should the object class ever be referenced in java?

API calls/responses (consuming/producing JSON) will always have a String key but the value may be text, numeric, boolean, array, or an object.

In the specific case of my project we use Spring MVC (which uses Jackson under the hood). Our controllers always consume domain objects directly, e.g. an instance of the User class. Processing a Map with more than a couple of keys is a chore and prone to error.

We frequently return Map<String, Object> because responses almost always include metadata that is generated when the request is made. For example, a GET request made to myapp/api/users might return something like:

  count: 2,
  timestamp: '2020-11-06T17:24:12.123Z',
  users: [
    {id: 1, firstName: 'Alice', lastName: 'Ackbar'},
    {id: 2, firstName: 'Boba', lastName: 'Bling'}

While the users property contains serialized User entities the remaining fields exist solely for the response. There is no point to creating a UsersResponseEntity class.

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