By hasen

2009-03-22 14:45:39 8 Comments

What exactly is RESTful programming?


@Lord 2020-05-21 11:09:17

This answer is for absolute beginners, let's know about most used API architecture today.

To understand Restful programming or Restful API. First, you have to understand what API is, on a very high-level API stands for Application Programming Interface, it's basically a piece of software that can be used by another piece of software in order to allow applications to talk to each other.

The most widely used type of API in the globe is web APIs while an app that sends data to a client whenever a request comes in.

enter image description here

In fact, APIs aren't only used to send data and aren't always related to web development or javascript or python or any programming language or framework.

The application in API can actually mean many different things as long as the pice of software is relatively stand-alone. Take for example, the File System or the HTTP Modules we can say that they are small pieces of software and we can use them, we can interact with them by using their API. For example when we use the read file function for a file system module of any programming language, we are actually using the file_system_reading API. Or when we do DOM manipulation in the browser, we're are not really using the JavaScript language itself, but rather, the DOM API that browser exposes to us, so it gives us access to it. Or even another example let's say we create a class in any programming language like Java and then add some public methods or properties to it, these methods will then be the API of each object created from that class because we are giving other pieces of software the possibility of interacting with our initial piece of software, the objects in this case. S0, API has actually a broader meaning than just building web APIs.

Now let's take a look at the REST Architecture to build APIs.

REST which stands for Representational State Transfer is basically a way of building web APIs in a logical way, making them easy to consume for ourselves or for others.

To build Restful APIs following the REST Architecture, we just need to follow a couple of principles. 1. We need to separate our API into logical resources. 2. These resources should then be exposed by using resource-based URLs. 3. To perform different actions on data like reading, creating, or deleting data the API should use the right HTTP methods and not the URL. 4. Now the data that we actually send back to the client or that we received from the client should usually use the JSON data format, were some formatting standard applied to it. 5. Finally, another important principle of EST APIs is that they must be stateless.

enter image description here

Separate APIs into logical resources: The key abstraction of information in REST is a resource, and therefore all the data that we wanna share in the API should be divided into logical resources. What actually is a resource? Well, in the context of REST it is an object or a representation of something which has some data associated to it. For example, applications like tour-guide tours, or users, places, or revies are of the example of logical resources. So basically any information that can be named can be a resource. Just has to name, though, not a verb. enter image description here

Expose Structure: Now we need to expose, which means to make available, the data using some structured URLs, that the client can send a request to. For example something like this entire address is called the URL. and this / addNewTour is called and API Endpoint. enter image description here

Our API will have many different endpoints just like bellow

Each of these API will send different data back to the client on also perform different actions. Now there is something very wrong with these endpoints here because they really don't follow the third rule which says that we should only use the HTTP methods in order to perform actions on data. So endpoints should only contain our resources and not the actions that we are performed on them because they will quickly become a nightmare to maintain.

How should we use these HTTP methods in practice? Well let's see how these endpoints should actually look like starting with /getTour. So this getTour endpoint is to get data about a tour and so we should simply name the endpoint /tours and send the data whenever a get request is made to this endpoint. So in other words, when a client uses a GET HTTP method to access the endpoint, enter image description here

(we only have resources in the endpoint or in the URL and no verbs because the verb is now in the HTTP method, right? The common practice to always use the resource name in the plural which is why I wrote /tours nor /tour.) The convention is that when calling endpoint /tours will get back all the tours that are in a database, but if we only want the tour with one ID, let's say seven, we add that seven after another slash(/tours/7) or in a search query (/tours?id=7), And of course, it could also be the name of a tour instead of the ID.

HTTP Methods: What's really important here is how the endpoint name is the exact same name for all.

GET: (for requesting data from the server.)
POST: (for sending data to the server.)
PUT/PATCH: (for updating requests for data to the server.)
DELETE: (for deleting request for data to the server.)

The difference between PUT and PATCH-> By using PUT, the client is supposed to send the entire updated object, while with PATCH it is supposed to send only the part of the object that has been changed.

By using HTTP methods users can perform basic four CRUD operations, CRUD stands for Create, Read, Update, and Delete.

Now there could be a situation like a bellow:

enter image description here

So, /getToursByUser can simply be translated to /users/tours, for user number 3 end point will be like /users/3/tours.

if we want to delete a particular tour of a particular user then the URL should be like /users/3/tours/7, here user id:3 and tour id: 7.

So there really are tons of possibilities of combining resources like this.

Send data as JSON: Now about data that the client actually receives, or that the server receives from the client, usually we use the JSON Data Format. A typical JSON might look like below: enter image description here Before sending JSON Data we usually do some simple response formatting, there are a couple of standards for this, but one of the very simple ones called Jsend. We simply create a new object, then add a status message to it in order to inform the client whether the request was a success, fail, or error. And then we put our original data into a new object called Data.

enter image description here

Wrapping the data into an additional object like we did here is called Enveloping, and it's a common practice to mitigate some security issues and other problems.

Restful API should always be stateless: Finally a RESTful API should always be stateless meaning that, in a stateless RESTful API all state is handled on the client side no on the server. And state simply refers to a piece of data in the application that might change over time. For example, whether a certain user is logged in or on a page with a list with several pages what the current page is? Now the fact that the state should be handled on the client means that each request must contain all the information that is necessary to process a certain request on the server. So the server should never ever have to remember the previous request in order to process the current request.

enter image description here

Let's say that currently we are on page five and we want to move forward to page six. Sow we could have a simple endpoint called /tours/nextPage and submit a request to server, but the server would then have to figure out what the current page is, and based on that server will send the next page to the client. In other words, the server would have to remember the previous request. This is what exactly we want to avoid in RESTful APIs.

Instead of this case, we should create a /tours/page endpoint and paste the number six to it in order to request page number six /tours/page/6 . So the server doesn't have to remember anything in, all it has to do is to send back data for page number six as we requested.

Statelessness and Statefulness which is the opposite are very important concepts in computer science and applications in general

@Sunny Sultan 2020-05-20 10:54:21

A REST API is an API implementation that adheres to the REST architectural constraints. It acts as an interface. The communication between the client & the server happens over HTTP. A REST API takes advantage of the HTTP methodologies to establish communication between the client and the server. REST also enables servers to cache the response that improves the performance of the application. The communication between the client and the server is a stateless process. And by that, I mean every communication between the client and the server is like a new one.

There is no information or memory carried over from the previous communications. So, every time a client interacts with the backend, it has to send the authentication information to it as well. This enables the backend to figure out that the client is authorized to access the data or not.

With the implementation of a REST API the client gets the backend endpoints to communicate with. This entirely decouples the backend & the client code.

@Luke Puplett 2018-12-01 12:54:01


Read the README here and I hope you'll really get REST.


Those answers giving examples of linked resources is great but only half the picture.

So, imagine you're designing a website. You write a story,

I want to be able to search for an address by postcode so that I can choose a shipping address

Then you'd build the site to take the user on that journey and try and link the pages together in a workflow.

