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Figuring out what a REST or RESTful API is sounds difficult. But really, it’s not. If you are involved in web development – or if you are in charge of web developers – you’ll likely to hear people talk about REST APIs. But you might not be sure exactly what they are talking about.

It is mission-critical to know what a RESTful API is and how it can help your website work better. So we are going to take the time and explain exactly what a REST API is and how it makes your site work as well as possible.

What Are RESTful APIs?

RESTful APIs are a type of API that breaks requests into small packets of information. REST stands for Representational State Transfer. They are typically written in HTTP. The other type of API out there is a SOAP API. The main difference between a RESTful API and a SOAP Api is that a SOAP API only deals with XML data. A RESTful API can handle XML, JSON, YAML and other data formats.

That makes RESTful APIs much more adaptable than SOAP APIs.

The other important thing about RESTful APIs is that they are stateless. This means that when send and receiving data they do not keep any of the information about either the user or the site they visited. This makes using them as secure as possible.

The cloud is one of the main reasons to use a RESTful API. You can send a data request to the cloud, have the cloud answer it back and no trace is left behind by the API.

The final important thing to know about RESTful APIs is that they are very scaleable. You won’t risk overloading a system when you use them.

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

A RESTful API is simply one type of API format that it out there. Other API formats exist – particularly SOAP APIs.

An API is simply a program or product that sends information from a user to a website and then back again. Think about going out to dinner. There is you and the kitchen. But you don’t go the kitchen to order. Instead you place your order with the waiter or waitress who goes to the kitchen and then brings you your meal. The waiter or waitress is the API in this scenario.

RESTful APIs take a good deal of work to be done correctly. However their ability to handle all different types of data makes them considerably more robust than a SOAP API. And it will allow them to grow in the future and deal with emerging data types.

New API formats are coming, especially those designed for streaming or asynchronous communications, but more on that another time.

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