I don’t get REST

October 25, 2008

I thought I understood REST to mean “Name your nouns with unique URLs and use HTTP verbs to modify and access them.” I learned this through Ruby on Rails blogs and books when REST was the fad du jour. I remember thinking that all the explanations I could find of REST were too complex and that it was a simple idea at its core. I didn’t understand why the complexity was there but I didn’t think too much about it.

Along came an article from REST’s inventor expressing frustration at things being called REST when they don’t match his definition.

It appears that “REST” is a word with two distinct meanings. One meaning is as described above. I’m not alone, as others use the same interpretation. Roy T. Fielding holds the other meaning. It’s clear that there are deep ideas and subtleties in what Roy originally meant by REST. It’s also clear that Roy has difficulty communicating these ideas. Some evidence: The comments on the blog post, a link on Hacker News, Sam Ruby’s take. I certainly don’t understand Roy’s comments and I can’t even say whether or not Roy’s REST is actually coherent.

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