Creating a Simple Web Service using HTTP-RPC and Kotlin

HTTP-RPC is an open-source framework for implementing RESTful and REST-like web services in Java. It is extremely lightweight and requires only a Java runtime environment and a servlet container. The entire framework is distributed as a single JAR file that is about 50KB in size, making it an ideal choice for applications where a minimal footprint is desired.


HTTP-RPC’s WebService type provides an abstract base class for REST-based web services. It extends the similarly abstract HttpServlet class provided by the servlet API.

Service operations are defined by adding public methods to a concrete service implementation. Methods are invoked by submitting an HTTP request for a path associated with a servlet instance. Arguments are provided either via the query string or in the request body, like an HTML form. WebService converts the request parameters to the expected argument types, invokes the method, and writes the return value to the output stream as JSON.

For example, the following class might be used to implement a simple math service:

public class MathServlet extends WebService {
    public double getSum(double a, double b) {
        return a + b;

The following request would cause the method to be invoked, and the service would return the value 6 in response:

GET /math/sum?a=2&b=4


In addition to Java, HTTP-RPC web services can be implemented in Kotlin, a strongly typed, modern programming language that targets the JVM. Kotlin offers a number of features that make it a compelling alternative to Java for server-side development:

  • Type inference
  • Properties
  • Named method parameters
  • Default argument values
  • Data classes
  • Optionals
  • Extensions

For example, the following service (written in Kotlin) provides some basic information about the host system:

@WebServlet(urlPatterns = ["/system-info/*"], loadOnStartup = 1)
class SystemInfoService : WebService() {
    class SystemInfo(
        val hostName: String,
        val hostAddress: String,
        val availableProcessors: Int,
        val freeMemory: Long,
        val totalMemory: Long

    fun getSystemInfo(): SystemInfo {
        val localHost = InetAddress.getLocalHost()
        val runtime = Runtime.getRuntime()

        return SystemInfo(

Data returned by the service might look like this:

  "hostName": "vm.local",
  "hostAddress": "",
  "availableProcessors": 4,
  "freeMemory": 222234120,
  "totalMemory": 257949696

As with Java-based HTTP-RPC services, API documentation can be accessed by appending “?api” to the service URL:

GET /system-info?api

The response might look something like this:


  GET () -> SystemInfo


    hostAddress: string,
    hostName: string,
    availableProcessors: integer,
    freeMemory: long,
    totalMemory: long


Although this is a somewhat contrived example, it demonstrates one of Kotlin’s main advantages: brevity. The SystemInfo data class would have been considerably more verbose in Java. More complex services would see similar benefits.

Complete source code for the examples can be found here. For more information, see the HTTP-RPC README.