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Best practices for using the REST API

Follow these best practices when using GitHub's API.

Avoid polling

You should subscribe to webhook events instead of polling the API for data. This will help your integration stay within the API rate limit. For more information, see "Webhooks documentation."

Make authenticated requests

Authenticated requests have a higher primary rate limit than unauthenticated requests. To avoid exceeding the rate limit, you should make authenticated requests. For more information, see "Rate limits for the REST API."

Avoid concurrent requests

To avoid exceeding secondary rate limits, you should make requests serially instead of concurrently. To achieve this, you can implement a queue system for requests.

Pause between mutative requests

If you are making a large number of POST, PATCH, PUT, or DELETE requests, wait at least one second between each request. This will help you avoid secondary rate limits.

Handle rate limit errors appropriately

If you receive a rate limit error, you should stop making requests temporarily according to these guidelines:

  • If the retry-after response header is present, you should not retry your request until after that many seconds has elapsed.
  • If the x-ratelimit-remaining header is 0, you should not make another request until after the time specified by the x-ratelimit-reset header. The x-ratelimit-reset header is in UTC epoch seconds.
  • Otherwise, wait for at least one minute before retrying. If your request continues to fail due to a secondary rate limit, wait for an exponentially increasing amount of time between retries, and throw an error after a specific number of retries.

Continuing to make requests while you are rate limited may result in the banning of your integration.

Follow redirects

The GitHub REST API uses HTTP redirection where appropriate. You should assume that any request may result in a redirection. Receiving an HTTP redirection is not an error, and you should follow the redirect.

A 301 status code indicates permanent redirection. You should repeat your request to the URL specified by the location header. Additionally, you should update your code to use this URL for future requests.

A 302 or 307 status code indicates temporary redirection. You should repeat your request to the URL specified by the location header. However, you should not update your code to use this URL for future requests.

Other redirection status codes may be used in accordance with HTTP specifications.

Do not manually parse URLs

Many API endpoints return URL values for fields in the response body. You should not try to parse these URLs or to predict the structure of future URLs. This can cause your integration to break if GitHub changes the structure of the URL in the future. Instead, you should look for a field that contains the information that you need. For example, the endpoint to create an issue returns an html_url field with a value like and a number field with a value like 1347. If you need to know the number of the issue, use the number field instead of parsing the html_url field.

Similarly, you should not try to manually construct pagination queries. Instead, you should use the link headers to determine what pages of results you can request. For more information, see "Using pagination in the REST API."

Use conditional requests if appropriate

Most endpoints return an etag header, and many endpoints return a last-modified header. You can use the values of these headers to make conditional requests. If the response has not changed, you will receive a 304 Not Modified response. Making a conditional request does not count against your primary rate limit if a 304 response is returned.

For example, if a previous request returned an etag header value of 644b5b0155e6404a9cc4bd9d8b1ae730, you can use the if-none-match header in a future request:

curl --include --header 'if-none-match: "644b5b0155e6404a9cc4bd9d8b1ae730"'

For example, if a previous request returned a last-modified header value of Wed, 25 Oct 2023 19:17:59 GMT, you can use the if-modified-since header in a future request:

curl --include --header 'if-modified-since: Wed, 25 Oct 2023 19:17:59 GMT'

Do not ignore errors

You should not ignore repeated 4xx and 5xx error codes. Instead, you should ensure that you are correctly interacting with the API. For example, if an endpoint requests a string and you are passing it a numeric value, you will receive a validation error. Similarly, attempting to access an unauthorized or nonexistent endpoint will result in a 4xx error.

Intentionally ignoring repeated validation errors may result in the suspension of your app for abuse.

Further reading