REpresentational State Transfer

David Scheibel
3 min readJun 25, 2021

REST, or REpresentational State Transfer, is an architectural style for providing standards between computer systems on the web, making it easier for systems to communicate with each other. REST-compliant systems, often called RESTful systems, are characterized by how they are stateless and separate the concerns of client and server. We will go into what these terms mean and why they are beneficial characteristics for services on the Web.

Index is our method to look at or fetch our overall database resource. We use this method to view all members of the same class/resource. Without this basic resource it’s nearly impossible to call any of the others.

Separation of Client and Server

In the REST architectural style, the implementation of the client and the implementation of the server can be done independently without each knowing about the other. This means that the code on the client side can be changed at any time without affecting the operation of the server, and the code on the server side can be changed without affecting the operation of the client.

As long as each side knows what format of messages to send to the other, they can be kept modular and separate. Separating the user interface concerns from the data storage concerns, we improve the flexibility of the interface across platforms and improve scalability by simplifying the server components. Additionally, the separation allows each component the ability to evolve independently.

By using a REST interface, different clients hit the same REST endpoints, perform the same actions, and receive the same responses.

Statelessness

Systems that follow the REST paradigm are stateless, meaning that the server does not need to know anything about what state the client is in and vice versa. In this way, both the server and the client can understand any message received, even without seeing previous messages. This constraint of statelessness is enforced through the use of resources, rather than commands. Resources are the nouns of the Web — they describe any object, document, or thing that you may need to store or send to other services.

Because REST systems interact through standard operations on resources, they do not rely on the implementation of interfaces.

These constraints help RESTful applications achieve reliability, quick performance, and scalability, as components that can be managed, updated, and reused without affecting the system as a whole, even during operation of the system.

Now, we’ll explore how the communication between the client and server actually happens when we are implementing a RESTful interface.

HTTP Verbs

There are 4 basic HTTP verbs we use in requests to interact with resources in a REST system:

  • GET — retrieve a specific resource (by id) or a collection of resources
  • POST — create a new resource
  • PUT — update a specific resource (by id)
  • DELETE — remove a specific resource by id

You can learn more about these HTTP verbs in the following Codecademy article:

Paths

Requests must contain a path to a resource that the operation should be performed on. In RESTful APIs, paths should be designed to help the client know what is going on.

Conventionally, the first part of the path should be the plural form of the resource. This keeps nested paths simple to read and easy to understand.

A path like fashionboutique.com/customers/223/orders/12 is clear in what it points to, even if you’ve never seen this specific path before, because it is hierarchical and descriptive. We can see that we are accessing the order with id 12 for the customer with id 223.

Paths should contain the information necessary to locate a resource with the degree of specificity needed. When referring to a list or collection of resources, it is not always necessary to add an id. For example, a POST request to the fashionboutique.com/customers path would not need an extra identifier, as the server will generate an id for the new object.

If we are trying to access a single resource, we would need to append an id to the path. For example: GET fashionboutique.com/customers/:id — retrieves the item in the customers resource with the id specified. DELETE fashionboutique.com/customers/:id — deletes the item in the customers resource with the id specified.

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David Scheibel

Software Engineering student at the FlatIron School