10 Sep 2022
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Challenges & Future of REST in Modern Tech Landscape

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By Tyrone Showers
Co-Founder Taliferro


Like other promising technologies, I confidently state that REST will soon head to the technological graveyard. Why? The use of REST is based on opinions instead of rules. I don't understand how REST turned into such a mishmash of divergent technologies when there is a well-documented thesis written on the subject. We are in an era where loose interpretation of REST confuses companies trying to implement the architectural style.


The REST technology leaders are dictating the market direction of REST on faulty material or hearsay. If only I had a nickel for every time someone said my arguments on proper REST architecture are academic, I would be rich. When people mention REST API, I automatically know they have no clue about REST. The sad part is that this term is repeated on site after site, blog after blog.

Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface


This ill-conceived grouping of acronyms, I predict, will bury REST.

An architectural style developed initially for exploiting the Internet for data access turned into a mechanism for creating functional interfaces is a sure sign that REST soon be extinct Technology extinction usually occurs when there is a complete misunderstanding of an architecture's intent. Unfortunately, REST is now used as another buzz acronym to pad resumes.

REST is simply an architectural style developed to transfer data in a usable fashion utilizing HTTP.

The evidence of REST implementation lies in the verbs used and their usage similarity to the database domain. Create, Retrieve, Update, and Delete in the database domain. POST, GET, PUT, and DELETE in the HTTP domain.

How much more evidence is needed to convey that REST is for data, not interfaces and function calls? Nevertheless, market leaders force-fit REST as the new SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). I surmise this is because most of the architects are former SOAP architects. The SOAP architects are using analogies they are most familiar with – SOAP.

SOAP is not REST.

SOAP is functional.

REST is data.

Regrettably, we will never see implementations that reflect the academic argument because the market drivers have already dictated that REST is the new SOAP. Consequently, REST extinction in 5 years or fewer is possible; unless the IT industry reevaluates its understanding of Roy Fielding's academic thesis as intended in real-world applications.

In 2000, a guy named Roy Thomas Fielding wrote a dissertation on Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures.

Part of the dissertation (Chapter 5) started to receive significant attention from software developers around 2008. This section of the dissertation was about how to use standard web practices to access data representations over the Internet.

One of the efforts was to emulate data (objects). Roy thought it made sense to use the Internet's URL hierarchal pattern (the slashes in a URL representing a path to the web page or resource) to emulate inherent hierarchal data relationships.


Chapter 5 of the thesis is now the new hot mobile and internet architectural style that seems to have many interpretations and misconceptions.

You can't imagine how many arguments I've witnessed interpreting what Roy's thesis means.

The misconceptions are so heated and nasty that some of the biggest and most recognizable companies have bastardized and misinterpreted the concepts.

The interpretations of Roy's dissertation have become so convoluted that anyone with a Computer Science degree before 1990 would be thoroughly confused by just looking at what the acronyms stood for -

API (Application Programming Interface) and REST (Representational State Transfer) - and trying to draw a parallel on how they are being used today, how they seem to be used interchangeably and how such a tight association has been formed.

I'll try and clarify REST, how APIs and REST are not the same, how you should approach a REST project and some best practices for creating an extensible REST infrastructure.

Client Server

The first constraint that Roy Fielding put on REST was the client/server constraint. The client/server constraint separates the concern of processing instructions. For example, computer systems operate more efficiently, focusing on specific tasks.

In the client/server paradigm, the user interface is separate from where data resides and how the data should be processed. Thus a client focuses all computer processing power on how the screen looks to a user and doesn't concern itself with the accuracy of the information it displays.


When you type a web address in your browser, that address is a pointer of information. If you like the information you see in the web browser, chances are you want to create a reference or a bookmark. The bookmark allows you to return to the same address in another period for the same information.

The Internet consists of dynamic content and static content.

Dynamic content is built on the fly when a user visits a URL.

Static content is content that doesn't change (usually).

This concept is essential to understand so you can grasp the idea of stateless.

When a URL address (web/internet resource) is stateless, the address you are referencing is not dependent on any previous action. Stateless web resources can be called at any time with the expectation that its current “state” is not reliant on any other activity.

A dynamic web address is stateful and requires additional information from some previous action to understand what type of content to create.

An excellent example of a stateful URL is an Internet shopping cart. When purchasing an item on the Internet, you enter your name, address, and payment associated with an object. Once all the information is gathered a confirmation page displays. During each data entry screen, the information you put in must be passed from one screen to the other. Otherwise, there would be no way of determining what you ordered or where to send the item. Thus, a stateful mechanism (a session) keeps your information nicely organized so that as you proceed from one page to the next, the current “state” of the order process is known.

In REST, a URL should be stateless. The web resource URL being asked for by your browser or some program does not require a session or any additional information to access the information being requested. The web resource URL is static, meaning you always have the most current copy of data based on the never changing URL.


Another constraint Roy Fielding mentions is that the resource should be storable in a web browser or application program's cache. By being cacheable, the resource can be bookmarked for later retrieval.

The combination of a web resource being stateless and cacheable provides a benefit to programs and web browser to expedite processing, reduce read write conflicts, reduce the reliance on an Internet connection, reduce bandwidth usage, reduce server load, make applications scalable which improves overall network efficiency.

Uniform Interface

A common doctrine among software development efforts is to have a standard interface. Architecture is simplified, and visibility between software and data is enhanced.

Decoupling responsibilities encourages independence.

Today, developers don't want to accept decoupled responsibility and are unwilling accept degradation in efficiency. This trade-off is bastardizing REST and creating these one and two off REST scenarios, which make nothing more than a server application with a URL pointer.

As Roy Fielding states, “In order to obtain a uniform interface, multiple architectural constraints are needed to guide the behavior of components. 5.1.5 Uniform Interface.”

Layered System

The layered architecture allows software designers to encapsulate code and logic to a specific domain, thus isolating the developers and users from the underlying complexity of software. Layering software does have its drawbacks in that latency begins to creep in, slowing down once nimble systems.

When layers are used, the effort is to encapsulate legacy software, isolating deeper layers and legacy clients. This layering simplifies software collections and systems by moving infrequently used responsibilities to a standard broker.

A brokering mechanism is used to improve system scalability. Brokering provides load balancing across networks.

Code On Demand

The last constraint Roy Fielding speaks of is the optional code on demand concept.

Code on demand “allows client functionality to be extended by downloading and executing code in the form of applets or scripts. This simplifies clients by reducing the number of features required to be pre-implemented. It allows features to be downloaded after deployment and improves system extensibility. However, it also reduces visibility, and thus is only an optional constraint within REST”.

I'm glad Mr. Fielding made this an optional constraint, especially in light of how technology has changed and continues to evolve.

Applets downloaded onto a client for execution via HTTP requests are all but extinct since the advent of Apps via mobile phones and tablets.

Another reason I'm glad this constraint is optional is that depending on the context, security, and privacy issues, the constraint may not be viable.

However, what saddens me is how REST development has ignored this fundamental principle, and instead of having applications run on the client, they are running on the server, defeating the purpose of distributed processing.


Distributed processing is the intent of this optional constraint, however, the industry has disguised the old CGI paradigm with URL pointers to applications running on the server and calling it REST.

This is NOT REST and is NOT a principle of the REST architectural style.

Tyrone Showers