REST API: What It Is and How to Use One for StreamingFebruary 1, 2019
What Does REST API Stand For?Before getting into the details of a REST API, let’s spell out the acronym itself. An API, or application programming interface, is a set of methods that enable different applications to interact with each other via a known framework. One type of API is the REST variety, which stands for “Representational State Transfer.” This describes an architectural structure that is resource-based, allowing interoperability between computer systems on the internet. To do this, REST APIs follow a uniform set of operational constraints. What are these constraints and what can a REST API do for you? We’ll dig deeper below.
What Does REST Dictate?REST defines how an API is being implemented. In its simplest form, REST dictates that the server only act on requests currently being made — without maintaining a ‘session’ or knowledge of previous requests. The REST standard outlines six constraints:
- Uniform interface
- Code on demand
What Do the REST API Constraints Mean?Constraints allow the API to stay within a set of boundaries that adheres to REST. No individual constraint should be viewed as more important than another. However, most implementations cover the following three: Client-Server: The client-server constraint underpins much of the REST architecture by outlining that all developments of the client and server must be done separately. In removing the common link between client-server development, this allows changes to be made without negatively impacting the overall functionality. Stateless: All REST interactions should be stateless. Any request made from the client should contain all the information to make the request successful. In reality, this means that while the server does not maintain state, the client may make multiple requests — data gathering and processing — before ever making the request containing the final action. Uniform Interface: To make the client-server constraint successful, you need to have a uniform interface to interact with. This simply means that the interface — which could be a URL structure or data format — is not directly tied to an application implementation. That way, it’s easy to updates the interface without impacting the client-server constraint or the application itself.
What Are the Benefits of a REST API?RESTful APIs have been adopted by many services, giving developers a consistent way to understand and implement them. The appeal of REST APIs is driven by:
- Speedier application development
- Ease of understanding
- The simplicity of a similar framework across multiple services
- Improved flexibility because data is decoupled from specific resources or methods