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Headers & trailers

To integrate with other systems, you may need to read or write custom HTTP headers with your RPCs. For example, distributed tracing, authentication, authorization, and rate limiting often require working with headers. Connect also supports trailers, which serve a similar purpose but can be written after the response body. This document outlines how to work with headers and trailers for unary (request-response) RPCs. The streaming documentation covers headers and trailers for streaming RPCs.

Headers

Connect headers are just HTTP headers, modeled using the familiar Header type from net/http. Connect's Request and Response structs have explicit access to headers, and the APIs work identically regardless of the RPC protocol in use. In handlers:

func (s *greetServer) Greet(
ctx context.Context,
req *connect.Request[greetv1.GreetRequest],
) (*connect.Response[greetv1.GreetResponse], error) {
fmt.Println(req.Header().Get("Acme-Tenant-Id"))
res := connect.NewResponse(&greetv1.GreetResponse{})
res.Header().Set("Greet-Version", "v1")
return res, nil
}

We find this much simpler than attaching headers to the context. Headers look similar from the client's perspective:

func call() {
client := greetv1connect.NewGreetServiceClient(
http.DefaultClient,
"https://api.acme.com",
)
req := connect.NewRequest(&greetv1.GreetRequest{})
req.Header().Set("Acme-Tenant-Id", "1234")
res, err := client.Greet(context.Background(), req)
if err != nil {
fmt.Println(err)
return
}
fmt.Println(res.Header().Get("Greet-Version"))
}

When sending or receiving errors, handlers and clients may use Error.Meta() to access headers:

func (s *greetServer) Greet(
ctx context.Context,
req *connect.Request[greetv1.GreetRequest],
) (*connect.Response[greetv1.GreetResponse], error) {
err := connect.NewError(
connect.CodeUnknown,
errors.New("oh no!"),
)
err.Meta().Set("Greet-Version", "v1")
return nil, err
}

func call() {
_, err := greetv1connect.NewGreetServiceClient(
http.DefaultClient,
"https://api.acme.com",
).Greet(
context.Background(),
connect.NewRequest(&greetv1.GreetRequest{}),
)
if connectErr := new(connect.Error); errors.As(err, &connectErr) {
fmt.Println(err.Meta().Get("Greet-Version"))
}
}

Keep in mind that Connect headers are just HTTP headers, so it's perfectly fine to work them in net/http middleware!

Both the gRPC and Connect protocols require that header keys contain only ASCII letters, numbers, underscores, hyphens, and periods. Similarly, values may contain only printable ASCII and spaces. In our experience, non-ASCII headers are unusual; rather than wrapping net/http.Header in a fat validation layer, we rely on your good judgment.

Binary headers

To send non-ASCII values in headers, the gRPC and Connect protocols require base64 encoding. Suffix your key with "-Bin" and use Connect's EncodeBinaryHeader and DecodeBinaryHeader functions:

func (s *greetServer) Greet(
ctx context.Context,
req *connect.Request[greetv1.GreetRequest],
) (*connect.Response[greetv1.GreetResponse], error) {
fmt.Println(req.Header().Get("Acme-Tenant-Id"))
res := connect.NewResponse(&greetv1.GreetResponse{})
res.Header().Set(
"Greet-Emoji-Bin",
connect.EncodeBinaryHeader([]byte("👋")),
)
return res, nil
}

func call() {
res, err := greetv1connect.NewGreetServiceClient(
http.DefaultClient,
"https://api.acme.com",
).Greet(
context.Background(),
connect.NewRequest(&greetv1.GreetRequest{}),
)
if err != nil {
fmt.Println(err)
return
}
encoded := res.Header().Get("Greet-Emoji-Bin")
if emoji, err := connect.DecodeBinaryHeader(encoded); err == nil {
fmt.Println(string(emoji))
}
}

Use this mechanism sparingly, and consider whether error details are a better fit for your use case.

Trailers

Connect's Go APIs for manipulating response trailers work identically for the gRPC, gRPC-Web, and Connect protocols, even though each of the three protocols encodes trailers differently. Trailers are most useful in streaming handlers, which may need to send some metadata to the client after sending a few messages. Unary handlers should nearly always use headers instead.

If you find yourself needing trailers, unary handlers and clients can access them much like headers:

func (s *greetServer) Greet(
ctx context.Context,
req *connect.Request[greetv1.GreetRequest],
) (*connect.Response[greetv1.GreetResponse], error) {
res := connect.NewResponse(&greetv1.GreetResponse{})
// Sent as the HTTP header Trailer-Greet-Version.
res.Trailer().Set("Greet-Version", "v1")
return res, nil
}

func call() {
res, err := greetv1connect.NewGreetServiceClient(
http.DefaultClient,
"https://api.acme.com",
).Greet(
context.Background(),
connect.NewRequest(&greetv1.GreetRequest{}),
)
if err != nil {
fmt.Println(err)
return
}
// Empty, because any HTTP headers prefixed with Trailer- are treated as
// trailers.
fmt.Println(res.Header())
// Prefixes are automatically stripped.
fmt.Println(res.Trailer().Get("Greet-Version"))
}