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REST API for Dummies

REST API - the term has recently become very popular, yet its meaning still remains a mystery for many business users. Even though it is often considered to be too technical and complex, the truth is, that anyone can understand how REST API works.

To really get the hang of it, let’s break the term down into two parts and first look into each one separately. Let us start with an API.API stands for Application Programming Interface and is used to define the form of interaction between different graphical user interface components. In its essence, an API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools, designed to simplify the process of developing software applications by providing the building blocks necessary.

There are many different types of APIs for various systems and apps. Most major operating environment providers and, nowadays, even websites have an API or sometimes the whole set of APIs, allowing programmers to build applications consistent with their solutions.

One of the good examples is Windows OS, which provides a number of APIs, used by system hardware and software. Most of us come across and take advantage of those APIs on a daily basis, often without even realizing it. Such a common task as copy-pasting a piece of text from one application to another is accomplished with the help of API.

Retrieving the necessary information from a particular API is possible through creating a request or “calling” that API. To avoid the abuse and not overwhelm the API with requests, many open APIs have limitations on some times people can make a call.

If you would like to learn more about the topic, feel free to look through our previous article Why Do You Need an API.

Now let’s move on to the second part of the term and talk about what REST means.

REST is an acronym for Representational State Transfer - a software architectural style, namely a set of principles for designing networked applications.

In most cases RESTful applications (or those that comply to REST principles) use HTTP requests to post, read and delete the data. Thus, REST uses HTTP for all four CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) operations.

The idea behind REST is to provide a lightweight, yet the fully-featured alternative to such complex technologies as CORBA, RPC or SOAP.REST has several architectural constraints you should be aware of:

  • Decouples consumers from producers (client-server);
  • Stateless existence;
  • Cacheable;
  • Uses a layered system;
  • Leverages a uniform interface;
  • Provides code on demand (optional).

All in all, REST represents a very basic idea of a Web architecture that can expand the functionality of the app using a minimal amount of data and a well defined mechanism.

Now let’s go back to the concept of REST API and see how the two terms work together.

Basically, an API can be considered RESTful if it complies with the rest constraints, i.e. the client and server can be replaced independently of each other, clients can cache response, no client data is stored on the server between requests, etc.

Conforming to these constraints enables any kind of distributed hypermedia system to have desirable resulting characteristics, such as performance, scalability, simplicity, dependability, and mobility.

Thanks to this, REST API serves as an exceptional integration method that provides a way for data to be sent from one system to another.

Here at Data2CRM.API we use REST API to ensure reliable data interaction between various business apps and 12+ powerful CRM solutions. All of the methods we use are well written and accessible for you to try out through our comprehensive documentation. If you are interested in the service and would like to learn more, feel free to schedule a free consultation with our expert.

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