In most platforms, our functions that deal with http requests have the same signature

// go
func(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
    w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "text/plain")
// typescript
function handler(req: http.IncomingMessage, res: http.ServerResponse) {
    res.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'text/plain' });

It is the same for Ruby, Python, etc. It’s the same even if your platform makes them implicit, or puts them both into a single argument named ctx instead.

Yes, platforms have to provide them because they are the primitives. But we don’t have to write our http handlers in a primitive manner!

What’s the problem?

When we work with the HttpResponse directly, our code is imperative, irreversible, we mutate the response as we go, and can easily become incoherent: someone implements X, someone fixes Y, and before you know it, the code path contain weird combinations:

app.get('/hello', (req: Request, res: Response) => {
    try {
        res.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'text/html' });
        res.write(`<h1>Hello, ${userName(req)}!</h1>`);
    } catch (err) {
        res.writeHead(500, { 'Content-Type': 'application/json' });
        res.end(JSON.stringify({ error: 'Internal Server Error', message: err.message }));

Looks fine at a glance? But if userName encounters an error, it’s nasty:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html

    <body>{ "error": "Internal Server Error" }

Sure we can fix this bug, but the situation is just whack-a-mole: there is infinite combinations of things that can happen. e.g. setting the same cookie multiple times in a request is oddly common.

What’s the solution?

Though http response itself entertains an infinite combination of things, our web application (no matter how big and complex) will only have finite variations of responses: redirect, set cookie and redirect, render page with layout, render page with different layout, error page, json payload, json error, … the list goes on, but it will end.

type AppResponse =
    | { type: 'redirect'; url: string }
    | { type: 'renderPage'; content: string }
    // ...

To paraphrase a popular adage: if you can’t list them, you can’t manage them.

function handleResponse(res: Response, response: AppResponse) {
    switch (response.type) {
        case 'redirect':
            res.writeHead(302, { 'Location': response.url });
        case 'renderPage':
            res.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'text/html' });
        // ...

Yes, we have to handle all variants in our helper function. But it’s not more work; we have to do them anyways. The difference is, they are all managed in the same place now.

function handleAppResponse(handler: (req: Request) => AppResponse): (req: Request, res: Response) => void {
    return (req: Request, res: Response) => {
        const response = handler(req);
        handleResponse(res, response);

app.get('/hello', handleAppResponse(handleHello));
app.get('/goodbye', handleAppResponse(handleGoodbye));
// ...

What we get after all this, is that our “http handlers” have all become simpler functions! We don’t have to fiddle with mutating http.Response; we can’t because we don’t have access to it! Just return the appropriate response variant!

function handleHello(req: Request): AppResponse {
    try {
        const content = `<h1>Hello, ${userName(req)}!</h1>`;
        return { type: 'renderPage', content };
    } catch (err) {
        return { type: 'jsonError', err, statusCode: 500 };

and in Go with sum types

func handleHello(r *http.Request) AppResponse {
    uname, err := userName(r)
    if err != nil {
        return JsonError(err, http.StatusInternalServerError)
    return RenderPage(
        dom.H1( //
            dom.Attrs("id", "greeting"),
            dom.InnerText("Hello, "),

We’ve constrained our http handlers to return AppResponse. We can’t mutate http.Response directly. How our web app respond is all managed in a single place. There’s no whack-a-mole problem anymore.

Food for thought: if we take 1 more step to replace http.Request with our own AppRequest, then our handlers are just functions handleHello(AppRequest): AppResponse – we don’t even need to fiddle with http to unit test our http handlers?