A website design that took them to an address lookup but then left them to copy the address into the clipboard and then return to the shipping address form wouldn't be very useable.

A REST API uses patterns we take for granted on the web for a machine-machine interaction.

The search for a postcode feature shouldn't be base/addresses/{postcode} and a collection comes back, even if each address links to a full address and some edit links, because that's a dead end; the API consumer would need to guess how to use the address.

Instead the motive for the feature should be built-in to the flow in which its used such that the journey ends back at the start:

1 GET /orders/123/shipping

  200 OK { Current shipping details + link to parent + link to address picker }

2  -> GET /orders/123/shipping/addresspicker

      200 OK { Link and form for searching for a postcode }

3   -> GET /orders/123/shipping/addresspicker?postcode=tn11tl

       200 OK { List of addresses each with link to pick it }

4    -> POST /orders/123/shipping/addresspicker?postcode=tn11tl&pickNo=3

        200 OK { Current shipping details + link to parent + link to address picker }

It's a user journey and at the end you can see the impact of the flow on the order.

The HTTP request/response isn't strictly part of REST but I don't think anyone has ever seen a non-HTTP REST application.

Now those URLs could be any set of characters, they're just identifiers, I made them pretty because they make sense to people. A machine would use the rel to work out what they do, not depend on a readable href.

@Emil H 2009-03-22 14:53:10

REST is the underlying architectural principle of the web. The amazing thing about the web is the fact that clients (browsers) and servers can interact in complex ways without the client knowing anything beforehand about the server and the resources it hosts. The key constraint is that the server and client must both agree on the media used, which in the case of the web is HTML.

An API that adheres to the principles of REST does not require the client to know anything about the structure of the API. Rather, the server needs to provide whatever information the client needs to interact with the service. An HTML form is an example of this: The server specifies the location of the resource and the required fields. The browser doesn't know in advance where to submit the information, and it doesn't know in advance what information to submit. Both forms of information are entirely supplied by the server. (This principle is called HATEOAS: Hypermedia As The Engine Of Application State.)

So, how does this apply to HTTP, and how can it be implemented in practice? HTTP is oriented around verbs and resources. The two verbs in mainstream usage are GET and POST, which I think everyone will recognize. However, the HTTP standard defines several others such as PUT and DELETE. These verbs are then applied to resources, according to the instructions provided by the server.

For example, Let's imagine that we have a user database that is managed by a web service. Our service uses a custom hypermedia based on JSON, for which we assign the mimetype application/json+userdb (There might also be an application/xml+userdb and application/whatever+userdb - many media types may be supported). The client and the server have both been programmed to understand this format, but they don't know anything about each other. As Roy Fielding points out:

A REST API should spend almost all of its descriptive effort in defining the media type(s) used for representing resources and driving application state, or in defining extended relation names and/or hypertext-enabled mark-up for existing standard media types.

A request for the base resource / might return something like this:


Accept: application/json+userdb


200 OK
Content-Type: application/json+userdb

    "version": "1.0",
    "links": [
            "href": "/user",
            "rel": "list",
            "method": "GET"
            "href": "/user",
            "rel": "create",
            "method": "POST"

We know from the description of our media that we can find information about related resources from sections called "links". This is called Hypermedia controls. In this case, we can tell from such a section that we can find a user list by making another request for /user:


GET /user
Accept: application/json+userdb


200 OK
Content-Type: application/json+userdb

    "users": [
            "id": 1,
            "name": "Emil",
            "country: "Sweden",
            "links": [
                    "href": "/user/1",
                    "rel": "self",
                    "method": "GET"
                    "href": "/user/1",
                    "rel": "edit",
                    "method": "PUT"
                    "href": "/user/1",
                    "rel": "delete",
                    "method": "DELETE"
            "id": 2,
            "name": "Adam",
            "country: "Scotland",
            "links": [
                    "href": "/user/2",
                    "rel": "self",
                    "method": "GET"
                    "href": "/user/2",
                    "rel": "edit",
                    "method": "PUT"
                    "href": "/user/2",
                    "rel": "delete",
                    "method": "DELETE"
    "links": [
            "href": "/user",
            "rel": "create",
            "method": "POST"

We can tell a lot from this response. For instance, we now know we can create a new user by POSTing to /user:


POST /user
Accept: application/json+userdb
Content-Type: application/json+userdb

    "name": "Karl",
    "country": "Austria"


201 Created
Content-Type: application/json+userdb

    "user": {
        "id": 3,
        "name": "Karl",
        "country": "Austria",
        "links": [
                "href": "/user/3",
                "rel": "self",
                "method": "GET"
                "href": "/user/3",
                "rel": "edit",
                "method": "PUT"
                "href": "/user/3",
                "rel": "delete",
                "method": "DELETE"
    "links": {
       "href": "/user",
       "rel": "list",
       "method": "GET"

We also know that we can change existing data:


PUT /user/1
Accept: application/json+userdb
Content-Type: application/json+userdb

    "name": "Emil",
    "country": "Bhutan"


200 OK
Content-Type: application/json+userdb

    "user": {
        "id": 1,
        "name": "Emil",
        "country": "Bhutan",
        "links": [
                "href": "/user/1",
                "rel": "self",
                "method": "GET"
                "href": "/user/1",
                "rel": "edit",
                "method": "PUT"
                "href": "/user/1",
                "rel": "delete",
                "method": "DELETE"
    "links": {
       "href": "/user",
       "rel": "list",
       "method": "GET"

Notice that we are using different HTTP verbs (GET, PUT, POST, DELETE etc.) to manipulate these resources, and that the only knowledge we presume on the client's part is our media definition.

Further reading:

(This answer has been the subject of a fair amount of criticism for missing the point. For the most part, that has been a fair critique. What I originally described was more in line with how REST was usually implemented a few years ago when I first wrote this, rather than its true meaning. I've revised the answer to better represent the real meaning.)

@tvanfosson 2009-03-22 15:11:52

No. REST didn't just pop up as another buzzword. It came about as a means of describing an alternative to SOAP-based data exchange. The term REST helps frame the discussion about how to transfer and access data.

@Dave Sherohman 2009-03-22 15:16:54

Nonetheless, the heart of REST (in practical application) is "don't use GET to make changes, use POST/PUT/DELETE", which is advice I've been hearing (and following) since long before SOAP appeared. REST has always been there, it just didn't get a name beyond "the way to do it" until recently.

@Hank Gay 2009-03-22 15:54:39

Don't forget "Hypertext as the engine of application state".

@cwap 2009-03-22 16:15:34

SOAP is another protocol for transfering data through HTTP. The SOAP-data is exchanged using a special XML schema, which, as all other XML-formats, produce heavy overhead. WebServices can be implemented using SOAP. Wikipidia got some nice info on SOAP :)

@Wes Oldenbeuving 2009-06-26 11:23:11

Wasn't PUT used to update a resource? The example uses POST to create and update, but does not use PUT.

@aehlke 2009-07-20 17:31:47

@Dave Sherohman, that is not REST, that is simply using HTTP correctly.

