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SOAP vs REST And Why We Choose REST For Our APIs

SOAP and REST are both ways of accessing web services. But, while SOAP is a protocol, REST is an architectural style. This means SOAP cannot use REST, but it can be used by REST as the underlying protocol for web services. Another big difference between these two approaches is that SOAP uses a standardized set of messaging patterns to perform different operations, whereas REST simply accesses data. Although REST and SOAP aren’t exactly the same, developers can use either SOAP or REST to achieve the same results. Developers usually use these approaches to build different types of APIs (Application Programming Interface)

While SOAP was once the dominant design model for web services, most APIs today use REST because of its impressive benefits. The rise in the popularity of REST is evident from the fact that in 2017, around 83% of APIs were REST-based, while only 15% of APIs were using SOAP [1].

At apilayer, all of our wide range of APIs (geolocation api, userstack, poistionstack, coinlayer, and a lot more) are also REST-based. And in this article, we’ll share with you all the top reasons why REST is the right option for your APIs. But first, let’s discuss what SOAP and REST are.

What is SOAP?

SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. It is a messaging protocol that is designed to exchange structured information between computers using XML (Extensible Markup Language).

Microsoft originally developed SOAP in response to the shortcomings of old technologies like DCOM and CORBA that don’t work well over the internet. With the introduction of SOAP, apps built on different platforms using different languages could communicate. However, since SOAP is a protocol, it also has multiple built-in rules.

What is REST?

REST or REpresentational State Transfer is an architectural style, not a protocol, where requests are made using a simple URL. In REST, a unique URL identifies only one resource. REST-based APIs support four different HTTP – GET, POST, PUT or DELETE to perform different tasks.

When you use REST, you can implement the client and server code independently from each other. This means you can change the client-side code at any time without affecting the server-side operations and vice versa. Additionally, REST-based systems are stateless. This means that the client-side does not need to know anything about the state of the server and vice versa.

Why Use REST for Your APIs?

Does REST Supports Multiple Data Formats?

SOAP only supports XML, whereas REST permits a wide range of data formats, including HTML, JSON, XML, plain text, etc. This is one of the most liked features of REST because when you use JSON instead of XML, you get a number of benefits – JSON is super lightweight, faster, and human-readable/easy to read and understand, etc. This means with REST, you can get the output in the format you want (JSON, CSV, HTML, etc.), and that it is easy to parse within the programming language your app is using.

Is REST is Easier to Use?

REST is much easier to use compared to SOAP. This is one of the reasons why tech giants like Google and Amazon have moved their APIs to REST. For instance, when you’re working with SOAP in JavaScript, you have to write a lot of code to perform even simple tasks because it requires creating XML structure every time you perform a task. SOAP also involves built-in rules, which makes it more complex.

On the other hand, REST usually requires using a simple URL to make requests instead of using complex XML. Although you sometimes need to provide additional information, most REST-based web services exclusively use the URL approach. Additionally, REST involves resource-based operations, and it can use four HTTP (GET, PUT, POST, DELETE), which makes it easier to work with.

Is REST is Simpler and Faster?

Another reason why REST is now more popular than SOAP is because of its simplicity and quick responses. With REST, you can make quick requests with a simple HTTP GET call and get a fast response in return. It’s because REST doesn’t require much bandwidth – when you’re using JSON with REST, the size of JSON messages is a lot smaller compared to SOAP messages, so it requires less processing time. Additionally, REST/JSON responses are simple and very easy to understand and read.

In REST, requests are also independent of each other. On the other hand, SOAP is stateful. This means, in SOAP-based services, you need to maintain a stateful connection with a client, which is much more complex. This makes working and testing with REST easier and simpler as compared to working with SOAP.

Does REST has Better Support for Browser Clients?

As REST permits the use of JSON, it offers better support for browser clients. It’s because JSON sets a standardized way of consuming API payloads, which allows you to take advantage of its connection with browser and JavaScript.

Since JSON offers a wide variety of supported browser compatibility, you don’t need to put much effort into making your apps (created with JSON) browser compatible.

Is REST is Easier to Learn?

REST has a small learning curve, which means anyone can learn and start working with it quickly. It involves simple HTTP like GET, POST, etc., and basic CRUD (Create, read, update and delete) operations, making it easy to learn and document. Additionally, you can use REST with JSON, which is super easy to understand. On the other hand, if you use SOAP, you have to understand XML, which is a bit more difficult to understand, especially when compared to JSON.

Does REST Save Time?

It is easier to integrate REST with existing websites as it doesn’t require much effort in refactoring the site infrastructure. This allows developers to add functionality quickly instead of spending time rewriting the entire site from scratch. REST is also more economical as it doesn’t require any high-end tools to interact with web services.

Want to see how REST APIs work? Head over to apilayer and try any of its REST-based APIs today to see for yourself why REST is a better choice for your APIs.


[1] https://blog.dreamfactory.com/soap-vs-rest-apis-understand-the-key-differences/


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