by • August 1, 2023
REST APIs are the basis of all interactions between different applications. Many companies and organizations today offer APIs to interact with their applications. REST APIs allow third-party application developers to perform operations such as transmitting or accessing data from one application to another. This is called a public API. This means that this API is intended for interaction with third-party apps. It can be completely open or restricted to certain clients via authentication (for example, OAuth). In this article, we’ll be covering REST API principles.
Here’s the key things to know about REST API principles:
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REST (for representational state transfer) is a type of API architecture that provides several standards and conventions that must be followed to facilitate communication between applications. APIs that respect the REST standard are called REST APIs or RESTful APIs.
The REST standard imposes six architectural constraints that must all be respected by a system in order for it to qualify as a RESTful system. Strict adherence to these six constraints ensures optimal reliability, scalability, and extensibility. The six principles of REST architecture are discussed
Server-side and client-side responsibilities are separated so that each side can be implemented independently of the other. The server-side code (the API) and the client-side code can each be changed without affecting the other, as long as both continue to communicate in the same format. In a REST architecture, different clients send requests to the same endpoints, perform the same actions, and get the same responses.
The communication between client and server does not keep track of the state of sessions from one request to the next. The state of a session is included in each request, so neither the client nor the server needs to know the state of the other to communicate. Each request is complete and self-sufficient. There is no need to maintain a continuous connection between client and server, which implies a greater tolerance to failure. In addition, this allows REST APIs to respond to requests from several clients without saturating the server’s ports. The exception to this rule is authentication so that the client does not have to specify its authentication information on every request.
The different actions and/or resources available with their specific endpoints and parameters must be decided and respected religiously, uniformly by the client and the server. Each response should contain enough information to be interpreted without the client needing any other information beforehand. Responses should not be too long and should contain links to other endpoints.
Responses can be cached to avoid overloading the server unnecessarily. Caching must be well managed: The REST API must specify whether and for how long a response can be cached to avoid the client receiving outdated information.
A client connected to a REST API usually cannot distinguish whether it is communicating with the end server or an intermediate server. A REST architecture allows the API, for example, to receive requests on server A, store its data on server B, and manage authentications on server C.
Created in 1998, SOAP has long been the most widely used protocol for interfacing different systems via the web. Its specifications are maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It is often wrongly compared to REST. Indeed, SOAP is a protocol, while REST is an architecture style. However, the two are not compatible because REST was created hoping to solve some problems associated with SOAP, which made it too inflexible a protocol.
The major drawback of SOAP that led to the majority adoption of REST is the use of XML. Using this language for requests and responses can be complex and verbose, especially since it needs to be interpreted, which represents an additional burden on both the client and server sides. It is intolerant to errors, which is a colossal risk for the continuity of modern apps. The client code is thus very dependent on the server code and vice versa, so much that one cannot be changed without modifying the other. Using SOAP thus requires a heavier configuration and maintenance, less adapted to the agile and open aspect of current web development than REST APIs.
Nevertheless, SOAP still has some advantages over REST in specific settings. It is compatible with all programming languages and many protocols such as HTTP, TCP, SMTP, JMS, or UDP. It also supports various extensions such as WS-Security, WS-Federation, WS-Coordination, etc. These extensions may or may not be used, for example, an API intended for public and open use will not need WS-Security.
Using REST APIs (Representational State Transfer APIs) offers numerous benefits in modern software development and web services:
Regardless of the choice of protocol or architecture, a good quality API is one that is well documented, available, and scalable, and it should be tested regularly. DreamFactory is an API management solution that helps you streamline everything and bring your API-as-a-product mindset to life to get more out of the solutions your business is creating.
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A REST API (Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface) is a set of rules and conventions that allow different software applications to communicate and exchange data over the internet. It follows the principles of REST, a stateless architectural style, to create scalable and flexible web services.
The key principles of REST APIs include statelessness, uniform interface, resource-based architecture, self-descriptive messages, and hypermedia as the engine of application state (HATEOAS). These principles promote simplicity, modularity, and independence between client and server components.
REST APIs achieve statelessness by ensuring that each request from the client to the server must contain all the information required to understand and process the request. The server does not retain any session information about the client between requests, simplifying scalability and reducing coupling.
The uniform interface principle establishes a standardized set of operations that all resources in a REST API should support. This includes using HTTP methods (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) for specific actions on resources, consistent naming conventions, and using hyperlinks to navigate between resources.
REST APIs follow a resource-based architecture, where each piece of data or functionality is represented as a resource. Each resource is identified by a unique URI (Uniform Resource Identifier), and clients can interact with these resources using standard HTTP methods.
Some common best practices for designing REST APIs include using meaningful and consistent resource naming, adhering to HTTP methods semantics, leveraging caching mechanisms for performance optimization, providing clear and concise documentation, and implementing proper security measures like authentication and authorization.
REST APIs offer several benefits, including simplicity, platform independence, scalability, flexibility, and ease of integration. They also promote separation of concerns, enhanced security through standard mechanisms, and support for multiple data formats.
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Terence Bennett, General Manager at DreamFactory, has a strong operational, business, and extensive experience in government IT systems and Google Cloud. He started his career as a U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer, then honed his skills on Google’s Red Team and later became the COO of Integrate.io.
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