Introduction to External references

What is the External references feature?

The External references feature (previously known as Third party orchestration) is designed to boost digital teams and developer productivity. It connects up content from third party systems and makes it available for delivery with Contentful through the GraphQL API. This helps teams spend less time developing integration layers and more time creating engaging digital experiences that scale.

You can use the External references feature to address one of the most common problems of having content in multiple platforms – retrieving it from each system and assembling it together in the right place for the right audience.

Consider these two main concepts when referring to External references:

  • Sources — A source is any third party system or tool that contains content you want to reference. For example, some of our marketplace apps can be considered sources.

  • Functions — A function is a backend serverless function that runs on Contentful’s delivery infrastructure. It can perform the task of connecting to a source, fetching the content and returning it to delivery when requested.

With External references we have four core components:

  • Connect a third party system to Contentful by installing it from the Marketplace or write your own using Functions.

  • Configure external references at content type level to enable resolving content on delivery and select which content is available for editors and delivery.

  • Edit the content linked from the third party system directly in Contentful.

  • Deliver the content from Contentful along with the third party content within a single API call.

Marketplace sources

You can enable External references to resolve the content retrieved from the supported apps in our marketplace using the Contentful GraphQL API.

The following marketplace app integrations support external references out of the box:

The following Digital Asset Management (DAM) software supports external references out of the box:

Get started with External references

To start using External references:

  1. Install the supported marketplace app or DAM of your choice from our marketplace into your organization.

  2. Log in to the Contentful web app, and select the Resolve content on delivery check box in the field editor of the content type with the app field setup. Note that without this setting enabled, Contentful won’t fetch content from the third party source.

  3. If you already have the app set up, adjust your queries to our GraphQL API to request the additional product information from the external provider. For more details on how to adjust your queries, see the External references page in the developer documentation.

For more information on how to get started with each supported marketplace app, see the official documentation.

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