Registering JSON Web Services

Liferay’s developers use a tool called Service Builder to build services. When you build services with Service Builder, all remote-enabled services (i.e., service.xml entities with the property remote-service="true") are exposed as JSON web services. When each * interface is created for a remote-enabled service, the @JSONWebService annotation is added on the class level of that interface. All of the public methods of that interface become registered and available as JSON web services.

The * interface source file should never be modified by the user. If you need more control over its methods (e.g., if you need to hide some methods while exposing others), you can configure the *ServiceImpl class. When the service implementation class (*ServiceImpl) is annotated with the @JSONWebService annotation, the service interface is ignored and the service implementation class is used for configuration in its place. In other words, @JSONWebService annotations in the service implementation override any JSON web service configuration in the service interface.

That’s it! When you start Liferay Portal, it scans service classes for annotations (more about scanning later). Each class that uses the @JSONWebService annotation is examined and its methods become exposed via the JSON web services API. As explained previously, the *ServiceImpl configuration overrides the *Service interface configuration during registration.

Liferay Portal, however, does not scan all available classes for the annotations. Instead, it only scans services. More precisely, it scans all classes, including plugin classes, registered in the portal’s application context. All classes that are available to the BeanLocator are scanned. Practically, this means that the portal scans all classes registered in its Spring context and the Spring context of its plugins. If you use Service Builder to build plugin services, the services are automatically registered to the Spring context and are made available to the BeanLocator. Moreover, this means that you can register any object in the Spring context of your plugin and the portal scans it for remote services! We are not forcing you to use Service Builder. We recommend using it because it easily does so many things with regards to your remote services.

OK, now let’s see how you can register your plugin’s remote services as JSON web services. Keep in mind that Liferay’s developers use this same mechanism. This is why Liferay Portal’s remote service are exposed as JSON web services out-of-the-box.

Registering Plugin JSON Web Services

Let’s say you have a portlet named SupraSurf that has some services. And you decide to expose them as remote services. After enabling the remote-service attribute on its SurfBoard entity, you rebuild the services. Service Builder regenerates the SurfBoardService interface, adding the @JSONWebService annotation to it. This annotation tells the portal that the interface’s public methods are to be exposed as JSON web services, making them a part of the plugin’s JSON API.

By default, scanning of the portlet’s services is disabled. To enable scanning, you need to add an appropriate filter definition in the portlet’s web.xml file. Fortunately, Liferay provides a way to automatically add the filter. Just click the Build WSDD button in Liferay IDE while editing the service.xml file in Overview mode, or just invoke the build-wsdd Ant target. On building the WSDD, Liferay’s Plugins SDK modifies the portlet’s web.xml and enables the JSON web services for the plugin. Under the hood, the Plugins SDK registers the SecureFilter and the JSONWebServiceServlet for the plugin. You only need to enable JSON web services for your plugin once.

If your portal server isn’t running, start it up. Then deploy your portlet plugin to Liferay.

To get some feedback from the portal on registering your plugin’s services, configure the portal to log the plugin’s informational messages (i.e., its INFO ... messages). See the section on Liferay’s logging system in Using Liferay Portal for details.

To test Liferay’s JSON web service registration process, add a simple method to your plugin’s services. Edit your *ServiceImpl class and add the following method:

public String helloWorld(String worldName) {
    return "Hello world: " + worldName;

Rebuild the services and re-deploy your plugin. Notice that the portal prints a message like the one below informing us that an action was configured for the portlet. This indicates that the service method is now registered as a JSON Web Web Service action!

INFO  [JSONWebServiceActionsManagerImpl:117] Configured 1 actions for\

This same mechanism registers Liferay Portal’s own service actions. They are conveniently enabled by default, so you don’t have to configure them.

Next, let’s learn how to form a mapped URL for the remote service so we can access it.

