Amazon Alexa Uses HTTP/2

I track on the different approaches used by API providers so that I know where to find examples of leading approaches to API design and deployment. Then I write about them so that I have something to reference across my research. I keep an eye out for API providers who employ hypermedia as part of their API design, as well as companies who are putting HTTP/2 to work as part of their design and deployment.

The Amazon Alexa Voice Service API employs HTTP/2 as part of their voice-enablement platform. I'm still learning about HTTP/2 so I was pleased to see the amount of education they provide in their documentation, outlining some of the key terms and concepts at play;

  • Frame: The basic protocol unit in HTTP/2; each frame serves a different purpose, for example, HEADERS and DATA frames form the basis of HTTP requests and responses.
  • Stream: An independent, bi-directional sequence of frames exchanged between a client and server within an HTTP/2 connection. For detailed information, see Streams and Multiplexing in RFC 7540.
  • Interfaces: AVS exposes interfaces (SpeechRecognizer, AudioPlayer, SynchronizeState, etc.) that provide your product access to Alexa’s built-in skills.
  • Downchannel: A stream you create in your HTTP/2 connection, which is used to deliver directives from the cloud to your client. The downchannel remains open in a half-closed state from the device and open from AVS for the life of the connection. The downchannel is primarily used to send cloud-initiated directives and audio attachments to your client
  • Cloud-initiated Directives: Directives sent from the cloud to your client. For example, when a user adjusts device volume from the Amazon Alexa App, a directive is sent to your product without a corresponding voice request.

They also provide details on crafting the HTTP/2 Message Headers, how to construct the HTTP/2 Multipart Messages, and what to expect with HTTP/2 Responses. They have language SDKs in C / C++(nghttp2), C / C++(curl and libcurl), Java (OkHttp), Java Netty), Java(Jetty). I am particularly interested in learning more about how the "Cloud-initiated Directives" works, allowing actions to be sent as part of each connection.

I'm tracking on the moving parts so that I can evolve my own understanding of HTTP/2 in action, and start building a list of APIs who are taking a step forward when it comes to their HTTP infrastructure. It helps to have several different providers to point at when I'm talking about new approaches. I also like to aggregate the common elements that are present, and hopefully, begin to establish a common set of building blocks present when HTTP/2 is put to use.