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If you have a website that interacts with customers, you’ll hear people talking about using REST APIs. Understanding what they are and why they are important is crucial to running your business correctly. In this article, we’re going to spend some time explaining exactly what a REST API is, why you probably want it for your website, and its ability to communicate with the outside world.

REST API Definition

REST stands for Representational State Transfer. That sounds complex, but it really isn’t. An API is a product or program that sends information back and forth between a website or app and its user. It does it in the background, where you don’t notice it working. That said, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t make it any less mission crucial for your site.

A REST API generally uses HTTP to accomplish this mission. While doing so, it breaks the request down into very small packets of information that are sent back and forth.

Because it is designed in HTTP, it can handle a large variety of data formats including XML, JSON, YAML and others. This is an advantage over SOAP APIS, which can only handle XML data formats.

All requests sent through REST APIs are stateless. That means they remember nothing from the exchange. They simply get the data, send it back, and then forget about it. This is helpful in making the transactions secure for your users.

This makes them ideal to use if you are doing anything involving the Cloud. You simply send your request to the cloud, get the data you need and send it back. It also allows the requests to scale up as much as they need to without becoming overloaded.

What Is The Difference Between A REST API And An API?

A REST API is simply one of the many types of APIs out there. All APIs send data back and forth. A REST API is simply constructed to handle multiple formats of data. It is not locked into XML as the only code it can handle.

REST APIs are more complex to design than other forms of APIs. That said, they are considerably more robust and likely to be longer lasting. In general if you are looking for an API for your website or app you probably want a RESTful one.

What Is A RESTful API?

To put it simply, a RESTful API is simply one that uses the REST format to transfer data back and forth.

Because it’s not tied to resources or methods, it can handle many different types of requests and return multiple data formats. This is clearly to your advantage. Even if you are only requesting one type of data today, you have the availability to request different types of data in the future.

It’s this flexibility that will make REST APIs the future of the Internet. Data request types are constantly changing. RESTful APIs can adapt to that change fairly easily.

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