What Are RESTful Web Services?
Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 8
The Java EE Tutorial

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What Are RESTful Web Services?

RESTful web services are loosely coupled, lightweight web services that are particularly well suited for creating APIs for clients spread out across the internet. Representational State Transfer (REST) is an architectural style of client-server application centered around the transfer of representations of resources through requests and responses. In the REST architectural style, data and functionality are considered resources and are accessed using Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs), typically links on the Web. The resources are represented by documents and are acted upon by using a set of simple, well-defined operations.

For example, a REST resource might be the current weather conditions for a city. The representation of that resource might be an XML document, an image file, or an HTML page. A client might retrieve a particular representation, modify the resource by updating its data, or delete the resource entirely.

The REST architectural style is designed to use a stateless communication protocol, typically HTTP. In the REST architecture style, clients and servers exchange representations of resources by using a standardized interface and protocol.

The following principles encourage RESTful applications to be simple, lightweight, and fast:

  • Resource identification through URI: A RESTful web service exposes a set of resources that identify the targets of the interaction with its clients. Resources are identified by URIs, which provide a global addressing space for resource and service discovery. See The @Path Annotation and URI Path Templates for more information.

  • Uniform interface: Resources are manipulated using a fixed set of four create, read, update, delete operations: PUT, GET, POST, and DELETE. PUT creates a new resource, which can be then deleted by using DELETE. GET retrieves the current state of a resource in some representation. POST transfers a new state onto a resource. See Responding to HTTP Methods and Requests for more information.

  • Self-descriptive messages: Resources are decoupled from their representation so that their content can be accessed in a variety of formats, such as HTML, XML, plain text, PDF, JPEG, JSON, and other document formats. Metadata about the resource is available and used, for example, to control caching, detect transmission errors, negotiate the appropriate representation format, and perform authentication or access control. See Responding to HTTP Methods and Requests and Using Entity Providers to Map HTTP Response and Request Entity Bodies for more information.

  • Stateful interactions through links: Every interaction with a resource is stateless; that is, request messages are self-contained. Stateful interactions are based on the concept of explicit state transfer. Several techniques exist to exchange state, such as URI rewriting, cookies, and hidden form fields. State can be embedded in response messages to point to valid future states of the interaction. See Using Entity Providers to Map HTTP Response and Request Entity Bodies and Extracting Request Parameters in the JAX-RS Overview document for more information.


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