@Rafe 2009-08-06 21:17:33

The problem with REST is that browsers don't support PUT and DELETE, so you have to fake those methods using POST and hidden form parameters containing the method you'd love to use but can't.

@Darrel Miller 2009-08-11 02:06:18

@Rafe That's not a problem with REST, that is a problem with Web Browsers! Some of us use REST without Web Browsers:-)

@user359996 2010-11-18 02:22:49

This answer misses the point. HTTP is barely mentioned in Fielding's thesis.

@T.R. 2010-12-20 20:49:03

This answer doesn't mention the purpose of REST, and makes it seem like it's all about clean URIs. While this might be the popular perception of REST, D.Shawley's and oluies answers are more accurate - it's about being able to take advantage of features built into the architecture, like caching, by working with it instead of against it. Prettier URIs are mostly a common side effect.

@Emil H 2010-12-21 07:38:52

@user35, @T.R., Of course you're right about all that, and I agree with you. But exactly because it's such a complicated idea, most people won't be interested (or even able) to understand the concept in detail. My explanation is an oversimplified example of what it looks like when some of the RESTful principles are applied to the by far most common usecase - http based web services. I still think my answer is good enough as a quick five minute introduction, but of course I'd encourage anyone to read about it in more detail, for example the other, much better, answers on this page.

@T.R. 2011-01-11 01:37:18

It is complicated, and your description isn't inaccurate. I only bring it up because some misinterpret REST as being a lot of work for no real benefit, and hence strictly academic, not realizing that its goals are very pragmatic things like scalability. I think it's important that the top answer not be able to be misconstrued as supporting that misinterpretation, so I appreciate your effort to address my complaint.

@berto77 2012-02-01 17:31:23

@WesOldenbeuving As I understand it, POST is used when updating iff you're updating a part of the content, while PUT is used if you're updating the whole thing. For example, POSTing to /user can be looked as an update to that resource; /user is a container resource. May not be totally correct guys, so feel free to jump in.

@seancribbs 2012-02-01 19:41:53

1) Stop conflating CRUD with HTTP verbs. 2) REST isn't REST without Hypermedia (HATEOAS), it's just HTTP. 3) REST doesn't talk about the format of your URIs, only that you manipulate resources using representations of those resources.

@Andrew Young 2012-02-01 22:45:24

I'm surprised that HATEOAS wasn't brought up sooner.

@Sree Rama 2012-07-14 07:23:20

REST is an architectural pattern and style of writing distributed applications. It hag got high importance in cloud based services also. It is recommended approach to use webservices in building Android apps.

@osa 2013-10-08 17:53:36

Another explanation of REST that I found very helpful:

@Ben 2013-11-04 09:36:41

...and Martin Fowler of course has something to say (and I liked it better than the "wife" article):

@Pedro Werneck 2013-11-07 23:12:12

It's amazing how an answer that's completely misleading and misses the point completely is so popular. This answer isn't merely incomplete, as the author suggests in the edit. It's absolutely wrong.

@andy 2013-11-08 07:30:00

thanks for your instance. It may be about some operatoins on the resources. However,in the most common implementation scenario, operations stand for the GET/POST/PUT/DELETE/PATCH method in HTTP and the parameter is URI which stands for the resources.

@inf3rno 2013-11-22 22:53:30

The hypermedia constraint is much more important than those 2 constraints you wrote down.

@Emil H 2013-11-25 15:34:50

Considering the consistent critique of this answer, I've rewritten it. Please note that this answer is community wiki, and that anyone that wishes to improve upon it is welcome to do so. @Pedro, what do you think?

@hasen 2013-12-09 17:48:01

Hmm, tbh I don't really like the new version of the answer. I accepted the original version because it provided a simple straight forward answer.

@Ivan Voroshilin 2014-02-13 14:42:27

REST became popular for its simplicity

@Pedro Werneck 2014-02-19 00:19:14

@hasenj The original version was very misleading. It didn't say much about REST at all. Frankly, back in 2009 most people called REST any HTTP API that wasn't SOAP.

@hasen 2014-03-25 19:46:58

@PedroWerneck That's basically what everyone still considers it to be .. no? Plus, drastically changing the answer after hundreds of upvotes is kinda dishonest (no one upvoted the new version of the answer; all the upvotes were for the old version)

@Pedro Werneck 2014-03-25 20:01:21

If there's widespread misconception around a subject, perpetuating that in the name of popularity goes against the purpose of a community wiki. Since it was the same original author who changed, I don't see where the dishonesty is. Rather, it's quite honest for him to do that and reflect his improved knowledge on the subject.

@iGanja 2014-03-28 17:14:56

Absolutely correct @cwap! As well as Web 2.0 and AJAX. Terms made up by the industry to basically confuse the masses into thinking it's something new. The concepts are as old as the web itself. If we need to give them a name, so be it. Personally XMLHttp was perfectly fine by me...

@Julian Reschke 2014-06-13 12:56:14

Your examples show undefined media types; furthermore they use the "+" structured syntax convention ( with an unregistered value.

@joshreesjones 2014-10-16 04:33:03

How do you interact with a web server with HTTP like the author did in this answer?

@Adib Aroui 2014-11-16 12:15:22

@HankGay, please i really want to understand your comment (Don't forget "Hypertext as the engine of application state") I tried many times. thanks

@Hank Gay 2014-11-17 15:05:26

@whitelettersandblankspaces It's one of the core tenets of REST as described in Fielding's thesis. I highly recommend you read it, as he does it more justice than I possibly could in a comment on SO. The TL;DR of it is that you should use rich ContentTypes that embed possible actions in each representation, the way href in an HTML document indicates other resources you could request. The idea is to provide machine-discoverability, as opposed to APIs where all the endpoints are documented and humans are expected to figure out how to put them together. It's really hard to get right, BTW.

@Jool 2015-01-07 15:09:22

As so many have mentioned it, here is a link to Roy Fielding's doctoral disseratation:

@Asad Saeeduddin 2015-09-18 10:13:44

All of this is great philosophically, but how can I load and display the information for a specific user's grandmother's cat's age as soon as my user's browser has finished loading my scripts and styles (bonus points if you do it without making 500 sequential HTTP requests)

@Hugo Zink 2015-10-07 08:16:18

This new answer is outright wrong, ridden with buzzwords and does not actually indicate how you program RESTfully. When someone asks you what cooking is, you don't answer with "thermodynamics is an underlying principle of physics!". Turning the original answer into this community wiki was a mistake.

@Abdul 2016-08-19 16:41:02

@EmilH Very informative, and the example starting from the base resource really helped me understand how Level 3 REST service traversal works. I had a massive change in understanding what REST really is (although I knew a little bit about HATEOAS before). It seems like there is a huge difference between Level 2 REST APIs and Level 3 REST APIs; The former follows the whole HTTP-VERB noun-resource URI thought, while the latter tries to emulate how a user on a browser surfs the web. Is my understanding correct?

