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How Requests are Routed

This page describes how HTTP requests from users reach the appropriate version of a service. Requests can be routed two ways:

  • App Engine's default routing rules apply to requests with a URL that ends at the domain level.

  • Alternatively, you can use a dispatch file that routes specific URL patterns according to your own rules.

If you test your app using the local development server, the available routing and dispatch features are slightly different. To programmatically create URLs that work with both production and development servers, use the get_hostname method.

See routing in the development server to learn more.

Requests and domains

App Engine determines that an incoming request is intended for your app by using the domain name of the request. A request whose domain name is http://[YOUR_PROJECT_ID] is routed to the app whose ID is [YOUR_PROJECT_ID]. Every app gets an domain name for free.

The domains also support subdomains of the form [SUBDOMAIN]-dot-[YOUR_PROJECT_ID], where [SUBDOMAIN] can be any string allowed in one part of a domain name, excluding the . character. Requests that are sent to any subdomain in this way are routed to your app.

You can set up a custom top-level domain using G Suite and then assign subdomains to various apps, such as Google Mail or Sites. You can also associate an App Engine app with a subdomain. For more information about mapping a custom domain to your app, see Securing Custom Domains with SSL.

Requests for these URLs all go to the version of your app that you configured to receive traffic. Each version of your app also has its own URL, so you can deploy and test a new version before configuring that version to receive traffic. The version-specific URL uses the ID of a specific version in addition to the domain name, for example: http://[VERSION_ID]-dot-[YOUR_PROJECT_ID] You can also use subdomains with the version-specific URL: http://[SUBDOMAIN]-dot-[VERSION_ID]-dot-[YOUR_PROJECT_ID] See Routing via URL for more information and examples.

The domain name used for the request is included in the request data that is passed to your app. Therefore, you can use the request data to control how your app responds based on the domain name in the request. For example, if you want to redirect to an official domain, you can code your app to check the Host request header and then respond accordingly based on the domain name.

Routing via URL

You can target an HTTP request with varying degrees of specificity. In the following examples, can be replaced with your app's custom domain if you have one. The URL substrings [VERSION_ID], [SERVICE_ID], and [MY_PROJECT_ID], each represent the resource IDs of your app.

Tip: You can use the following tools to retrieve the IDs of your app's resources:


In the Cloud Console, you can view the corresponding Instances, Services, and Versions pages.


Run the gcloud app instances list command to list the resource IDs within a specific Cloud project.


To programmatically retrieve resource IDs, see the list methods in the Admin API.

Default routing

The following URL patterns have a default routing behavior. Note that the default routing is overridden if there is a matching pattern that you have defined in your dispatch file:

  • Sends the request to an available instance of the default service:

    Requests are received by any version that is configured for traffic in the default service.

  • Sends a request to an available instance of a specific service:

    Requests are received by any version that is configured for traffic in the targeted service. If the service that you are targeting does not exist, the request gets soft routed.

  • Sends a request to an available instance of a specific version in the
    default service:

    When a service is not targeted, requests are sent to the default service.

Soft routing

If a request matches the [YOUR_PROJECT_ID] portion of the hostname, but includes a service, version, or instance name that does not exist, then the request is routed to the default service. Soft routing does not apply to custom domains; requests to them will return a HTTP 404 status code if the hostname is invalid.

Targeted routing

The following URL patterns are guaranteed to reach their target, if they exist. These requests are never intercepted and rerouted by the patterns that you have defined in your dispatch file:

  • Sends the request to an available instance of a specific service and version:
  • If you are using manually-scaled services, you can target and send a request to a instance by including the instance ID. The instance ID is an integer in the range from 0 up to the total number of instances that are running, and can be specified as follows:

    Sends a request to a specific service and version within a specific instance:


Default service

The default service is created when you deploy the initial version of your app to App Engine. Requests that specify no service or an invalid service are routed, to the default service. Those requests are then handled by the versions that you have configured to receive traffic within the default service. You can see which versions are configured for traffic in the Versions page of the Cloud Console.

Restricting access to a service

All services are public by default. If you want to restrict access to a service, add the login: admin element to its handlers.


To help demonstrate the URL patterns, assume an example Cloud project with ID requestsProject exists and includes an app that is running two services and versions. The example app's default service includes version vFrontend, and the second service service2, includes version vBackend.

To target specific services and versions, you can use the following URL patterns:

  1. To target the version in the default service using HTTPS, you can use:
  2. To target the vBackend version using a custom domain without HTTPS, you can use:

    where is mapped to the domain.

Routing with a dispatch file

For URLs that use the patterns described earlier, you can create a dispatch file to override App Engine's routing rules and define your own custom routing rules. With a dispatch file, you can send incoming requests to a specific service based on the path or host name in the request URL.

For details about creating a dispatch file, see the dispatch.yaml reference.

Creating a dispatch file

The dispatch file should be placed either in the root of your project directory, or in the root directory of your default service. You can define up to 20 routing rules in the dispatch file and each rule consists of both the service and url elements.

For example, you can create a dispatch file to route mobile requests like to a mobile frontend, and route worker requests like to a static backend:

  # Send all mobile traffic to the mobile frontend.
  - url: "*/mobile/*"
    service: mobile-frontend

  # Send all work to the one static backend.
  - url: "*/work/*"
    service: static-backend

For details about how to define your dispatch.yaml, see the dispatch.yaml reference documentation.

Deploying the dispatch file

To deploy the dispatch configuration file, run the following command:


gcloud app deploy dispatch.yaml

appcfg update_dispatch [YOUR_APP_DIR]

Routing in the development server

Discovering instance addresses

The local development server creates all manual scaling instances at startup. Instances for automatic and basic scaling services are managed dynamically. The server assigns a port to each service, and clients can depend on the server to load-balance and select an instance automatically. The port assignments for addressing each service appear in the server's log message stream. Here are the ports for an app that defines three services (the scaling type of each service is not relevant):

INFO Starting module "default" running at: http://localhost:8084
INFO Starting module "service1" running at: http://localhost:8082
INFO Starting module "service2" running at: http://localhost:8083

When you use a service's address (for example http://localhost:8082/), the server will select (or create) an instance of the service and send the request to that instance.

The server assigns unique ports to each instance of a service. To discover these ports you need to use the admin server. There is a unique port for the admin server, which appears in the message log:

INFO Starting admin server at: http://localhost:8000

This address takes you to the admin server console. From there you can click on Instances to see the dynamic state of your app's instances:

Screeenshot of dev_appserver admin console

A separate entry will appear for each manual and basic instance. The instance numbers are links with unique port addresses for each instance. You can hover over a link to see the port assigned to that instance, or click on the link to send a request directly to that instance.

Dispatch files

If your app includes a dispatch.yaml file, the log messages stream will include a dispatcher port:

INFO Starting dispatcher running at: http://localhost:8080

Requests to this port are routed according to the rules in the dispatch file. The server does not support dispatch.yaml file rules that include hostnames (for example, url: "*"). Rules with relative path patterns (url: "*/fun") will work, so you can use URLs like http://localhost/fun/mobile to reach instances. The server will report an error in the log stream if you try to start an application with a dispatch.yaml file that contains host-based rules.