

Defining databases

Each service defines the infrastructure resources it uses simply by using them in code. To learn more about how this works, see the guide on using SQL databases.