@Pete 2017-02-07 13:38:51

This is a good and well-written answer, but I feel something is lacking. Your example operations are very CRUS'ish, and one aspect of HATEOAS is that a resource can expose their domain-relevant operations, not just CRUD. In the excellent post by Fowler you are referring to, he uses a the action of booking a time with your doctor, where the resource is an available time slot, and the actions to perform is to book the time slot. By just exposing CRUD operations in your hypermedia, you quickly end up with your API exposing an anemic domain model.

@Emil H 2017-02-11 22:51:20

@Pete That's a very good point. Once I started thinking about it, it occured to me that that's often the exact point where things go awry. As long as it's simple data being exposed, the design tends to be somewhat reasonable, but once there are complex actions involved most API's seems regress to SOAPY thinking. I'll give it some more thinking and make some revisions at some point. This is community wiki since long ago though, so everyone should feel free to make improvements.

@Ashraf.Shk786 2017-02-18 12:39:33

Also, refer this link for some more information

@Diana 2020-04-23 15:38:45

Are you replying to the question asked or doing some random copy paste here :/

@Kürsat Aydinli 2019-03-27 10:11:45

I would say that an important building block in understanding REST lies in the endpoints or mappings, such as /customers/{id}/balance.

You can imagine such an endpoint as being the connecting pipeline from the website (front-end) to your database/server (back-end). Using them, the front-end can perform back-end operations which are defined in the corresponding methods of any REST mapping in your application.

@Chris DaMour 2016-11-30 20:05:16

Old question, newish way of answering. There's a lot of misconception out there about this concept. I always try to remember:

  1. Structured URLs and Http Methods/Verbs are not the definition of restful programming.
  2. JSON is not restful programming
  3. RESTful programming is not for APIs

I define restful programming as

An application is restful if it provides resources (being the combination of data + state transitions controls) in a media type the client understands

To be a restful programmer you must be trying to build applications that allow actors to do things. Not just exposing the database.

State transition controls only make sense if the client and server agree upon a media type representation of the resource. Otherwise there's no way to know what's a control and what isn't and how to execute a control. IE if browsers didn't know <form> tags in html then there'd be nothing for you to submit to transition state in your browser.

I'm not looking to self promote, but i expand on these ideas to great depth in my talk .

An excerpt from my talk is about the often referred to richardson maturity model, i don't believe in the levels, you either are RESTful (level 3) or you are not, but what i like to call out about it is what each level does for you on your way to RESTful

annotated richardson maturity model

@Only You 2013-07-12 16:33:02

I would say RESTful programming would be about creating systems (API) that follow the REST architectural style.

I found this fantastic, short, and easy to understand tutorial about REST by Dr. M. Elkstein and quoting the essential part that would answer your question for the most part:

Learn REST: A Tutorial

REST is an architecture style for designing networked applications. The idea is that, rather than using complex mechanisms such as CORBA, RPC or SOAP to connect between machines, simple HTTP is used to make calls between machines.

  • In many ways, the World Wide Web itself, based on HTTP, can be viewed as a REST-based architecture.

RESTful applications use HTTP requests to post data (create and/or update), read data (e.g., make queries), and delete data. Thus, REST uses HTTP for all four CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) operations.

I don't think you should feel stupid for not hearing about REST outside Stack Overflow..., I would be in the same situation!; answers to this other SO question on Why is REST getting big now could ease some feelings.

@Only You 2019-09-21 21:32:22

This article explains the relationship between HTTP and REST…

@Imran Ahmad 2017-09-15 19:47:04

REST is an architectural style which is based on web-standards and the HTTP protocol (introduced in 2000).

In a REST based architecture, everything is a resource(Users, Orders, Comments). A resource is accessed via a common interface based on the HTTP standard methods(GET, PUT, PATCH, DELETE etc).

In a REST based architecture you have a REST server which provides access to the resources. A REST client can access and modify the REST resources.

Every resource should support the HTTP common operations. Resources are identified by global IDs (which are typically URIs).

REST allows that resources have different representations, e.g., text, XML, JSON etc. The REST client can ask for a specific representation via the HTTP protocol (content negotiation).

HTTP methods:

The PUT, GET, POST and DELETE methods are typical used in REST based architectures. The following table gives an explanation of these operations.

  • GET defines a reading access of the resource without side-effects. The resource is never changed via a GET request, e.g., the request has no side effects (idempotent).
  • PUT creates a new resource. It must also be idempotent.
  • DELETE removes the resources. The operations are idempotent. They can get repeated without leading to different results.
  • POST updates an existing resource or creates a new resource.

@djvg 2018-12-13 19:02:30

Several quotes, but not a single source mentioned. Where did you get this?

@minghua 2014-07-03 17:30:38

I think the point of restful is the separation of the statefulness into a higher layer while making use of the internet (protocol) as a stateless transport layer. Most other approaches mix things up.

It's been the best practical approach to handle the fundamental changes of programming in internet era. Regarding the fundamental changes, Erik Meijer has a discussion on show here: . He summarizes it as the five effects, and presents a solution by designing the solution into a programming language. The solution, could also be achieved in the platform or system level, regardless of the language. The restful could be seen as one of the solutions that has been very successful in the current practice.

With restful style, you get and manipulate the state of the application across an unreliable internet. If it fails the current operation to get the correct and current state, it needs the zero-validation principal to help the application to continue. If it fails to manipulate the state, it usually uses multiple stages of confirmation to keep things correct. In this sense, rest is not itself a whole solution, it needs the functions in other part of the web application stack to support its working.

Given this view point, the rest style is not really tied to internet or web application. It's a fundamental solution to many of the programming situations. It is not simple either, it just makes the interface really simple, and copes with other technologies amazingly well.

Just my 2c.

Edit: Two more important aspects:

@minghua 2015-06-25 06:20:37

A MVC viewpoint: The blog Rest Worst Practices suggested not to conflating models and resources. The book Two Scoops of django suggests that the Rest API is the view, and not to mix business logic into the view. The code for the app should remain in the app.

@minghua 2015-06-25 15:14:56

@Shirgill Farhan 2015-04-15 11:26:17

An architectural style called REST (Representational State Transfer) advocates that web applications should use HTTP as it was originally envisioned. Lookups should use GET requests. PUT, POST, and DELETE requests should be used for mutation, creation, and deletion respectively.

REST proponents tend to favor URLs, such as

but the REST architecture does not require these "pretty URLs". A GET request with a parameter

is every bit as RESTful.

Keep in mind that GET requests should never be used for updating information. For example, a GET request for adding an item to a cart

would not be appropriate. GET requests should be idempotent. That is, issuing a request twice should be no different from issuing it once. That's what makes the requests cacheable. An "add to cart" request is not idempotent—issuing it twice adds two copies of the item to the cart. A POST request is clearly appropriate in this context. Thus, even a RESTful web application needs its share of POST requests.

This is taken from the excellent book Core JavaServer faces book by David M. Geary.

