What is REST and How does it work?
As an API designer, the concept of REST or Representational State Transfer protocols is essential. It is arguably the most important concept to wrap your head around. At the most fundamental level, it is a software architecture which generally consists of a set of rules which are applied across all connectors, data elements and components with the system. A huge benefit of the REST protocol is that it helps to overlook every detail of a component implementation as well as the syntax associated with the protocol. It is generally important since it primarily focuses on the role of each component and how it is interpreted as well as the constraints of their interaction with other components.
Making Sense of All the Jargon?
To be fair, we know that many people reading the explanation above have no idea what we are talking about. To understand some of what we mentioned above it is essential to start with the fact that REST is complex, it is a technical system set up by software programmers for software programmers. However, we will still attempt to break down the explanation the best way can so that everyone can benefit from it.
REST at its most basic level is a given set of rules that dictates how URLs work alongside the HTTP protocol. By following the REST process, the idea is to ensure that the API you design complies with all the REST principles during development and deployment. The result of which will be an API that uses the internet to its full potential.
What are REST Methods?
All computers that are connected via a standard network like the internet should be communicating in the same language also known as a protocol. Over the past decade, we have seen the development of many methods. Each method has a means of addressing communication with other computers differently. Technologies like XML-RPC, JMS, and SOAP, are to name a few.
The problem with technologies like SOAP is that they require the use of a lot more data and so computers need to have a lot of storage to store it. It is why SOAP, for the most part, is incompatible and impractical for mobile application development. Next in line is JSM which is excellent when it comes to developing a message sending protocol between computers on the same network and is generally used as part of Java app development. Next is the XML-RPC protocol which makes both procedural calls over an IP yet at the same time has all the problems of bulk associated with SOAP. That said developers can use both SOAP and XML-RPC to develop Java applications which are made more accessible by many of the latest tools.
When you compare REST with all the technologies above it becomes apparent that the advantage is mainly minimum data required to be processed which requires fewer resources. Which means that by using REST developers are easily able to bypass all the challenges associated with dense protocols. Also, it empowers programmers to create their own set of programs which can directly be accessed via APIs which means that they can work in environments with different networks where speed and computer types vary in power and capacity.
REST is without a doubt a complicated yet necessary software architecture for web developers to understand. Once you are able to wrap your head around REST, it helps to develop software and APIs that broaden a tool’s functionality. Developers have the most to benefit from REST especially those who want to develop systems that communicate efficiently across a multitude of computers and networks.