Re: JSON references to external documents - should you still use them?
Both local and external $refs are perfectly fine and there are no plans, as far as I know, to disallow external $refs. On the contrary, modularization helps reuse common components across different API definitions.
One thing to keep in mind when using external $refs is that the $ref target must be in the format expected in the given context. For example, a schema $ref must point to an OpenAPI Schema Object and not to a "vanilla" JSON Schema. This will change in OpenAPI 3.1 which will support full JSON Schema for schema definitions.
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