What is a RESTful API?
21 Aug

What is a RESTful API: Benefits and Authentication Methods

Mahipal Nehra

What is a RESTful API: Benefits and Authentication Methods. In today’s interconnected world full of web, desktop, and mobile applications, sharing data between systems has become the base of service diversity and functionality. However, one key player that has transformed data communication and sharing is none-other than Application Programming Interface (API).

APIs come in different forms which can be difficult for a newbie to understand. We have already discussed the basics and types of APIs in our previous blogs. So, here we are going to focus on RESTful APIs.

What is an API?

An application programming interface or API refers to a set of protocols and definitions that is used by developers to develop and integrate applications. APIs allow services to communicate with other tools and services without having to know the way they were implemented.

Read: What is API Testing, Types & Benefits

APIs focus on reducing development costs and time while simplifying the process. APIs are almost everywhere around us, whether you are completing eCOmmerce transactions, using a rideshare app, doing third-party login, or checking whether the app you are knowingly or unknowingly using an API. When you use any of the mentioned applications, they send data to the server over the internet where the server interprets the data, performs required actions, and sends back the response to your device. This data is then interpreted by the application and presented to you in a readable format.

Read: Principles of Web API Design

What is a RESTful API?

REST API or Representational State Transfer defines the architectural style used to design networked apps. A RESTful API adheres to REST principles, making it an efficient and standardized method to develop, deploy, and handle web services.

Read: Microservices vs API

The key principle that RESTful APIs follows are:

  • Statelessness: Each request from the client to the server must contain all the necessary information for the server to fulfill it. The server doesn't store any client state, enhancing reliability and simplifying communication.

  • Client-Server Architecture: In RESTful API, the client and server are separate entities that allow for better maintenance and scalability of the app.

  • Caching: By caching server responses, you can reduce redundant requests and improve performance.

  • Uniform Interface: RESTful APIs offer a continuous way to interact with resources through HTTP methods such as GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE.

  • Layered System: It allows multiple-layer server architecture where no component can see past the immediate layer they are interacting with, improving the flexibility, modularity, scalability, and maintainability of the app.

  • Code on Demand: Mostly, a server returns static resource representation in JSON or XML form but when needed servers can also send executable code to the users.

Read: API VS Web Services VS Microservices

Benefits of RESTful APIs

Some of the advantages that come from using RESTful APIs are as follows:

  • Simplicity and Ease of Use

  • Scalability and Performance

  • Flexibility and Compatibility

  • Modularity and Reusability

  • Statelessness and Cacheability

  • Security and Authentication

  • Reduced Development Time

  • Global Reach and Accessibility

Simplicity and Ease of Use

One of the main advantages of RESTful APIs is the simplicity and ease of use it offers. It allows developers to simply use HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE to make the learning curve shallow. Using the standard HTTP methods and status codes leads to ease of implementation.

Scalability and Performance

As RESTful APIs are designed to be scalable, they can handle large amounts of requests without compromising the app's performance. Also, the stateless nature of REST, where all the needed information is added to each request, promotes scalability through efficient resource allocation and load balancing.

Flexibility and Compatibility

With RESTful APIs comes incredible compatibility and flexibility that allows them to communicate with a wider range of clients, like mobile devices, web browsers, and other apps. It also supports different data formats like JSON and XML that suit the client's preferences.

Modularity and Reusability

Developers can create easier-to-update and manage APIs by breaking down functionalities into smaller, manageable resources. This modularity also allows the team to collaborate more effectively as developers can work on certain parts of the API individually.

Statelessness and Cacheability

The Statelessness of the RESTful API simplifies server management while improving reliability. The server does not need to store client information which enhances the server’s ability to handle multiple requests and recover from failure simultaneously. Also, response caching improves the performance of the app by minimizing the need for redundant requests.

Security and Authentication

To secure a RESTful API, developers can use different authentication methods like OAuth, API Keys, Tokens, etc. It ensures that only verified and authenticated users or applications can access data or perform certain actions on the app. RESTful APIs also have SSL or TLS transport layers for added security measures.

Reduced Development Time

RESTful APIs significantly reduce development time by providing a standardized approach to communication. Developers can leverage existing APIs or create new ones quickly, accelerating the overall development process. This efficiency is particularly valuable when building complex applications that require integration with multiple services.

Global Reach and Accessibility

RESTful APIs enable applications to have a global reach, as they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This accessibility makes it possible for businesses to offer their services to a worldwide audience, expanding their user base and market potential.

Read: Best Practices for Testing APIs

What is a RESTful API

Authentication Methods for RESTful APIs

It is a must for RESTful APIs to authenticate the request before sending a response to verify client identity.

Read: API Development Cost

A few common methods used for RESTful APIs authentication are:

  • HTTP Authentication: HTTP authentication includes two schemes basic authentication and bearer authentication that can be implemented into the RESTful API. Here, the basic authentication of the user name and password of the user is sent in the request center; while in the bearer auth where the access control is given to the token barrier.

  • API Keys: In this approach, multiple uniquely created values get assigned to the first-time client, and each time the client tries to access resources, the unique API key would be used to verify the client's identity.

  • OAuth: It is the method that blends tokens and passwords while securing system access. OAuth can check the token at any time with a certain spoke or longevity.

FAQs: What is a RESTful API

What does RESTful mean in API?

RESTful or Representational State Transfer API is an application programming interface that uses HTTP requests to send, access, or use data.

What are the principles of a RESTful API?

The principles or architectural constraints of RESTful APIs are statelessness, client-server decoupling, caching, uniform interface, layered system architecture, and code on demand.

What are the four types of API?

Beyond understanding the types and principles of RESTful APIs, implementing them effectively requires expert API Integration Services. Such services ensure seamless communication between different software systems, enhancing functionality and user experience by leveraging the full potential of RESTful APIs in your applications. Partnering with professionals in API integration can significantly streamline the process, ensuring that your application's architecture is both robust and efficient.

APIs can be broadly divided into Private APIs, Public APIs, Partner APIS, and Composite APIs.

Posted by Mahipal Nehra | Posted at 21 Aug, 2023 Web