@Abhijeet 2015-07-21 04:00:20

Lisiting Available Idempotent Operations: GET(Safe), PUT & DELETE (Exception is mentioned in this link Additional Reference for Safe & Idempotent Methods

@Julian Reschke 2016-05-06 06:16:03

a) the important point about GET is safeness, not idempotence, b) @Abhijeet: RFC 2616 has been obsoleted in 2014; see RF 7230ff.

@vucalur 2017-07-11 13:45:32

PUT, POST, and DELETE requests should be used for creation, mutation, and deletion. Regarding PUT for creation, POST for mutation, or the other way round: I'd be extremely wary of summarizing rules on 'PUT vs. POST' in a one line sentence.

@kushalvm 2017-08-25 07:09:35

@Warlike Chimpanzee 2017-08-27 15:31:14

@kushalvm That academic definition of REST is not used in practice.

@kushalvm 2017-08-27 15:58:07

Not sure what do you mean by academic? Roy fielding didn't have academic concerns alone. Haha. I just hinted at actual meaning. Practices are custom and need based. Hope you are not agreeing to the fact that this is the way REST should be explained. I was stunned to find these explanations after a few years of doing CRUD REST than actual REST.

@HoCo_ 2018-05-03 23:03:30

Effectively we can wonder if a concept is operational since we fail to simple give it a stable and understandable definition for all

@Jaider 2017-10-02 21:23:50

REST defines 6 architectural constraints which make any web service – a true RESTful API.

  1. Uniform interface
  2. Client–server
  3. Stateless
  4. Cacheable
  5. Layered system
  6. Code on demand (optional)

@Roman Vottner 2017-10-02 22:09:46

Fielding added some further rules RESTful APIs/clients have to adhere

@tompark 2009-03-23 17:11:58

I apologize if I'm not answering the question directly, but it's easier to understand all this with more detailed examples. Fielding is not easy to understand due to all the abstraction and terminology.

There's a fairly good example here:

Explaining REST and Hypertext: Spam-E the Spam Cleaning Robot

And even better, there's a clean explanation with simple examples here (the powerpoint is more comprehensive, but you can get most of it in the html version): or

After reading the examples, I could see why Ken is saying that REST is hypertext-driven. I'm not actually sure that he's right though, because that /user/123 is a URI that points to a resource, and it's not clear to me that it's unRESTful just because the client knows about it "out-of-band."

That xfront document explains the difference between REST and SOAP, and this is really helpful too. When Fielding says, "That is RPC. It screams RPC.", it's clear that RPC is not RESTful, so it's useful to see the exact reasons for this. (SOAP is a type of RPC.)

@coder_tim 2012-02-01 19:19:02

cool links, thanks. I'm tired of these REST guys that say some example is not "REST-ful", but then refuse to say how to change the example to be REST-ful.

@Krishna Ganeriwal 2017-08-29 11:55:15

This is very less mentioned everywhere but the Richardson's Maturity Model is one of the best methods to actually judge how Restful is one's API. More about it here:

Richardson's Maturity Model

@Roman Vottner 2017-10-02 22:21:52

If you look at the constraints Fielding put on REST you will clearly see that an API needs to have reached Layer 3 of the RMM in order to be viewed as RESTful, though this is simply not enough actually as there are still enough possibilities to fail the REST idea - the decoupling of clients from server APIs. Sure, Layer 3 fulfills the HATEOAS constraint but it is still easy to break the requirements and to couple clients tightly to a server (i.e. by using typed resources)

@lokesh 2016-06-03 11:35:49

REST === HTTP analogy is not correct until you do not stress to the fact that it "MUST" be HATEOAS driven.

Roy himself cleared it here.

A REST API should be entered with no prior knowledge beyond the initial URI (bookmark) and set of standardized media types that are appropriate for the intended audience (i.e., expected to be understood by any client that might use the API). From that point on, all application state transitions must be driven by client selection of server-provided choices that are present in the received representations or implied by the user’s manipulation of those representations. The transitions may be determined (or limited by) the client’s knowledge of media types and resource communication mechanisms, both of which may be improved on-the-fly (e.g., code-on-demand).

[Failure here implies that out-of-band information is driving interaction instead of hypertext.]

@CybeX 2017-10-02 19:06:25

doesn't answer the question as wel as the others, but +1 for information that is relevant!

@inf3rno 2018-12-08 08:08:31

I think this answers the question too, but for example statelessness is missing from it. Every constraint is important... The standard media type part is not always true. I mean there are layers of understanding. For example if you use RDF, then the media type can be understood, but the meaning of the content not. So the client needs to know the vocabulary as well. Some people are experimenting with this kind of REST APIs and a general REST vocab to describe hyperlinks, etc.

@Kal 2017-03-31 03:12:53

Here is my basic outline of REST. I tried to demonstrate the thinking behind each of the components in a RESTful architecture so that understanding the concept is more intuitive. Hopefully this helps demystify REST for some people!

REST (Representational State Transfer) is a design architecture that outlines how networked resources (i.e. nodes that share information) are designed and addressed. In general, a RESTful architecture makes it so that the client (the requesting machine) and the server (the responding machine) can request to read, write, and update data without the client having to know how the server operates and the server can pass it back without needing to know anything about the client. Okay, cool...but how do we do this in practice?

  • The most obvious requirement is that there needs to be a universal language of some sort so that the server can tell the client what it is trying to do with the request and for the server to respond.

  • But to find any given resource and then tell the client where that resource lives, there needs to be a universal way of pointing at resources. This is where Universal Resource Identifiers (URIs) come in; they are basically unique addresses to find the resources.

But the REST architecture doesn’t end there! While the above fulfills the basic needs of what we want, we also want to have an architecture that supports high volume traffic since any given server usually handles responses from a number of clients. Thus, we don’t want to overwhelm the server by having it remember information about previous requests.

  • Therefore, we impose the restriction that each request-response pair between the client and the server is independent, meaning that the server doesn’t have to remember anything about previous requests (previous states of the client-server interaction) to respond to a new request. This means that we want our interactions to be stateless.

  • To further ease the strain on our server from redoing computations that have already been recently done for a given client, REST also allows caching. Basically, caching means to take a snapshot of the initial response provided to the client. If the client makes the same request again, the server can provide the client with the snapshot rather than redo all of the computations that were necessary to create the initial response. However, since it is a snapshot, if the snapshot has not expired--the server sets an expiration time in advance--and the response has been updated since the initial cache (i.e. the request would give a different answer than the cached response), the client will not see the updates until the cache expires (or the cache is cleared) and the response is rendered from scratch again.

  • The last thing that you’ll often here about RESTful architectures is that they are layered. We have actually already been implicitly discussing this requirement in our discussion of the interaction between the client and server. Basically, this means that each layer in our system interacts only with adjacent layers. So in our discussion, the client layer interacts with our server layer (and vice versa), but there might be other server layers that help the primary server process a request that the client does not directly communicate with. Rather, the server passes on the request as necessary.

