Spring MVC - Meta Annotations

[Updated: Mar 8, 2017, Created: Mar 8, 2017]

Generally in Java, an annotation is termed as meta-annotation if it is used on another annotation. You have probably seen such annotations many times. For example: @Document, @Inherited etc. There's no specific declaration needed for an annotation to become a meta-annotation, i.e. any annotation which has declared its @Target with ElementType.TYPE can be meta-annotated on other annotation definitions.

Spring provides many such annotations, for example @RequestMapping variants. The main purpose of using such meta-annotation in Spring is to group/compose multiple annotations together to ease the configuration meta-data on the developer side.

Creating a custom annotation meta-annotated with other annotations

We can create our own annotations which can be annotated with Spring meta-annotations, without providing any custom annotation-processor for that. Spring implicitly recognizes meta-annotations and delegates the processing to the existing related processors.

In this simple example we are going to create annotation 'ResourceGone' which will be meta-annotated with @RequestMapping, @ResponseStatus(HttpStatus.GONE) and @ResponseBody. The purpose of this annotation would be to avoid repeating same set of annotations on multiple controller methods whenever a resource does not exist anymore.

Creating the annotation

@RequestMapping(method = RequestMethod.GET)
public @interface ResourceGone {
  @AliasFor(annotation = RequestMapping.class)
  String[] value () default {};

The controller

public class TheController {

  @ResourceGone(value = "/link1")
  public String handle1 () {
      return "The resource 'link1' doesn't exist anymore";
  @ResourceGone(value = "/link2")
  public String handle2 () {
      return "The resource 'link2' doesn't exist anymore";

Spring boot main class

public class Main {

  public static void main (String[] args) {
      SpringApplication.run(Main.class, args);

Running application

mvn spring-boot:run


Confirming status code 410 (gone) in HTTPie

Example Project

Dependencies and Technologies Used :

  • spring-boot-starter-web 1.4.4.RELEASE: Starter for building web, including RESTful, applications using Spring MVC. Uses Tomcat as the default embedded container.
    Corresponding Spring version: 4.3.6.RELEASE
  • tomcat-embed-jasper 8.5.11: Core Tomcat implementation.
  • JDK 1.8
  • Maven 3.3.9

Custom Meta Annotation Example Select All Download
  • spring-custom-meta-annotation
    • src
      • main
        • java
          • com
            • logicbig
              • example

See Also