by James E. • July 6, 2020
REST vs SOAP are both means of accessing web services. Many different companies use them for a variety of purposes and operations. Despite this, there is considerable confusion between the two and their distinct functions. How can you know when to use REST vs. SOAP?
At least 83% of APIs use REST, while another 15% use SOAP. Although REST is by far the most common, SOAP is still a viable option due to certain advantages and possibilities it offers. Whether your company is currently using REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), it is important to understand the use cases and examples for each.
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This article will not only define these solutions but also present some of their most common use cases in business with clear and useful examples.
SOAP and REST do not perform the exact same functions. Microsoft developed SOAP as a web communication protocol. One of its most important features is that it is platform-independent. It can also operate over various protocols such as HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) or UDP (User Datagram Protocol).
Historically, SOAP was the most commonly used option. SOAP exclusively uses XML (Extensible Markup Language). It is standardized and follows strict rules, making it a rather inflexible but highly structured option. As a result, it is very well-documented.
REST is currently the default choice for most service providers. Unlike SOAP, it is an architectural style for software development. The two are essentially not intended for the same purpose, and that is why a comparison between them can be rather difficult and confusing.
While REST does have certain constraints, it also allows for the use of various languages rather than just XML. This considerably simplifies the process of using REST. Instead of having to create requests with XML, REST can typically perform such requests with a simple URL. It is usually used along with JSON for most public APIs.
REST requires the use of HTTP or HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). It restricts itself to stateless operations, meaning that any web service classified as RESTful does not store the client state on the server.
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How can you know best when to use REST vs. SOAP? There are various pros and cons to each.
Despite all of these significant advantages, REST is far and away the most popular choice today. Why is this? There are some things REST can do that SOAP just cannot.
All of these advantages have meant that Google and many other such well-known giants use REST, giving it the good name and popularity that it has today.
They are also why many companies turn to DreamFactory. DreamFactory provides instant APIs without code that you can then reuse at will.
SOAP does have some very specific drawbacks that have encouraged companies to seek a different solution.
These things, and the fact that many big names use REST, have caused SOAP to fall into the background somewhat. Nonetheless, there are still instances where SOAP can be very useful, as you will see later in the examples.
When should you use SOAP? SOAP is best for anything that requires formal contracts. To be even more specific, here are two common use cases for SOAP.
There are many other such use cases for SOAP as well, but most have to do with some variation of these two operations.
While you can use REST to produce many if not all of the same results as SOAP with enough work from a professional developer, there are a few situations that REST is specially geared towards.
You can also use REST APIs to import or export content, create and manage credentials and much more.
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We can also help you simplify workflows and get all of the advantages of a secure REST API on top of your SOAP web service. DreamFactory gives an easy process for wrapping any SOAP API in REST.
If you are struggling with when to use REST vs. SOAP, contact DreamFactory today and learn more about what we can do to help you make the right choices for your business.
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