This chapter provides an overview of the error model for Google APIs. It also provides general guidance to developers on how to properly generate and handle errors.

Google APIs use a simple protocol-independent error model, which allows us to offer a consistent experience across different APIs, different API protocols (such as gRPC or HTTP), and different error contexts (such as asynchronous, batch, or workflow errors).

Error Model

The error model for Google APIs is logically defined by google.rpc.Status, an instance of which is returned to the client when an API error occurs. The following code snippet shows the overall design of the error model:

package google.rpc;

// The `Status` type defines a logical error model that is suitable for
// different programming environments, including REST APIs and RPC APIs.
message Status {
  // A simple error code that can be easily handled by the client. The
  // actual error code is defined by `google.rpc.Code`.
  int32 code = 1;

  // A developer-facing human-readable error message in English. It should
  // both explain the error and offer an actionable resolution to it.
  string message = 2;

  // Additional error information that the client code can use to handle
  // the error, such as retry info or a help link.
  repeated google.protobuf.Any details = 3;

Because most Google APIs use resource-oriented API design, the error handling follows the same design principle by using a small set of standard errors with a large number of resources. For example, instead of defining different kinds of "not found" errors, the server uses one standard google.rpc.Code.NOT_FOUND error code and tells the client which specific resource was not found. The smaller error space reduces the complexity of documentation, affords better idiomatic mappings in client libraries, and reduces client logic complexity while not restricting the inclusion of actionable information.

Error Codes

Google APIs must use the canonical error codes defined by google.rpc.Code. Individual APIs must avoid defining additional error codes, since developers are very unlikely to write logic to handle a large number of error codes. For reference, handling an average of three error codes per API call would mean most application logic would just be for error handling, which would not be a good developer experience.

Error Messages

The error message should help users understand and resolve the API error easily and quickly. In general, consider the following guidelines when writing error messages:

  • Do not assume the user is an expert user of your API. Users could be client developers, operations people, IT staff, or end-users of apps.
  • Do not assume the user knows anything about your service implementation or is familiar with the context of the errors (such as log analysis).
  • When possible, error messages should be constructed such that a technical user (but not necessarily a developer of your API) can respond to the error and correct it.
  • Keep the error message brief. If needed, provide a link where a confused reader can ask questions, give feedback, or get more information that doesn't cleanly fit in an error message. Otherwise, use the details field to expand.

Error Details

Google APIs define a set of standard error payloads for error details, which you can find in google/rpc/error_details.proto. These cover the most common needs for API errors, such as quota failure and invalid parameters. Like error codes, developers should use these standard payloads whenever possible.

Additional error detail types should only be introduced if they can assist application code to handle the errors. If the error information can only be handled by humans, rely on the error message content and let developers handle it manually rather than introducing additional error detail types.

Here are some example error_details payloads:

  • ErrorInfo: Provides structured error information that is both stable and extensible.
  • RetryInfo: Describes when clients can retry a failed request, may be returned on Code.UNAVAILABLE or Code.ABORTED
  • QuotaFailure: Describes how a quota check failed, may be returned on Code.RESOURCE_EXHAUSTED
  • BadRequest: Describes violations in a client request, may be returned on Code.INVALID_ARGUMENT

Error Info

ErrorInfo is a special kind of error payload. It provides stable and extensible error information that both humans and applications can depend on. Each ErrorInfo has three pieces of information: an error domain, an error reason, and a set of error metadata, such as this example. For more information, see the ErrorInfo definition.

For Google APIs, the primary error domain is, and the corresponding error reasons are defined by google.api.ErrorReason enum. For more information, see the google.api.ErrorReason definition.

Error Localization

The message field in google.rpc.Status is developer-facing and must be in English.

If a user-facing error message is needed, use google.rpc.LocalizedMessage as your details field. While the message field in google.rpc.LocalizedMessage can be localized, ensure that the message field in google.rpc.Status is in English.

By default, the API service should use the authenticated user’s locale or HTTP Accept-Language header or the language_code parameter in the request to determine the language for the localization.

