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Representational State Transfer

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Representational State Transfer (REST) is a style of software architecture for distributed hypermedia systems such as the World Wide Web. The term Representational State Transfer (REST) was introduced and defined in 2000 by Roy Fielding[1][2] in his doctoral dissertation. Fielding is one of the principal authors of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) specification versions 1.0 and 1.1.

Conforming to the REST constraints is often referred to as being ‘RESTful’.

Concept Edit

REST-style architectures consist of clients and servers. Clients initiate requests to servers; servers process requests and return appropriate responses. Requests and responses are built around the transfer of representations of resources. A resource can be essentially any coherent and meaningful concept that may be addressed. A representation of a resource is typically a document that captures the current or intended state of a resource.

At any particular time, a client can either be transitioning between application states or "at rest". A client in a rest state is able to interact with its user, but creates no load and consumes no per-client storage on the set of servers or on the network.

The client begins sending requests when it is ready to transition to a new state. While one or more requests are outstanding, the client is considered to be transitioning states. The representation of each application state contains links that may be used next time the client chooses to initiate a new state transition.[3]

REST was initially described in the context of HTTP, but is not limited to that protocol. RESTful architectures can be based on other application layer protocols if they already provide a rich and uniform vocabulary for applications based on the transfer of meaningful representational state. RESTful applications maximize the use of the pre-existing, well-defined interface and other built-in capabilities provided by the chosen network protocol, and minimize the addition of new application-specific features on top of it.

HTTP examples Edit

HTTP, for example, has a very rich vocabulary in terms of verbs (or 'methods'), URIs, request and response headers, Internet media types, HTTP request and response codes etc. REST over HTTP works with and enhances these existing features, and thus allows existing layered proxy and gateway components to perform additional functions on the network such as HTTP caching and security enforcement.

SOAP RPC over HTTP, on the other hand, encourages each application designer to define a new and arbitrary vocabulary of nouns and verbs, usually overlaid onto the HTTP 'POST' verb. This disregards many of HTTP's existing capabilities such as authentication, caching, content type negotiation, etc. and may leave the application designer re-inventing many of these features within the new vocabulary.

Constraints Edit

The REST architectural style describes the following six constraints applied to the architecture, while leaving the implementation of the individual components free to design:

Clients are separated from servers by a uniform interface. This separation of concerns means that, for example, clients are not concerned with data storage, which remains internal to each server, so that the portability of client code is improved. Servers are not concerned with the user interface or user state, so that servers can be simpler and more scalable. Servers and clients may also be replaced and developed independently, as long as the interface is not altered.
The client-server communication is further constrained by no client context being stored on the server between requests. Each request from any client contains all of the information necessary to service the request, and any state is held in the client. This not only makes servers more visible for monitoring, but also makes them more reliable in the face of partial or network failures as well as further enhancing their scalability.
As on the World Wide Web, clients are able to cache responses. Responses must therefore, implicitly or explicitly, define themselves as cacheable or not to prevent clients reusing stale or inappropriate data in response to further requests. Well-managed caching partially or completely eliminates some client-server interactions, further improving scalability and performance.
Layered system
A client cannot ordinaril tell whether it is connected directly to the end server, or to an intermediary along the way. Intermediary servers may improve system scalability by enabling load balancing and by providing shared caches. They may also enforce security policies.
Code on demand (optional)
Servers are able temporarily to extend or customize the functionality of a client by transferring logic to it that it can execute. Examples of this may include compiled components such as Java applets and client-side scripts such as JavaScript.
Uniform interface
The uniform interface between clients and servers, discussed below, simplifies and decouples the architecture, which enables each part to evolve independently. The four guiding principles of this interface are detailed below.

The only optional constraint of REST architecture is code on demand. If a service violates any other constraint, it cannot strictly be referred to as RESTful.

Complying with these constraints, and thus conforming to the REST architectural style, will enable any kind of distributed hypermedia system to have desirable emergent properties, such as performance, scalability, simplicity, modifiability, visibility, portability and reliability.

Key goals Edit

Key goals of REST include:

REST has been applied to describe the desired Web architecture, helped to identify existing problems, to compare alternative solutions, and to ensure that protocol extensions would not violate the core constraints that make the Web successful.

RESTful web services Edit

A RESTful web service (also called a RESTful web API) is a simple web service implemented using HTTP and the principles of REST. It is a collection of resources, with three defined aspects:

  • the base URI for the web service, such as
  • the MIME type of the data supported by the web service. This is often JSON, XML or YAML but can be any other valid MIME type.
  • the set of operations supported by the web service using HTTP methods (e.g., POST, GET, PUT or DELETE).

The following table shows how the HTTP verbs are typically used to implement a web service.

RESTful Web Service HTTP methods
Collection URI, such as List the members of the collection, complete with their member URIs for further navigation. For example, list all the cars for sale. Meaning defined as "replace the entire collection with another collection". Create a new entry in the collection where the ID is assigned automatically by the collection. The ID created is usually included as part of the data returned by this operation. Meaning defined as "delete the entire collection".
Element URI, such as Retrieve a representation of the addressed member of the collection expressed in an appropriate MIME type Update the addressed member of the collection or create it with the specified ID. Treats the addressed member as a collection in its own right and creates a new subordinate of it. Delete the addressed member of the collection.


Unlike SOAP-based web services, there is no "official" standard for RESTful web service.[5] This is because REST is an architecture, unlike SOAP, which is a protocol. Even though REST is not a standard, a RESTful implementation such as the Web can use standards like HTTP, URL, XML, PNG, etc.

References Edit

  1. Chapter 5 of Fielding's dissertation is "Representational State Transfer (REST)".
  2. "Fielding discussing the definition of the REST term"
  3. Fielding talks about application states
  4. Richardson, Leonard; Ruby, Sam (2007), RESTful Web Services, O'Reilly (published (May 8, 2007)), ISBN 0596529260
  5. Elkstein, M. What is REST?. Retrieved on 2009-07-04.

External links Edit

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