Now, if all of this sounds familiar, then great. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which defines the communication protocol via the World Wide Web is an implementation of the abstract notion of RESTful architecture (or an instance of the REST class if you're an OOP fanatic like me). In this implementation of REST, the client and server interact via GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc., which are part of the universal language and the resources can be pointed to using URLs.

@pbreitenbach 2009-07-04 05:47:13

This is what it might look like.

Create a user with three properties:

POST /user

The server responds:

200 OK
Location: /user/123

In the future, you can then retrieve the user information:

GET /user/123

The server responds:

200 OK

To modify the record (lname and age will remain unchanged):

PATCH /user/123

To update the record (and consequently lname and age will be NULL):

PUT /user/123

@CyberFonic 2012-02-01 22:09:41

For me this answer captured the essence of the desired answer. Simple and pragmatic. Granted there are lots of other criteria, but the example provided is a great launch pad.

@Nicholas Shanks 2013-01-31 09:43:18

In the last example, @pbreitenbach uses PUT fname=Jonny. This would set lname and age to default values (probably NULL or the empty string, and integer 0), because a PUT overwrites the whole resource with data from the representation provided. This is not what is implied by "update", to do a real update, use the PATCH method as this does not alter fields which are not specified in the representation.

@DanMan 2013-02-16 19:58:38

Nicholas is right. Also, the URI for the first POST creating a user should be called users because /user/1 makes no sense and there should be a listing at /users. The response should be a 201 Created and not just OK in that case.

@Radmation 2018-06-26 22:11:08

This is just an example of an API not necessarily a RESTful api. A RESTful has constraints it adheres to. Client-Server Architecture, Stateless, Cache-ability, Layered System, Uniform Interface.

@Himanshu Ahuja 2019-01-03 19:45:21

Thats a very compact answer that covered all http servlet access methods

@kalin 2017-01-13 14:02:03

This is amazingly long "discussion" and yet quite confusing to say the least.


1) There is no such a thing as restful programing, without a big joint and lots of beer :)

2) Representational State Transfer (REST) is an architectural style specified in the dissertation of Roy Fielding. It has a number of constraints. If your Service/Client respect those then it is RESTful. This is it.

You can summarize(significantly) the constraints to :

  • stateless communication
  • respect HTTP specs (if HTTP is used)
  • clearly communicates the content formats transmitted
  • use hypermedia as the engine of application state

There is another very good post which explains things nicely.

A lot of answers copy/pasted valid information mixing it and adding some confusion. People talk here about levels, about RESTFul URIs(there is not such a thing!), apply HTTP methods GET,POST,PUT ... REST is not about that or not only about that.

For example links - it is nice to have a beautifully looking API but at the end the client/server does not really care of the links you get/send it is the content that matters.

In the end any RESTful client should be able to consume to any RESTful service as long as the content format is known.

@D.Shawley 2009-03-22 19:37:57

RESTful programming is about:

  • resources being identified by a persistent identifier: URIs are the ubiquitous choice of identifier these days
  • resources being manipulated using a common set of verbs: HTTP methods are the commonly seen case - the venerable Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete becomes POST, GET, PUT, and DELETE. But REST is not limited to HTTP, it is just the most commonly used transport right now.
  • the actual representation retrieved for a resource is dependent on the request and not the identifier: use Accept headers to control whether you want XML, HTTP, or even a Java Object representing the resource
  • maintaining the state in the object and representing the state in the representation
  • representing the relationships between resources in the representation of the resource: the links between objects are embedded directly in the representation
  • resource representations describe how the representation can be used and under what circumstances it should be discarded/refetched in a consistent manner: usage of HTTP Cache-Control headers

The last one is probably the most important in terms of consequences and overall effectiveness of REST. Overall, most of the RESTful discussions seem to center on HTTP and its usage from a browser and what not. I understand that R. Fielding coined the term when he described the architecture and decisions that lead to HTTP. His thesis is more about the architecture and cache-ability of resources than it is about HTTP.

If you are really interested in what a RESTful architecture is and why it works, read his thesis a few times and read the whole thing not just Chapter 5! Next look into why DNS works. Read about the hierarchical organization of DNS and how referrals work. Then read and consider how DNS caching works. Finally, read the HTTP specifications (RFC2616 and RFC3040 in particular) and consider how and why the caching works the way that it does. Eventually, it will just click. The final revelation for me was when I saw the similarity between DNS and HTTP. After this, understanding why SOA and Message Passing Interfaces are scalable starts to click.

I think that the most important trick to understanding the architectural importance and performance implications of a RESTful and Shared Nothing architectures is to avoid getting hung up on the technology and implementation details. Concentrate on who owns resources, who is responsible for creating/maintaining them, etc. Then think about the representations, protocols, and technologies.

@ellisbben 2012-02-01 19:50:55

An answer providing a reading list is very appropriate for this question.

@D.Shawley 2012-02-01 23:30:14

Thanks for the update. PUT and POST don't really map one-to-one with update and create. PUT can be used to create if the client is dictating what the URI will be. POST creates if the server is assigning the new URI.

@epitka 2013-09-16 15:20:27

Don't forget PATCH.

@brianary 2014-03-27 23:58:07

URIs? Is anyone using URNs to implement REST services?

@D.Shawley 2014-03-30 14:45:37

A URN is a URI that uses the urn: scheme. Conceptually there is no difference; however, a URN does require that you have a separately defined method to "locate" the resource identified (named) by the URN. Care must be taken to ensure that you don't introduce implicit coupling when relating named resources and their location.

@minghua 2014-07-03 16:23:26

I've been reading about restful and trying to practice restful principals in embedded systems whenever needed for years. This answer is the best so far I've seen. It's concise, precise, right to the point. Awesome!

@Philip Couling 2014-09-10 12:56:12

@ellisbben Agreed. If I understand correctly this is the dissertation that gave rise to REST:

@Krishna Shetty 2014-11-27 09:34:23

One doubt on this point: "the actual representation retrieved for a resource is dependent on the request and not the identifier: use HTTP Accept headers to control whether you want XML, HTTP, or even a Java Object representing the resource" --Here, should it be "...whether you want XML, HTML, or even a Java Object representing the resource..." I am thinking that HTTP Accept headers tells the format for data exchanged. And HTTP is the protocol used in RESTel web APIs

@weiheng 2015-12-20 09:12:27

Besides, resources manipulation request should be stateless, and response with common HTTP code.

@Elijah Lynn 2016-08-03 12:36:22

May I convince you to replace all mentions of 'verb' with 'method'. The specifications (RFC2616 and so forth) do not use the term 'verb' anywhere, only method. I will also pose the question: Are the methods 'OPTIONS' and 'HEAD' verbs?

@Espen 2016-11-02 19:27:32

PUT is to put something at a specific resource, meaning that the user knows where to put it, it can Create or Update. POST is to Create a new resource, and you expect to get back a link to the resource.

@jhegedus 2017-01-01 13:07:33

"maintaining the state in the object and representing the state in the representation" - its not clear what is "object" ? where does it live ? server? client?

