In this article, I am going to share the best practices and the advantages of REST APIs, as I am working with a team on a REST-based web application. Newsdata.io news API is a REST-based API that fetches news data from thousands of news websites in JSON format. Therefore, I have a basic understanding of REST APIs that I am going to share with you.
What is an API?
API is an abbreviation for Application Programming Interface. It is a software interface that allows two applications to communicate with one another without the need for user intervention.
APIs enable a product or service to communicate with other products and services without requiring knowledge of how they are implemented.
It facilitates communication between the provider and the client. It is a type of software interface that provides a service to other programs. An API specification is a document or standard that describes how to build or use such a connection or interface.
An API is said to be implemented or exposed by a computer system that meets this standard. API can refer to either the specification or the implementation.
What is a Web Service?
A Web service is a set of open protocols and standards for exchanging data between systems or applications.
Software applications are written in a variety of programming languages and run on a variety of platforms. It enables the use of web services to exchange data across computer networks.
- A web service is a collection of open-source protocols and standards that are used to exchange data between systems or applications, whereas an API is a software interface that allows two applications to interact with each other without the need for user intervention.
- Web services are used for REST, SOAP, and XML-RPC communication, whereas APIs are used for any communication style.
- The HTTP protocol is supported by web services only, whereas the HTTP/HTTPS protocol is supported by APIs.
- The web service supports XML, whereas the API supports both XML and JSON.
- Web services are all APIs, but not all APIs are web services.
Types of Web Services
Web services should be deployed in a variety of ways. SOAP and RESTful web services are the two most common types of web services.
*SOAP *— SOAP is a protocol that existed prior to the introduction of REST. The main motivation for developing SOAP was to ensure that programs written in various platforms and programming languages could securely exchange data.
*REST *— This was created specifically for working with media components, files, or even objects on a specific hardware device. A RESTful web service is any web service that adheres to the REST principles. For working with the required components, REST employs the standard HTTP verbs GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE.
REST aims to improve performance, scalability, simplicity, modifiability, visibility, portability, and reliability. This is accomplished by adhering to REST principles such as client-server architecture, statelessness, cacheability, the use of a layered system, code-on-demand support, and the use of a uniform interface.
Advantages of REST-based APIs
REST eliminates many of SOAP’s drawbacks, such as the requirement for clients to understand operation semantics as a precondition for using it, or the use of different ports for different types of notifications. Furthermore, REST can handle a large number of resources, whereas SOAP requires a large number of operations to accomplish this.
REST has the following advantages:
- It is usually simple to construct and modify.
- Low resource utilization.
- Process instances are explicitly created.
- The client does not need routing information with the initial URI.
- For notifications, clients can use a generic ‘listener’ interface.
Best Practices for Rest API
While developing and testing Rest API, I will highlight best practices for both developers and testers.
API Endpoint Naming
The names of the endpoints should be referred to as nouns, and their actions should be referred to as methods.
If you use verbs with nouns like ‘CreateUser,’ ‘DeleteUser,’ and ‘GetUser,’ you will generate a large number of endpoints.
Assuming you have the ‘/users’ endpoint, you should specify it as follows:
- To create a user — /users with post action
- To fetch user details — /users with GET action It will also aid in the reduction of documentation maintenance for API endpoints.
Exposing Minimum Permissions and Using Correct Methods
Always grant the bare minimum of permissions to an endpoint. For example, if an API endpoint is only used to receive or fetch information, do not add any additional API level PUT or POST methods to plan for the future.
Using Proper Versioning in API
1. Standard HTTP status codes
REST API, as we know, is built on top of the HTTP protocol. It is always preferable to use a unified standard response status so that all team members are on the same page.
2. Validation on the API level
Endpoints should always be validated using both positive and negative scenarios.
If you’ve created an endpoint, always try to reach it by changing the method and name of its action. Send requests with no mandatory fields in the body.
3. Proper response messages and error handling
It all boils down to providing users with the correct HTTP status code. If the error occurs on the client-side, it should always fall into the 4xx class. If an error occurs on the server, it should always be in the 5xx class.
If you send a request URL that does not exist on the server, it should always return a 404 with a proper log message. If you call an endpoint with an invalid action type, it should always return a 405 with the correct message in the response body and not expose the stack trace.
4. Considering security aspects
To protect the server from DDoS attacks, it is always beneficial to limit the number of requests from a single host. Use a secure authorization and authentication mechanism, as well as the HTTPS protocol, at all times. If you’re going to use a JWT token in your project, make sure it doesn’t contain any sensitive client data.
Having API documentation for your project is extremely beneficial. To be an effective engineer, you must ensure that everything is properly documented. Swagger and Slate are commonly used for API documentation as best practices.
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