Tuesday, December 24, 2013

REST Anti-Patterns

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When people start trying out REST, they usually start looking around for examples – and not only find a lot of examples that claim to be “RESTful”, or are labeled as a “REST API”, but also dig up a lot of discussions about why a specific service that claims to do REST actually fails to do so.

Why does this happen? HTTP is nothing new, but it has been applied in a wide variety of ways. Some of them were in line with the ideas the Web’s designers had in mind, but many were not. Applying REST principles to your HTTP applications, whether you build them for human consumption, for use by another program, or both, means that you do the exact opposite: You try to use the Web “correctly”, or if you object to the idea that one is “right” and one is “wrong”: in a RESTful way. For many, this is indeed a very new approach.

The usual standard disclaimer applies: REST, the Web, and HTTP are not the same thing; REST could be implemented with many different technologies, and HTTP is just one concrete architecture that happens to follow the REST architectural style. So I should actually be careful to distinguish “REST” from “RESTful HTTP”. I’m not, so let’s just assume the two are the same for the remainder of this article.

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