REST in Practice: Hypermedia and Systems Architecture

Category: Programming
Author: Jim Webber, Savas Parastatidis, Ian Robinson
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by anonymous   2019-07-21

A great book on REST is REST in Practice.

Must reads are Representational State Transfer (REST) and REST APIs must be hypertext-driven

See Martin Fowlers article the Richardson Maturity Model (RMM) for an explanation on what an RESTful service is.

Richardson Maturity Model

To be RESTful a Service needs to fulfill the Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State. (HATEOAS), that is, it needs to reach level 3 in the RMM, read the article for details or the slides from the qcon talk.

The HATEOAS constraint is an acronym for Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State. This principle is the key differentiator between a REST and most other forms of client server system.


A client of a RESTful application need only know a single fixed URL to access it. All future actions should be discoverable dynamically from hypermedia links included in the representations of the resources that are returned from that URL. Standardized media types are also expected to be understood by any client that might use a RESTful API. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

REST Litmus Test for Web Frameworks is a similar maturity test for web frameworks.

Approaching pure REST: Learning to love HATEOAS is a good collection of links.

REST versus SOAP for the Public Cloud discusses the current levels of REST usage.

REST and versioning discusses Extensibility, Versioning, Evolvability, etc. through Modifiability

by anonymous   2019-07-21

For supporting both native applications on mobile devices and Web browsers I would recommend a REST API (also called Web API, or Hypermedia API). While there are many resource online, if you are new to this, I would recommend reading a book first. Try "Rest in Practice" by Jim Weber

Here is a good forum to ask pragmatic REST questions:


by anonymous   2019-07-21

Atom is a syndication format that can be used by applications employing ReSTful communication through hypermedia. It's very good for publication of feeds, which is not only for blogs but can also be used in distributed applications (for example, for publishing events to other parts of a system) to utilise the benefits of HTTP (caching, scalability, etc) and the decoupling involved in using REST.

elements in Atom are called link relations and can indicate to the consumer of the feed a number of things:

  • rel="self" normally indicates that the current element (in your case, the feed itself) represents an actual resource, and this is the URI for that resource
  • rel="via" can identify the original source of the information in the feed or the entry within the feed
  • rel="alternate" specifies a link to an alternative representation of the same resource (feed or entry)
  • rel="enclosure" can mean that the linked to resource is intended to be downloaded and cached, as it may be large
  • rel="related" indicates the link is related to the current feed or entry in some way
  • A provider of ATOM could also specify their own reasons for a link to appear, and provide a custom rel value

By providing links to related resources in this way you can decouple systems - the only URI the system needs to know about is 1 entry point, and from then on other actions are provided to the consumer via these link relations. The links effectively tell the consumer that they can use these links to either take actions on or retrieve data for the entry they are related to.

A great book I can recommend for REST which goes into depth about Atom is REST in Practice by Jim Webber, Savas Parastatidis and Ian Robinson.

by anonymous   2017-08-20

I would recommend viewing the presentations about REST API first and find some talks on Youtube:

  • API design and more
  • Implementing a RESTful API with Ruby

Most useful gems at current moment:

  • rails-api
  • rabl
  • goliath
  • sinatra

And don't forget Grape.

If you want to go deeper in the area, next books will help you with that:

by anonymous   2017-08-20

Inspect the return value, if it's not null, return some representation of it as a 200 OK response. Otherwise, return a 404 Not Found. In the end, you would have a controller like:

public ResponseEntity<?> getOne(...) {
    Something something = repository.findOne(...);
    if (something == null)
        return ResponseEntity.notFound().build();

    return ResponseEntity.ok(something);

You can refactor the preceding code to incorporate Java 8's Optional<T>, as JB Nizet mentioned in the comments. Basically, Optional<T> is just a container that may or may not hold a value of type T. You can use this type as the return type of Spring Data JPA methods, something like the following:
public interface SomethingRepository extends CrudRepository<Something, Long> {
    Optional<Something> findById(Long id);

Then define one exception for 404 Not Found:

public class NotFoundException extends RuntimeException {}

If you throw an exception of type NotFoundException in your controllers, Spring MVC's exception resolver would catch that exception and convert it to a 404 Not Found HTTP response.

Finally your controller would be like:

public Something getOne(...) {
    return repository.findById(id).orElseThrow(NotFoundException::new);

For more detailed discussions on:
  • Spring Data JPA's Optional<T> support, read here.
  • Spring MVC's exception resolvers, read here.
  • Java 8's Optional<T>, read here.
  • REST best practices, you can check out the REST in Practice book.
by anonymous   2017-08-20

The best place for you is book from Jim Webber "REST in Practice: Hypermedia and Systems Architecture"

In book is a special chapter for that - Chapter 11 "The Web and WS-*".

When you are writting thesis about REST than this book is must have for you.

by anonymous   2017-08-20


I understand the main idea of REST is extremely simple. We have used web browsers for years and we have seen how easy, flexible, performing, etc web sites are. HTML sites use hyperlinks and forms as the primary means of user interaction. Their main goal is to allow us, clients, to know only those links that we can use in the current state. And REST simply says 'why not use the same principles to drive computer rather than human clients through our application?' Combine this with the power of the WWW infrastructure and you'll get a killer tool for building great distributed applications.

