3

Let's say I have several users and each one has a user_id and also friends

To access their friends, they should be logged in, so a session will be established with the server.

Should the REST API for their friends be user/:user_id/friends or just friends

9

The URL should be the same whether user is logged in or not.

The whole point of REST is to be as stateless as possible. Holding a stateful session so that you can say friends instead of user/:user_id/friends is not stateless, and the URL pointing to a particular resource should always be the same.

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