Mapping and Naming Conventions

You can form the mapped URL of an exposed service by following the naming convention below:


Let’s look at the last three bracketed items more closely:

  • plugin-context-name is the plugin’s context name (e.g., suprasurf-portlet in our example). For the portal’s services, the plugin-context-name and the subsequent period should be omitted.
  • service-class-name is generated from the service’s class name in lower case, minus its Service or ServiceImpl suffix. For example, specify surfboard as the plugin-context-name for the SurfBoardService class.
  • service-method-name is generated from the service’s method name by converting its camel case to lower case and using dashes (-) to separate words.

We’ll demonstrate these naming conventions by mapping a service method’s URL using the naming conventions both on a created plugin service and on a portal service.

For our created service method, the URL looks like:


Note the context name part of the URL. For the portal, it’s similar. Here’s a portal service method we want to access:

public interface UserService {
    public com.liferay.portal.model.User getUserById(long userId) {...}

Here is that portal service method’s URL:


Each service method is bound to one HTTP method type. Any method with a name starting with get, is, or has is assumed to be a read-only method and is mapped as a GET HTTP method by default. All other methods are mapped as POST HTTP methods.

As you may have noticed, plugin services are accessed via the portal context. Conveniently, requests sent this way can leverage the authentication credentials associated with the user’s current portal session.

Next, we’ll learn to how to list JSON web services available from our portal.

Listing Available JSON Web Services

To see which service methods are registered and available for use, open your browser to the following address:


The API page lists the portal’s registered and exposed service methods. To get each method’s details, click on the method name. You’ll see the full signature of the method, all of its arguments, and a list of exceptions that can be thrown. For additional information about remote service methods, you can look up the method in Liferay Portal’s Javadocs. Using a simple form from within your browser, you can even invoke service methods. When developing portlet services, this can be quite handy for testing.

The same API page lists remote services of plugins, too. When multiple plugins with remote services enabled have been deployed, click on the Context Path selector on the API page. This selector lists all of the available plugin context paths (including the portal’s path). Select a plugin’s context path or the portal’s context path to list all of the remote services available within the context path.

As discussed in the Registering JSON Web Services section, you can control registration by using the @JSONWebService annotation in your *ServiceImpl class. This overrides any configuration defined in the interface. You can also control the visibility of methods using annotations at the method level.

Let’s find out how to ignore a specific method.

Ignoring a Method

To keep a method from being exposed as a service, annotate the method with the following option:

@JSONWebService(mode = JSONWebServiceMode.IGNORE)

Methods with this annotation don’t become part of the JSON Web Service API.

Let’s learn how to define custom HTTP method names and URL names.

HTTP Method Name and URL

At the method level, you can define custom HTTP method names and URL names. Just use an annotation like this one:

@JSONWebService(value = "add-board-wow", method = "PUT")
public boolean addBoard(

In this example, the plugin’s service method addBoard is mapped to URL method name add-board-wow. Its complete URL is now http://localhost:8080/api/jsonws/suprasurf-portlet.surfboard/add-board-wow and can be accessed using the HTTP PUT method.

If the URL method name in a JSON web service annotation starts with a slash character (/), only the method name is used to form the service URL; the class name is ignored:

public boolean addBoard(

Similarly, you can change the class name part of the URL, by setting the value in a class-level annotation:

public class SurfBoardServiceImpl extends SurfBoardServiceBaseImpl {

This maps all of the service’s methods to a URL class name sbs instead of the default class name surfboard.

Next, we’ll show you a different approach to exposing your methods as we discuss manual registration.

Manual Registration Mode

Up to now, it is assumed that you want to expose most of your service methods, while hiding some specific methods (the blacklist approach). Sometimes, however, you want the opposite: to explicitly specify only those methods that are to be exposed (the whitelist approach). This is possible, too, by specifying manual mode on the class-level annotation. Then it is up to you to annotate only those methods that you want exposed.

@JSONWebService(mode = JSONWebServiceMode.MANUAL)
public class SurfBoardServiceImpl extends SurfBoardServiceBaseImpl{
    public boolean addBoard(

Now only the addBoard method and any other method annotated with @JSONWebService will be part of the JSON Web Service API; all other methods of this service will be excluded from the API.

Invoking JSON Web Services

« Finding and Invoking Liferay ServicesInvoking JSON Web Services »
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