Another possible explanation is for mathematically thinking people. Each application is basically a state machine with business logic actions being state transitions. The idea of REST is to map each transition onto some request to a resource and provide clients with links representing transitions available in the current state. Thus it models the state machine via representations and links. This is why it's called REpresentational State Transfer.

It's quite surprising that all answers seem to focus either on message format, or on HTTP verbs usage. In fact, the message format doesn't matter at all, REST can use any one provided that the service developer documents it. HTTP verbs only make a service a CRUD service, but not yet RESTful. What really turns a service into a REST service are hyperlinks (aka hypermedia controls) embedded into server responses together with data, and their amount must be enough for any client to choose the next action from those links.

Unfortunately, it's rather difficult to find correct info on REST on the Web, except for the Roy Fielding's thesis. (He's the one who derived REST). I would recommend the 'REST in Practice' book as it gives a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial on how to evolve from SOAP to REST.


This is one of the possible forms of RPC (remote procedure call) architecture style. In essence, it's just a technology that allows clients call methods of server via service boundaries (network, processes, etc) as if they were calling local methods. Of course, it actually differs from calling local methods in speed, reliability and so on, but the idea is that simple.


The details like transport protocols, message formats, xsd, wsdl, etc. don't matter when comparing any form of RPC to REST. The main difference is that an RPC service reinvents bicycle by designing it's own application protocol in the RPC API with the semantics that only it knows. Therefore, all clients have to understand this protocol prior to using the service, and no generic infrastructure like caches can be built because of proprietary semantics of all requests. Furthermore, RPC APIs do not suggest what actions are allowed in the current state, this has to be derived from additional documentation. REST on the other hand implies using uniform interfaces to allow various clients to have some understanding of API semantics, and hypermedia controls (links) to highlight available options in each state. Thus, it allows for caching responses to scale services and making correct API usage easily discoverable without additional documentation.

In a way, SOAP (as any other RPC) is an attempt to tunnel through a service boundary treating the connecting media as a black box capable of transmitting messages only. REST is a decision to acknowledge that the Web is a huge distributed information system, to accept the world as is and learn to master it instead of fighting against it.

SOAP seems to be great for internal network APIs, when you control both the server and the clients, and while the interactions are not too complex. It's more natural for developers to use it. However, for a public API that is used by many independent parties, is complex and big, REST should fit better. But this last comparison is very fuzzy.


My experience has unexpectedly shown REST development to be more difficult than SOAP. At least for .NET. While there are great frameworks like ASP.NET Web API, there's no tooling that would automatically generate client-side proxy. Nothing like 'Add Web Service Reference' or 'Add WCF Service Reference'. One has to write all serialization and service querying code by hand. And man, that's lots of boilerplate code. I think REST development needs something similar to WSDL and tooling implementation for each development platform. In fact, there seems to be a good ground: WADL or WSDL 2.0, but neither of the standards seems to be well-supported.

Update (Jan 2016)

Turns out there is now a wide variety of tools for REST API definition. My personal preference is currently RAML.

How Web Services work

Well, this is a too broad question, because it depends on the architecture and technology used in the specific web service. But in general, a web service is simply some application in the Web that can accept requests from clients and return responses. It's exposed to the Web, thus it's a web service, and it's typically available 24/7, that's why it's a service. Of course, it solves some problem (otherwise why would someone ever use a web service) for its clients.

by anonymous   2017-08-20

A calculator service would be simple to model in a RESTful manner. The "R" in "CRUD" stands for "read", and there's no reason that "read" can't also mean "compute". So a simple Reverse Polish calculator service could be accessed via GET:


The URI scheme above simply adds three parameters to the GET request:

+ (URL-encoded as %2B)

That's an idempotent, safe and cacheable request. If this was an insanely complicated math query that took many minutes to compute I could route these queries to an out-of-the-box HTTP proxy and use it to instantly return any pre-computed values should the same URI be queried repeatedly.

Depending on the kinds of calculations you need to do, you could also POST a very complex query to a Calculator resource (passing in the query as the request body) and the server might return the URI to a "result" resource, which you can then GET to retrieve the results, and even paginate through them.

Secondly, what is the real advantage of using REST over SOAP if the logic of SOAP already makes complete sense?

I can access the above calculator service using a command-line tool like curl without building a complex piece of SOAP. I can code calls to it in seconds without having to use any third-party XML library or SOAP toolkit. I can use commodity tools like HTTP proxies to cache results and improve performance. I don't have to worry about SOAP interoperability or check for WS-I compatibility. If I use hyperlinks correctly then I can evolve and improve my service without affecting existing clients or having them to even recompile. There's no WSDL to version and no brittle contract which I have to maintain for years. The clients already know what GET/PUT/POST/DELETE do and I don't have to redefine or re-document their semantics. API clients that decide they'd prefer JSON instead of XML can get it using HTTP's inbuilt content-negotiation feature. I can do absolutely zero of these things with SOAP and Web Services.

Hey, if SOAP fits your needs, have at it. There are many benefits to using REST but they might not be appropriate to your situation. At the very least, learn about what REST can give you with a decent book like this one and then make your mind up after getting the full story.