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A short overview of the main differences between REST and SOAP

If you are a software engineer and you want to formulate an application programming interface (API) delivery strategy, you need to know the major differences between Representational State Transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). So, when do you choose a REST interface over a SOAP interface — and vice versa? SOAP and REST have been proven as two viable options for implementing web services. You need to select between REST and SOAP based on the programming language you use, the environment in which you use it, and the requirements of your application.

SOAP is a protocol and requires the use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) for data structures. SOAP provides loose coupling for integrating diverse systems and it is designed for distributed computing. Given that SOAP is standardized and provides pre-­build extensibility, it can easily align with your enterprise application needs and goals. This interface supports transports other than HTTP, such as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, Java Messaging Service, and Web Services Security (WS­Security) — which supports enterprise security. SOAP is also language, platform, and transport agnostic. Due to SOAP’s maturity in the marketplace, there are a variety of development tools you can use to build both client-­side and server­-sides artifacts for SOAP services. SOAP works well in distributed enterprise environments, while REST assumes direct point­-to-­point communication. If you need stateless CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete) operations, REST is a great choice; however, if an operation needs to be continued, then SOAP may be a better fit.

SOAP works well in distributed enterprise environments, while REST assumes direct point­-to-­point communication

REST is an architectural style. While SOAP relies exclusively on XML to provide messaging services, REST is lightweight and does not require any XML parsing. SOAP uses service interfaces to expose the business logic, but REST uses Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to expose business logic and make a call to a web service:

https : // arameters = xyz

REST uses the HTTP verbs to access and manipulate resources. REST can use four different HTTP 1.1 verbs (i.e. GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE) to perform tasks. REST can also use any type of messaging protocol to structure the data it sends. REST can read and write request response messages in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), XML, or plain HyperText Markup Language (HTML). If you are new to web services, you will notice that REST has a smaller learning curve and is closer to other web technologies in philosophy. REST is ideal for exposing data over the internet and has low bandwidth requirements. However, if you look at enterprise requirements for messaging, you may find SOAP a better fit since it offers high reliability and security. REST only supports HTTP/HTTPS, which is synchronous, but enterprise architects require asynchronous processing to support scalability.

REST may be a better choice for your application if clients and servers operate on a web environment in your application and data about objects in your application does not need to be communicated to the client. However, you should not use REST when your application needs to enforce a strict contract between client and server. REST is also not the ideal approach if your application performs transactions that involve multiple calls. In all these scenarios, SOAP is a better approach. However, you should not adopt SOAP if you want third­-party developers easily use your API or when your bandwidth is limited. Due to these characteristics, REST is typically used for social media services and web chat services such as LinkedIn API. Meanwhile, SOAP is widely used in financial services and payment gateways such as PayPal SOAP API.

You should not adopt SOAP if you want third­-party developers easily use your API or when your bandwidth is limited.

Ultimately, both approaches have advantages and disadvantages in implementing web services and you have to decide which approach may be best for each particular case and addressing your application’s requirements. You can make the most informed decision by writing down your application’s protocol requirements and cross-­reference them with the capabilities and limitations of these two interfaces. Hope you found this article helpful. If you have any specific questions, feel free to comment below. Always happy to help!

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