@Ashraf.Shk786 2017-02-18 12:39:49

Also, refer this link for some more information

@ACV 2016-08-24 17:57:29

There is not such notion as "RESTful programming" per se. It would be better called RESTful paradigm or even better RESTful architecture. It is not a programming language. It is a paradigm.

From Wikipedia:

In computing, representational state transfer (REST) is an architectural style used for web development.

@kkashyap1707 2016-08-01 06:42:41

What is API Testing?

API testing utilizes programming to send calls to the API and get the yield. It testing regards the segment under test as a black box. The objective of API testing is to confirm right execution and blunder treatment of the part preceding its coordination into an application.


REST: Representational State Transfer.

  • It’s an arrangement of functions on which the testers performs requests and receive responses. In REST API interactions are made via HTTP protocol.
  • REST also permits communication between computers with each other over a network.
  • For sending and receiving messages, it involves using HTTP methods, and it does not require a strict message definition, unlike Web services.
  • REST messages often accepts the form either in form of XML, or JavaScript Object Notation (JSON).

4 Commonly Used API Methods:-

  1. GET: – It provides read only access to a resource.
  2. POST: – It is used to create or update a new resource.
  3. PUT: – It is used to update or replace an existing resource or create a new resource.
  4. DELETE: – It is used to remove a resource.

Steps to Test API Manually:-

To use API manually, we can use browser based REST API plugins.

  1. Install POSTMAN(Chrome) / REST(Firefox) plugin
  2. Enter the API URL
  3. Select the REST method
  4. Select content-Header
  5. Enter Request JSON (POST)
  6. Click on send
  7. It will return output response

Steps to Automate REST API

@therealprashant 2016-08-05 07:17:26

this is not even a proper answer

@qmckinsey 2014-12-06 06:54:24

Talking is more than simply exchanging information. A Protocol is actually designed so that no talking has to occur. Each party knows what their particular job is because it is specified in the protocol. Protocols allow for pure information exchange at the expense of having any changes in the possible actions. Talking, on the other hand, allows for one party to ask what further actions can be taken from the other party. They can even ask the same question twice and get two different answers, since the State of the other party may have changed in the interim. Talking is RESTful architecture. Fielding's thesis specifies the architecture that one would have to follow if one wanted to allow machines to talk to one another rather than simply communicate.

@GowriShankar 2014-11-10 13:37:27

REST stands for Representational state transfer.

It relies on a stateless, client-server, cacheable communications protocol -- and in virtually all cases, the HTTP protocol is used.

REST is often used in mobile applications, social networking Web sites, mashup tools and automated business processes. The REST style emphasizes that interactions between clients and services is enhanced by having a limited number of operations (verbs). Flexibility is provided by assigning resources (nouns) their own unique universal resource indicators (URIs).

Introduction about Rest

@inf3rno 2013-11-22 22:49:13

The answer is very simple, there is a dissertation written by Roy Fielding.]1 In that dissertation he defines the REST principles. If an application fulfills all of those principles, then that is a REST application.

The term RESTful was created because ppl exhausted the word REST by calling their non-REST application as REST. After that the term RESTful was exhausted as well. Nowadays we are talking about Web APIs and Hypermedia APIs, because the most of the so called REST applications did not fulfill the HATEOAS part of the uniform interface constraint.

The REST constraints are the following:

  1. client-server architecture

    So it does not work with for example PUB/SUB sockets, it is based on REQ/REP.

  2. stateless communication

    So the server does not maintain the states of the clients. This means that you cannot use server a side session storage and you have to authenticate every request. Your clients possibly send basic auth headers through an encrypted connection. (By large applications it is hard to maintain many sessions.)

  3. usage of cache if you can

    So you don't have to serve the same requests again and again.

  4. uniform interface as common contract between client and server

    The contract between the client and the server is not maintained by the server. In other words the client must be decoupled from the implementation of the service. You can reach this state by using standard solutions, like the IRI (URI) standard to identify resources, the HTTP standard to exchange messages, standard MIME types to describe the body serialization format, metadata (possibly RDF vocabs, microformats, etc.) to describe the semantics of different parts of the message body. To decouple the IRI structure from the client, you have to send hyperlinks to the clients in hypermedia formats like (HTML, JSON-LD, HAL, etc.). So a client can use the metadata (possibly link relations, RDF vocabs) assigned to the hyperlinks to navigate the state machine of the application through the proper state transitions in order to achieve its current goal.

    For example when a client wants to send an order to a webshop, then it have to check the hyperlinks in the responses sent by the webshop. By checking the links it founds one described with the The client know the vocab, so it understands that by activating this hyperlink it will send the order. So it activates the hyperlink and sends a POST message with the proper body. After that the service processes the message and responds with the result having the proper HTTP status header, for example 201 - created by success. To annotate messages with detailed metadata the standard solution to use an RDF format, for example JSON-LD with a REST vocab, for example Hydra and domain specific vocabs like or any other linked data vocab and maybe a custom application specific vocab if needed. Now this is not easy, that's why most ppl use HAL and other simple formats which usually provide only a REST vocab, but no linked data support.

  5. build a layered system to increase scalability

    The REST system is composed of hierarchical layers. Each layer contains components which use the services of components which are in the next layer below. So you can add new layers and components effortless.

    For example there is a client layer which contains the clients and below that there is a service layer which contains a single service. Now you can add a client side cache between them. After that you can add another service instance and a load balancer, and so on... The client code and the service code won't change.

  6. code on demand to extend client functionality

    This constraint is optional. For example you can send a parser for a specific media type to the client, and so on... In order to do this you might need a standard plugin loader system in the client, or your client will be coupled to the plugin loader solution.

REST constraints result a highly scalable system in where the clients are decoupled from the implementations of the services. So the clients can be reusable, general just like the browsers on the web. The clients and the services share the same standards and vocabs, so they can understand each other despite the fact that the client does not know the implementation details of the service. This makes possible to create automated clients which can find and utilize REST services to achieve their goals. In long term these clients can communicate to each other and trust each other with tasks, just like humans do. If we add learning patterns to such clients, then the result will be one or more AI using the web of machines instead of a single server park. So at the end the dream of Berners Lee: the semantic web and the artificial intelligence will be reality. So in 2030 we end up terminated by the Skynet. Until then ... ;-)

@Suresh Gupta 2013-07-25 09:05:19

What is REST?

REST in official words, REST is an architectural style built on certain principles using the current “Web” fundamentals. There are 5 basic fundamentals of web which are leveraged to create REST services.

  • Principle 1: Everything is a Resource In the REST architectural style, data and functionality are considered resources and are accessed using Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs), typically links on the Web.
  • Principle 2: Every Resource is Identified by a Unique Identifier (URI)
  • Principle 3: Use Simple and Uniform Interfaces
  • Principle 4: Communication is Done by Representation
  • Principle 5: Be Stateless

@mendez7 2019-03-10 21:59:38

What does Communication is Done by Representation mean?

