What is REST API?
There is more to software than what you see on your screen. Much of these are thanks to web services that take you from point A to point B and so on. One great example of this web architectural process is the REST alongside its protocols, REST API. What is it, and how does it apply to web development? Let’s find out!
Web services are essential in creating website platforms. They are software types available on the internet that consist of a standardized messaging system. Consider each web service as a terminal where pieces of information are received, processed, and sent to its next destination.
These terminals or nodes in a complete ecosystem will form to produce web service architectures. There are multiple types of web service architectures. One, in particular, is REST or Representational State Transfer. This method is developed by computer scientist Roy Fielding.
Basically, the concept of REST presents architectural constraints. They are not protocols or standards. REST simply presents a workflow at which APIs can work.
That said, the known components for this architecture are what we call REST API. These are a set of programmed protocols and communication lines dedicated to sending messages across the nodes of an entire web platform ecosystem. Let’s get to know APIs better!
Application Programming Interface
Application Programming Interface, or simply API, is a set of protocols and rules that allow programs to communicate with one another. It is a channel where information is sent and received.
To put it simply, APIs work in a response-and-request manner. For example, you type a word in a search bar, and then the platform gives results based on your search key. Searching is the request part while the results based on what you searched is the response.
Why are we emphasizing “results based on what you searched”? It’s because APIs work in a standardized fashion wherein they process requests according to the expected return. If there’s a fault in the communication line, then the API could use some improvement.
Ultimately, web developers create APIs in the web server to return expected results for each request. APIs are the mediators within a web ecosystem.
Now that we know what APIs are, let’s discuss what REST API is.
What is REST API?
In essence, REST API is simply a set of standardized protocols and rules that operate under the constraints of the REST web architecture. This means that as long as an API is guided by REST constraints, it is considered a REST API.
Along the process of REST, a client creates a request through a REST API. It sends a conversion or representation of the request to an endpoint. Through the endpoints, the information can be accessed and used.
The request is mostly in JSON format. However, it could also be written in HTML, XLT, Python, PHP, and even just plain text. Regardless, it still has to follow several constraints to be considered a REST API. There are also elements that should be included to complete a request. In the following sections, we’ll get to know the REST architecture constraints and the essential parts of a REST API.
The 6 Constraints of a REST API
To be considered REST, an API should follow the following constraints. The importance of these constraints is to achieve desirable non-functional aspects that impact website performance and responsiveness. These include simplicity, changeability, scalability, and more.
When one of these constraints is not followed, an API cannot be categorized as REST.
In essence, the principle behind this architecture is the compartmentalization of concerns from each node. Through this, user interface needs are separated from data storage needs. This separation allows an enhanced user experience due to the scalability of this principle. Additionally, this makes each component independent in terms of updates or improvement.
For REST, the processes applied are stateless. This does not follow a waterfall-like process wherein one node should be fulfilled before the other. This means that multiple requests can exist at the same time to create a response.
In the REST constraints, a response should be defined as cacheable or non-cacheable. Caching is important to improve the speed of responses per request. However, it is essential to define which responses can be cached to eliminate certain responses that may be provided inappropriately. Additionally, eliminating responses by managing caches improves the scalability and performance of your program.
A layered system in REST allows a hierarchy of certain servers that are not directly visible to the client. This system organizes each server type that is involved in retrieving requests. Such server types are load balancing, security, storage, etc. Additionally, these server types can call upon multiple other servers to fulfill responses in a request.
In REST, uniform interface constraints are needed so information is sent from one point to another in a standardized form. This means that protocols from one application to another should be uniform in order to successfully communicate.
There are four constraints for the REST uniform interface. They are (1) resource identification within requests, (2) resource manipulation by representations, (3) self-descriptive messages, and (4) hypermedia as the engine of application state.
Code on Demand (optional)
This constraint allows extending functionalities through responses of executable code upon request. This simplifies the client-side interface since it reduces the pre-implemented features.
In summary, we can define REST API as an application that follows the constraints of REST architecture. Regardless of what language it is written, REST APIs should be within the bounds of the above rules.
For you to achieve a scalable and high performing website, use the rules of REST within your web ecosystem. Web developers should follow the constraints to optimize your website. With this, results could range from constant engagement, high SEO ranking, and seamless user experience.
You’ll be able to achieve all this through hiring the right developers—developers that know how to REST!
At Full Scale, you can find highly-skilled and experienced web developers. With expertise on multiple web service platforms to develop under a set of standards, we are sure to help SCALE UP your website. So whether you want a single resource or an entire team of development experts, you’re in the right place.