Error Mapping

Google APIs are accessible in different programming environments. Each environment typically has its own way of error handling. The following sections explain how the error model is mapped in commonly used environments.

HTTP Mapping

While proto3 messages have native JSON encoding, Google's API Platform uses a different error schema for Google's JSON HTTP APIs for backward compatibility reasons.


// This message defines the error schema for Google's JSON HTTP APIs.
message Error {
  // Deprecated. This message is only used by error format v1.
  message ErrorProto {}
  // This message has the same semantics as `google.rpc.Status`. It uses HTTP
  // status code instead of gRPC status code. It has extra fields `status` and
  // `errors` for backward compatibility with [Google API Client
  // Libraries](
  message Status {
    // The HTTP status code that corresponds to `google.rpc.Status.code`.
    int32 code = 1;
    // This corresponds to `google.rpc.Status.message`.
    string message = 2;
    // Deprecated. This field is only used by error format v1.
    repeated ErrorProto errors = 3;
    // This is the enum version for `google.rpc.Status.code`.
    google.rpc.Code status = 4;
    // This corresponds to `google.rpc.Status.details`.
    repeated google.protobuf.Any details = 5;
  // The actual error payload. The nested message structure is for backward
  // compatibility with [Google API Client
  // Libraries]( It also
  // makes the error more readable to developers.
  Status error = 1;

Example (link):

  "error": {
    "code": 400,
    "message": "API key not valid. Please pass a valid API key.",
    "status": "INVALID_ARGUMENT",
    "details": [
        "@type": "",
        "reason": "API_KEY_INVALID",
        "domain": "",
        "metadata": {
          "service": ""

gRPC Mapping

Different RPC protocols map the error model differently. For gRPC, the error model is natively supported by the generated code and the runtime library in each supported language. You can find out more in gRPC's API documentation. For example, see gRPC Java's io.grpc.Status.

Client Library Mapping

Google client libraries may choose to surface errors differently per language to be consistent with established idioms. For example, the google-cloud-go library will return an error that implements the same interface as google.rpc.Status, while google-cloud-java will raise an Exception.

Handling Errors

Below is a table containing all of the gRPC error codes defined in google.rpc.Code and a short description of their cause. To handle an error, you can check the description for the returned status code and modify your call accordingly.

HTTP gRPC Description
200 OK No error.
400 INVALID_ARGUMENT Client specified an invalid argument. Check error message and error details for more information.
400 FAILED_PRECONDITION Request can not be executed in the current system state, such as deleting a non-empty directory.
400 OUT_OF_RANGE Client specified an invalid range.
401 UNAUTHENTICATED Request not authenticated due to missing, invalid, or expired OAuth token.
403 PERMISSION_DENIED Client does not have sufficient permission. This can happen because the OAuth token does not have the right scopes, the client doesn't have permission, or the API has not been enabled.
404 NOT_FOUND A specified resource is not found.
409 ABORTED Concurrency conflict, such as read-modify-write conflict.
409 ALREADY_EXISTS The resource that a client tried to create already exists.
429 RESOURCE_EXHAUSTED Either out of resource quota or reaching rate limiting. The client should look for google.rpc.QuotaFailure error detail for more information.
499 CANCELLED Request cancelled by the client.
500 DATA_LOSS Unrecoverable data loss or data corruption. The client should report the error to the user.
500 UNKNOWN Unknown server error. Typically a server bug.
500 INTERNAL Internal server error. Typically a server bug.
501 NOT_IMPLEMENTED API method not implemented by the server.
502 N/A Network error occurred before reaching the server. Typically a network outage or misconfiguration.
503 UNAVAILABLE Service unavailable. Typically the server is down.
504 DEADLINE_EXCEEDED Request deadline exceeded. This will happen only if the caller sets a deadline that is shorter than the method's default deadline (i.e. requested deadline is not enough for the server to process the request) and the request did not finish within the deadline.

