Why REST wins over SOAP when it comes to Web Services

Posted by ongraph · April 20, 2017 · 4 Min read

Table of contents

 

What is REST? For what SOAP stands? Why these were formulated and what are their specific features? What are the things that makes them different? If such questions also troubles you while working on APIs Development strategy in your next project, the following write-up will help you clear your doubts.

 

In terms of use cases, we are going to explain and expand around REST and SOAP. Both REST and SOAP are important elements of web services. Let’s start from history and as we know REST was created in academic world, embracing the philosophy of the open Web, while SOAP was conceived by large software development companies with the goal of addressing the needs of the enterprise market.

 

Now it’s easy to compare both protocols and make a choice for yourself in terms of  REST or SOAP on the next API implementation.

 

Let’s first get into REST

 

REST or Representational State Transfer came into light in 2000. Invented by Roy Thomas Fielding, he developed REST in an academic environment based on the philosophy of the open web. Rest makes data available as resources, e.g. user, payments.

Pros:

 

  • REST uses HTTP Verbs such as: GET, POST, PUT, DELETE
  • Relatively easy to implement and maintain
  • Clearly separates client and server implementations
  • Communication isn’t controlled by a single entity
  • Information can be stored by the client to prevent multiple calls
  • Can return data in multiple formats (HTML, JSON, XML, Plain text, PDF etc)
  • Can be consumed by any client, even a web browser with Ajax and Javascript

 

Let’s get into SOAP

 

SOAP originally stood for ‘Simple Object Access Protocol’ and was created in 1998 by a group of individuals collaborating with Microsoft. The use of SOAP by web services conforms to a set of characteristics which make communication between distributed objects possible. SOAP makes data available as services, E.g: getPayments, getBook, getUserInformation, etc.  

 

Pros

 

  • SOAP follows a formal enterprise approach
  • Works on top of any communication protocol, even asynchronously
  • Information about objects is communicated to clients
  • Security and authorization are part of the protocol
  • Can be fully described using WSDL

 

Use-cases Where REST is Better than SOAP

 

With SOAP, it is possible to remotely access and manipulate objects, bust REST is designed to focus on the operations that can be executed on resources.  Due to this variation, public API practitioners have adopted REST actively. As REST inherits operations from HTTP, it’s the most obvious choice when deciding how to open a Web API Development. This thing has influenced all major web companies to use and encourage usage of RESTful APIs.

 

In certain cases like when you do not need to fully map a set of objects to the client, REST is better in every means than SOAP. Communicating object information back and forth can consume a lot of bandwidth, that is possible to limit in environments where connectivity is expensive. API consumed mostly by mobile applications is one of the use-cases where you should avoid SOAP at all costs.  

 

Simplicity: REST protocol is simple than SOAP. REST always wins when compared to SOAP to check how long it takes developers to first interact with your API. What is easier than making an HTTP GET call to a URL and receiving a response in return? Here JSON sets a standardized way of serializing and consuming API payloads and makes things easier. JSON is well connected to JAVASCRIPT Development  and the browser, making the development of API consuming Rich Applications Straightforward.  

 

REST APIs work better in open nature of current Web as it is less restrictive than SOAP. Developers are not worried as much about contracts as they are about an API’s ease-of-use. Since businesses need to adopt change rapidly, thus public APIs change all the time. In this reality of startups and APIs without specific contractual agreements, REST is a natural choice. Using SOAP in this environment would be counter-productive, as it could introduce unnecessary contractual complexity.  

 

Therefore, we can conclude, use REST when need to focus on wide scale API or your API is integrated with mobile apps. Whereas SOAP is best to incorporate when handling transaction operations.

 

Are you using SOAP or REST?  In what way? Leave your comments below to discuss more.

 

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