Errors can be reported to a client

  • either by creating and returning the appropriate Response object;
  • or by throwing an Exception.

There are 3 ways of handling thrown exceptions:

  • thrown exceptions are handled by the JAX-RS runtime (if there is an exception mapper registered);
  • if the thrown exception is not handled by a mapper (, it is propagated and handled by the container JAX-RS is running within;
  • a can be thrown by application code and automatically processed by JAX-RS without having to write an explicit mapper.

Exception Mapping

Relying on the underlying servlet container to handle the exception doesn’t give much flexibility. Catching and then wrapping all these exceptions within WebApplicationException would become quite tedious. Alternatively, you can implement and register instances of ExceptionMapper. These objects know how to map a thrown application exception to a Response object:

public interface ExceptionMapper<E extends Throwable> {
  Response toResponse(E exception);

For example:

public class NullPointerExceptionMapper
    implements ExceptionMapper<NullPointerException> {

  public Response toResponse(NullPointerException e) {
    return Response.status(Response.Status.NOT_FOUND).build();

The implementation must be annotated with the @Provider annotation (to tell the JAX-RS runtime that it is a component).

JAX-RS supports exception inheritance as well. When an exception is thrown, JAX-RS will first try to find an ExceptionMapper for that exception’s type. If it cannot find one, it will look for a mapper that can handle the exception’s superclass. It will continue this process until there are no more superclasses to match against.

JAX-RS has a built-in unchecked exception that applications can throw. This exception is preinitialized with either a Response or a particular status code:

public class WebApplicationException extends RuntimeException {

  public WebApplicationException() {...}
  public WebApplicationException(Response response) {...}
  public WebApplicationException(int status) {...}
  public WebApplicationException(Response.Status status) {...}
  public WebApplicationException(Throwable cause) {...}
  public WebApplicationException(Throwable cause, Response response) {...}
  public WebApplicationException(Throwable cause, int status) {...}
  public WebApplicationException(Throwable cause, Response.Status status) {...}

  public Response getResponse() {...}

When JAX-RS sees that a WebApplicationException has been thrown by application code, it catches the exception and calls its getResponse() method to obtain a Response to send back to the client. If the application has initialized the WebApplicationException with a status code or Response object, that code or Response will be used to create the actual HTTP response. Otherwise, the WebApplicationException will return a status code of 500 Internal Server Error to the client.

For example:

public class TestResource {

  public Customer getCustomer(@QueryParam("id") int id) {

    Something something = findSomething(id);

    if (something == null) {
      throw new WebApplicationException(Response.Status.NOT_FOUND);

    return something;

Exception Hierarchy

JAX-RS 2.0 has added a nice exception hierarchy for various HTTP error conditions. So, instead of creating an instance of WebApplicationException and initializing it with a specific status code, you can use one of these exceptions instead.

Exception Status code Description
BadRequestException 400 Malformed message
NotAuthorizedException 401 Authentication failure
ForbiddenException 403 Not permitted to access
NotFoundException 404 Couldn’t find resource
NotAllowedException 405 HTTP method not supported
NotAcceptableException 406 Client media type requested not supported
NotSupportedException 415 Client posted media type not supported
InternalServerErrorException 500 General server error
ServiceUnavailableException 503 Server is temporarily unavailable or busy


Categories & Tags