Retrying Errors

Clients may retry on 503 UNAVAILABLE errors with exponential backoff. The minimum delay should be 1s unless it is documented otherwise. The default retry repetition should be once unless it is documented otherwise.

For 429 RESOURCE_EXHAUSTED errors, the client may retry at the higher level with minimum 30s delay. Such retries are only useful for long running background jobs.

For all other errors, retry may not be applicable. First ensure your request is idempotent, and see google.rpc.RetryInfo for guidance.

Propagating Errors

If your API service depends on other services, you should not blindly propagate errors from those services to your clients. When translating errors, we suggest the following:

  • Hide implementation details and confidential information.
  • Adjust the party responsible for the error. For example, a server that receives an INVALID_ARGUMENT error from another service should propagate an INTERNAL to its own caller.

Reproducing Errors

If you cannot resolve errors through analysis of logs and monitoring, you should try to reproduce the errors with a simple and repeatable test. You can use the test to collect more information for troubleshooting, which you can provide when contacting technical support.

We recommend you use curl -v and System Parameters to reproduce errors with Google APIs. Together they can reproduce almost all Google API requests, and provide you verbose debug information. For more information, see the respective documentation pages for the API you are calling.

Generating Errors

If you are a server developer, you should generate errors with enough information to help client developers understand and resolve the problem. At the same time, you must be aware of the security and privacy of the user data, and avoid disclosing sensitive information in the error message and error details, since errors are often logged and may be accessible by others. For example, an error message like "Client IP address is not on allowlist" exposes information about the server-side policy, which may not be accessible to the user who has access to the logs.

To generate proper errors, you first need to be familiar with google.rpc.Code to choose the most suitable error code for each error condition. A server application may check multiple error conditions in parallel, and return the first one.

The following table lists each error code and an example of a good error message.

HTTP gRPC Example Error Message
400 INVALID_ARGUMENT Request field x.y.z is xxx, expected one of [yyy, zzz].
400 FAILED_PRECONDITION Resource xxx is a non-empty directory, so it cannot be deleted.
400 OUT_OF_RANGE Parameter 'age' is out of range [0, 125].
401 UNAUTHENTICATED Invalid authentication credentials.
403 PERMISSION_DENIED Permission 'xxx' denied on resource 'yyy'.
404 NOT_FOUND Resource 'xxx' not found.
409 ABORTED Couldn’t acquire lock on resource ‘xxx’.
409 ALREADY_EXISTS Resource 'xxx' already exists.
429 RESOURCE_EXHAUSTED Quota limit 'xxx' exceeded.
499 CANCELLED Request cancelled by the client.
500 DATA_LOSS See note.
500 UNKNOWN See note.
500 INTERNAL See note.
501 NOT_IMPLEMENTED Method 'xxx' not implemented.
503 UNAVAILABLE See note.

Error Payloads

The google.rpc package defines a set of standard error payloads, which are preferred to custom error payloads. The following table lists each error code and its matching standard error payload, if applicable. We recommend advanced applications look for these error payloads in google.rpc.Status when they handle errors.

HTTP gRPC Recommended Error Detail
400 INVALID_ARGUMENT google.rpc.BadRequest
400 FAILED_PRECONDITION google.rpc.PreconditionFailure
400 OUT_OF_RANGE google.rpc.BadRequest
401 UNAUTHENTICATED google.rpc.ErrorInfo
403 PERMISSION_DENIED google.rpc.ErrorInfo
404 NOT_FOUND google.rpc.ResourceInfo
409 ABORTED google.rpc.ErrorInfo
409 ALREADY_EXISTS google.rpc.ResourceInfo
429 RESOURCE_EXHAUSTED google.rpc.QuotaFailure
500 DATA_LOSS google.rpc.DebugInfo
500 UNKNOWN google.rpc.DebugInfo
500 INTERNAL google.rpc.DebugInfo
503 UNAVAILABLE google.rpc.DebugInfo
504 DEADLINE_EXCEEDED google.rpc.DebugInfo