Standard methods: Update

In REST APIs, it is customary to make a PATCH or PUT request to a resource's URI (for example, /v1/publishers/{publisher}/books/{book}) in order to update that resource.

Resource-oriented design (AIP-121) honors this pattern through the Update method (which mirrors the REST PATCH behavior). These RPCs accept the URI representing that resource and return the resource.


APIs should generally provide an update method for resources unless it is not valuable for users to do so. The purpose of the update method is to make changes to the resources without causing side effects.

Update methods are specified using the following pattern:

rpc UpdateBook(UpdateBookRequest) returns (Book) {
  option (google.api.http) = {
    patch: "/v1/{*/books/*}"
    body: "book"
  option (google.api.method_signature) = "book,update_mask";
  • The RPC's name must begin with the word Update. The remainder of the RPC name should be the singular form of the resource's message name.
  • The request message must match the RPC name, with a Request suffix.
  • The response message must be the resource itself. (There is no UpdateBookResponse.)
    • The response should include the fully-populated resource, and must include any fields that were sent and included in the update mask unless they are input only (see AIP-203).
    • If the update RPC is long-running, the response message must be a google.longrunning.Operation which resolves to the resource itself.
  • The method should support partial resource update, and the HTTP verb should be PATCH.
    • If the method will only ever support full resource replacement, then the HTTP verb may be PUT. However, this is strongly discouraged because it becomes a backwards-incompatible change to add fields to the resource.
  • The resource's name field should map to the URI path.
    • The {resource}.name field should be the only variable in the URI path.
  • There must be a body key in the google.api.http annotation, and it must map to the resource field in the request message.
    • All remaining fields should map to URI query parameters.
  • There should be exactly one google.api.method_signature annotation, with a value of "{resource},update_mask".
  • If the API is operating on the management plane, the operation should have strong consistency: the completion of an update operation must mean that all user-settable values and the existence of the resource have reached a steady-state and reading resource state returns a consistent response.

Note: Unlike the other four standard methods, the URI path here references a nested field ( in the example. If the resource field has a word separator, snake_case is used.

Request message

Update methods implement a common request message pattern:

message UpdateBookRequest {
  // The book to update.
  // The book's `name` field is used to identify the book to update.
  // Format: publishers/{publisher}/books/{book}
  Book book = 1 [(google.api.field_behavior) = REQUIRED];

  // The list of fields to update.
  google.protobuf.FieldMask update_mask = 2;
  • The request message must contain a field for the resource.
    • The field must map to the PATCH body.
    • The field should be annotated as required.
    • A name field must be included in the resource message. It should be called name.
    • The field must identify the resource type of the resource being updated.
  • If partial resource update is supported, a field mask must be included. It must be of type google.protobuf.FieldMask, and it must be called update_mask.
    • The fields used in the field mask correspond to the resource being updated (not the request message).
    • The field may be required or optional. If it is required, it must include the corresponding annotation. If optional, the service must treat an omitted field mask as an implied field mask equivalent to all fields that are populated (have a non-empty value).
    • Update masks must support a special value *, meaning full replacement (the equivalent of PUT).
  • The request message must not contain any other required fields, and should not contain other optional fields except those described in this or another AIP.

Side effects

In general, update methods are intended to update the data within the resource. Update methods should not trigger other side effects. Instead, side effects should be triggered by custom methods.

In particular, this entails that state fields must not be directly writable in update methods.


TL;DR: Google APIs generally use the PATCH HTTP verb only, and do not support PUT requests.

We standardize on PATCH because Google updates stable APIs in place with backwards-compatible improvements. It is often necessary to add a new field to an existing resource, but this becomes a breaking change when using PUT.

To illustrate this, consider a PUT request to a Book resource:

  PUT /v1/publishers/123/books/456

  {"title": "Mary Poppins", "author": "P.L. Travers"}

Next consider that the resource is later augmented with a new field (here we add rating):

message Book {
  string title = 1;
  string author = 2;

  // Subsequently added to v1 in place...
  int32 rating = 3;

If a rating is set on a book and the existing PUT request was executed, it would wipe out the book's rating. In essence, a PUT request unintentionally wiped out data because the previous version did not know about it.

Long-running update

Some resources take longer to update a resource than is reasonable for a regular API request. In this situation, the API should use a long-running operation (AIP-151) instead:

rpc UpdateBook(UpdateBookRequest) returns (google.longrunning.Operation) {
  option (google.api.http) = {
    patch: "/v1/{*/books/*}"
  option (google.longrunning.operation_info) = {
    response_type: "Book"
    metadata_type: "OperationMetadata"
  • The response type must be set to the resource (what the return type would be if the RPC was not long-running).
  • Both the response_type and metadata_type fields must be specified.

