A Concise Introduction to REST APIs | Dreamfactory

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A REST API — or representational state transfer application programming interface — is a data interface that allows for the creation and consumption of resources. It's not just for GET requests, but also for other HTTP verbs such as PUT, POST, and DELETE. REST APIs can also handle CRUD (Create, Read, and Update, and Delete) operations. In this way, a REST API is a software bridge between two levels of abstraction in a system. At one level, it's easy to use one interface to talk to another service with different levels of abstraction — like an application interface for humans interacting with data storage services on the backend.

Why Should I Care About REST APIs?

REST APIs are the backbone of the modern web. REST APIs are often called "RESTful" because they follow some core principles that make them easier to use, understand, and develop. When developers design their API, they will have to decide which methods should be POST or GET requests.

A POST request is typically used when you want to create or update an object in a database. GET requests are usually used to read information from a database or API endpoint. APIs also typically support both PUT and DELETE requests, which are used for updating or removing data from an object in a database, respectively. The time has come to embrace the power of REST APIs.

REST APIs are a critical component of modern software architecture. Data is king, and APIs are the gatekeepers to that data. APIs are not just for tech giants like Google or Facebook. Smaller companies should take advantage of this technology as well, as it can help them compete with larger competitors or drive innovation in their own industries.

The Request Cycle: What You Get When You Request a Resource

REST APIs provide a standardized way to interact with data. They are an interface for accessing and interacting with resources on the Internet. REST API is a collection of methods that can be used to access data endpoints, such as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE. REST APIs provide an interface to a server, system, and database for retrieving and manipulating data in a well-defined way.

The Request Cycle: When you request a resource from the API, there are four steps:

  1. The client sends a request to the server using one of the three HTTP methods.
  2. The server processes the request using the status codes and error handling mechanism it's defined.
  3. The server determines what representation format should be used to return data back to the client according to its content negotiation information.
  4. The response is returned either in XML or JSON.

Dreamfactory is a leading online tool for building REST APIs. Using DreamFactory, you can build JSON REST APIs and GraphQL APIs without any coding. It provides a wide variety of pre-built data models and security systems, as well as an easy-to-use graphical user interface to control all aspects of the API development process.

RESTful Web Services and Collections of Resources

A RESTful web service is a type of web service that uses the principles of representational state transfer to create a web API. It enables the exchange of data over HTTP between two independent systems.

A RESTful web service has four components:

  1. A web server that supports the HTTP protocol
  2. A mapping between HTTP methods and functions on the server
  3. An assortment of different types of representations for resources, often with one type per resource but sometimes with multiple representations for some resources
  4. Conditionals to indicate which representation should be used under which circumstances

The RESTful web services and collections of resources:

  • Allow for easy access to resources through HTTP verbs
  • Use the JSON format for encoding
  • Support both GET and POST verbs
  • Expose all resources as collections
  • Render responses in JSON format

Examples of How Rest APIs Are Used in the Real World

There are three types of resources that are commonly used in RESTful web services:

  1. A collection of related resources that may or may not be related to each other. These could be articles, books, products, etc.
  2. A single resource, which could be an article, book, product, etc.
  3. An individual record within a database table, which usually has many fields and rows within it. These records can also be called "resources."

Getting Started with DreamFactory

Learning how to use REST APIs will help you even if you don't work with them every day. You'll be able to understand how your favorite apps work on the inside. You'll be more knowledgeable when it comes time to start developing your own apps. Finally, you'll be able to answer all those questions from family and friends about the cool stuff that developers do (and why).

The right platform makes it much easier for you to reap the benefits of API for your business. DreamFactory gives you a long list of essential and useful features, including live API docs, instant API creation and robust security controls. Start your free 14-day free trial with DreamFactory to discover how a top API platform can improve your business’s technology.

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