@kenorb 2014-06-15 19:02:17

RESTful (Representational state transfer) API programming is writing web applications in any programming language by following 5 basic software architectural style principles:

  1. Resource (data, information).
  2. Unique global identifier (all resources are unique identified by URI).
  3. Uniform interface - use simple and standard interface (HTTP).
  4. Representation - all communication is done by representation (e.g. XML/JSON)
  5. Stateless (every request happens in complete isolation, it's easier to cache and load-balance),

In other words you're writing simple point-to-point network applications over HTTP which uses verbs such as GET, POST, PUT or DELETE by implementing RESTful architecture which proposes standardization of the interface each “resource” exposes. It is nothing that using current features of the web in a simple and effective way (highly successful, proven and distributed architecture). It is an alternative to more complex mechanisms like SOAP, CORBA and RPC.

RESTful programming conforms to Web architecture design and, if properly implemented, it allows you to take the full advantage of scalable Web infrastructure.

@Ravi 2012-11-18 20:46:20

What is REST?

REST stands for Representational State Transfer. (It is sometimes spelled "ReST".) It relies on a stateless, client-server, cacheable communications protocol -- and in virtually all cases, the HTTP protocol is used.

REST is an architecture style for designing networked applications. The idea is that, rather than using complex mechanisms such as CORBA, RPC or SOAP to connect between machines, simple HTTP is used to make calls between machines.

In many ways, the World Wide Web itself, based on HTTP, can be viewed as a REST-based architecture. RESTful applications use HTTP requests to post data (create and/or update), read data (e.g., make queries), and delete data. Thus, REST uses HTTP for all four CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) operations.

REST is a lightweight alternative to mechanisms like RPC (Remote Procedure Calls) and Web Services (SOAP, WSDL, et al.). Later, we will see how much more simple REST is.

Despite being simple, REST is fully-featured; there's basically nothing you can do in Web Services that can't be done with a RESTful architecture. REST is not a "standard". There will never be a W3C recommendataion for REST, for example. And while there are REST programming frameworks, working with REST is so simple that you can often "roll your own" with standard library features in languages like Perl, Java, or C#.

One of the best reference I found when I try to find the simple real meaning of rest.

@Chaklader Asfak Arefe 2019-02-12 17:15:49

This is a really concise answer. Can you also describe why the REST is called stateless?

@oluies 2010-10-16 21:24:42

A great book on REST is REST in Practice.

Must reads are Representational State Transfer (REST) and REST APIs must be hypertext-driven

See Martin Fowlers article the Richardson Maturity Model (RMM) for an explanation on what an RESTful service is.

Richardson Maturity Model

To be RESTful a Service needs to fulfill the Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State. (HATEOAS), that is, it needs to reach level 3 in the RMM, read the article for details or the slides from the qcon talk.

The HATEOAS constraint is an acronym for Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State. This principle is the key differentiator between a REST and most other forms of client server system.


A client of a RESTful application need only know a single fixed URL to access it. All future actions should be discoverable dynamically from hypermedia links included in the representations of the resources that are returned from that URL. Standardized media types are also expected to be understood by any client that might use a RESTful API. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

REST Litmus Test for Web Frameworks is a similar maturity test for web frameworks.

Approaching pure REST: Learning to love HATEOAS is a good collection of links.

REST versus SOAP for the Public Cloud discusses the current levels of REST usage.

REST and versioning discusses Extensibility, Versioning, Evolvability, etc. through Modifiability

@lcn 2014-12-09 19:49:34

I think this answer touches the key point of understanding REST: what does the word representational mean. Level 1 - Resources says about state. Level 2 - HTTP Verbs says about transfer (read change). Level 3 - HATEOAS says driving future transfers via representation (JSON/XML/HTML returned), which means you've got known how to say the next round of talk with the information returned. So REST reads: "(representational (state transfer))", instead of "((representational state) transfer)".

@Brent Bradburn 2018-02-08 22:41:37

@Marcus Thornton 2013-07-25 08:36:40

REST is a distributed systems (such as WWW) software architecture style, you can imagine that it is a well-designed Web application rules: a group of Internet Web pages (a virtual state machine), in which hyperlink by clicking link (state transition), the result is the next Web page (which means the next state of the application).

REST describes the network system consists of three parts:

  1. data elements (resource, resource identifier, representation)
  2. connectors (client, server, cache, resolver, tunnel)
  3. components (origin server, gateway, proxy, user agent)

REST strictly meet the following conditions:

  1. Status of the application functionality is split into resources
  2. Each resource used as hyperlinks positioning syntax (ie, in the WWW URI)
  3. All resources share a uniform interface between the client with the resource transition state, including:
    1. A limited set of well-defined operations (ie in HTTP GET / POST / PUT / DELETE)
    2. A limited set of content format content types, which may include executable code (ie, in the WWW Javascript)

@osa 2013-10-08 17:12:50

The question was to explain without buzz-words, and here we have "data elements", "connectors", "components", "positioning syntax", "operations". Besides, you start by saying that REST is a design style. Then you say that REST is not a style but a group of pages in which the result of clicking a link is another web page (what else can it be?) After that, it turns out, REST is not a group of pages but a description of some network system, and this description has to "meet some conditions". And I still cannot wrap my brain around "Status of the application functionality is split into resources"

@Benoit Essiambre 2012-02-01 23:52:15

The point of rest is that if we agree to use a common language for basic operations (the http verbs), the infrastructure can be configured to understand them and optimize them properly, for example, by making use of caching headers to implement caching at all levels.

With a properly implemented restful GET operation, it shouldn't matter if the information comes from your server's DB, your server's memcache, a CDN, a proxy's cache, your browser's cache or your browser's local storage. The fasted, most readily available up to date source can be used.

Saying that Rest is just a syntactic change from using GET requests with an action parameter to using the available http verbs makes it look like it has no benefits and is purely cosmetic. The point is to use a language that can be understood and optimized by every part of the chain. If your GET operation has an action with side effects, you have to skip all HTTP caching or you'll end up with inconsistent results.

@osa 2013-10-08 17:14:47

"Saying that Rest is just a syntactic change... makes it look like it has no benefits and is purely cosmetic" --- that's exactly why I am reading answers here on SO. Note that you did not explain, why REST is not purely cosmetic.

@suing 2012-02-01 21:20:21

REST is an architectural pattern and style of writing distributed applications. It is not a programming style in the narrow sense.

Saying you use the REST style is similar to saying that you built a house in a particular style: for example Tudor or Victorian. Both REST as an software style and Tudor or Victorian as a home style can be defined by the qualities and constraints that make them up. For example REST must have Client Server separation where messages are self-describing. Tudor style homes have Overlapping gables and Roofs that are steeply pitched with front facing gables. You can read Roy's dissertation to learn more about the constraints and qualities that make up REST.

REST unlike home styles has had a tough time being consistently and practically applied. This may have been intentional. Leaving its actual implementation up to the designer. So you are free to do what you want so as long as you meet the constraints set out in the dissertation you are creating REST Systems.


The entire web is based on REST (or REST was based on the web). Therefore as a web developer you might want aware of that although it's not necessary to write good web apps.

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