Note: Declarative-friendly resources (AIP-128) should use long-running update.

Create or update

If the service uses client-assigned resource names, Update methods may expose a bool allow_missing field, which will cause the method to succeed in the event that the user attempts to update a resource that is not present (and will create the resource in the process):

message UpdateBookRequest {
  // The book to update.
  // The book's `name` field is used to identify the book to be updated.
  // Format: publishers/{publisher}/books/{book}
  Book book = 1 [(google.api.field_behavior) = REQUIRED];

  // The list of fields to be updated.
  google.protobuf.FieldMask update_mask = 2;

  // If set to true, and the book is not found, a new book will be created.
  // In this situation, `update_mask` is ignored.
  bool allow_missing = 3;

More specifically, the allow_missing flag triggers the following behavior:

  • If the method call is on a resource that does not exist, the resource is created. All fields are applied regardless of any provided field mask.
    • However, if any required fields are missing or fields have invalid values, an INVALID_ARGUMENT error is returned.
  • If the method call is on a resource that already exists, and all fields match, the existing resource is returned unchanged.
  • If the method call is on a resource that already exists, only fields declared in the field mask are updated.

The user must have the update permissions to call Update even with allow_missing set to true. For customers that want to prevent users from creating resources using the update method, IAM conditions should be used.


An API may sometimes need to allow users to send update requests which are guaranteed to be made against the most current data (a common use case for this is to detect and avoid race conditions). Resources which need to enable this do so by including a string etag field, which contains an opaque, server-computed value representing the content of the resource.

In this situation, the resource should contain a string etag field:

message Book {
  option (google.api.resource) = {
    type: ""
    pattern: "publishers/{publisher}/books/{book}"

  // The resource name of the book.
  // Format: publishers/{publisher}/books/{book}
  string name = 1 [(google.api.field_behavior) = IDENTIFIER];

  // The title of the book.
  // Example: "Mary Poppins"
  string title = 2;

  // The author of the book.
  // Example: "P.L. Travers"
  string author = 3;

  // The etag for this book.
  // If this is provided on update, it must match the server's etag.
  string etag = 4;

The etag field may be either required or optional. If it is set, then the request must succeed if and only if the provided etag matches the server-computed value, and must fail with an ABORTED error otherwise. The update_mask field in the request does not affect the behavior of the etag field, as it is not a field being updated.

Expensive fields

APIs sometimes encounter situations where some fields on a resource are expensive or impossible to reliably return.

This can happen in a few situations:

  • A resource may have some fields that are very expensive to compute, and that are generally not useful to the customer on update requests.
  • A single resource sometimes represents an amalgamation of data from multiple underlying (and eventually consistent) data sources. In these situations, it is impossible to return authoritative information on the fields that were not changed.

In this situation, an API may return back only the fields that were updated, and omit the rest, and should document this behavior if they do so.


See errors, in particular when to use PERMISSION_DENIED and NOT_FOUND errors.

In addition, if the user does have proper permission, but the requested resource does not exist, the service must error with NOT_FOUND (HTTP 404) unless allow_missing is set to true.


  • 2023-08-26: Adding consistency requirement.
  • 2023-07-17: Make update_mask name guidance a must.
  • 2022-11-04: Aggregated error guidance to AIP-193.
  • 2022-06-02: Changed suffix descriptions to eliminate superfluous "-".
  • 2021-11-04: Changed the permission check if allow_missing is set.
  • 2021-07-08: Added error guidance for resource not found case.
  • 2021-03-05: Changed the etag error from FAILED_PRECONDITION (which becomes HTTP 400) to ABORTED (409).
  • 2020-10-06: Added guidance for declarative-friendly resources.
  • 2020-10-06: Added guidance for allow_missing.
  • 2020-08-14: Added error guidance for permission denied cases.
  • 2020-06-08: Added guidance on returning the full resource.
  • 2019-10-18: Added guidance on annotations.
  • 2019-09-10: Added a link to the long-running operations AIP ([AIP-151][]).
  • 2019-08-01: Changed the examples from "shelves" to "publishers", to present a better example of resource ownership.
  • 2019-06-10: Added guidance for long-running update.
  • 2019-05-29: Added an explicit prohibition on arbitrary fields in standard methods.