Understanding the Distinction: REST API vs Web API

Understand the differences between REST API and Web API. Discover their characteristics, functionalities, and best use cases. Make informed choices.

2. Jun 2023
Understanding the Distinction: REST API vs Web API

REST API and Web API are phrases that are widely used interchangeably in the web development industry. But there are slight variations between the two. This article seeks to clarify the differences between REST API and Web API by outlining their traits, features, and ideal application scenarios.

Defining REST API

REST (Representational State Transfer): An architectural design approach called REST outlines a number of limitations for creating networked applications. Scalability, ease of use, and interoperability are highlighted. These concepts serve as the foundation for REST APIs, which allow communication between client apps and servers utilising common HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE.

Key Features of REST API

  • Stateless Communication: Each request that the client makes to the server is fully complete, ensuring independence and scalability.
  • Resource-Based: REST APIs allow clients to access and modify resources that are identifiable by specific URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers).
  • Uniform Interface: To maintain consistency and usability, REST APIs use a standardised set of functions, including HTTP methods and status codes.


Understanding Web API

Web API Overview : A larger phrase, web API, includes many methods for creating APIs for web-based applications. Web API is a more general phrase that incorporates several protocols, including SOAP, XML-RPC, and JSON-RPC, in contrast to REST API, which follows a particular architectural style.

Characteristics of Web API

  • Protocol Flexibility: Depending on the needs of the application, many communication protocols, including as SOAP, XML-RPC, and JSON-RPC, can be used by web APIs.
  • Data Format Flexibility: Different data formats, including XML, JSON, and even bespoke formats, are supported by web APIs for information transmission between the client and server.
  • Extensibility: Beyond the fundamental CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) functions offered by REST APIs, Web APIs enable the freedom to implement extra functionality.


Differentiating REST API and Web API


  • Architecture: REST APIs follow the REST architectural design principles, emphasising resource-based communication and use conventional HTTP techniques.
  • Constraints: REST APIs adhere to a set of rules, including stateless communication and a standard interface.
  • Interoperability: REST APIs place a high priority on system and platform compatibility.



  • Broad Term: The term "Web API" refers to a variety of methods and protocols for creating APIs, such as SOAP, XML-RPC, and JSON-RPC.
  • Flexibility: Web APIs provide flexibility in protocol and data format, enabling developers to select the best solution based on application needs.
  • Extensibility: Beyond the fundamental CRUD activities offered by REST APIs, web APIs can include extra functionality.


Best Use Cases


  • Web and Mobile Applications: Web and mobile apps that need resource-based communication and a standardised method for exchanging data frequently employ REST APIs.
  • Public APIs: REST APIs are frequently used to offer open APIs so that other developers may interface with a product or service.



  • Legacy Systems: In order to interface with legacy systems that demand a specific protocol for communication, web APIs, such as SOAP-based APIs, are frequently used.
  • Enterprise Applications: Enterprise applications that require adaptable protocols and data formats can make use of web APIs.



Although they are commonly used interchangeably, REST API and Web API are two different ideas in the context of web development. The REST architectural approach, which emphasises resource-based communication and standardised processes, is followed by REST API. On the other hand, the phrase "Web API" is more general and encompasses a range of protocols and methods. 


What is REST API?

Representational State Transfer, or REST API, is an architectural design approach for creating networked applications. It facilitates HTTP-standard communication between client applications and servers with a focus on scalability, ease of use, and compatibility.

What is Web API?

The phrase "web API" refers to a broad category of methods for creating APIs for online-based applications. Contrary to REST API, which adheres to a certain architectural design, Web API supports protocols including SOAP, XML-RPC, and JSON-RPC.

What are the key features of REST API?

Stateless communication, resource-based design utilising distinct URIs, and a unified interface using standard HTTP methods and status codes are the characteristics of REST APIs.

What are the characteristics of Web API?

The SOAP, XML-RPC, and JSON-RPC protocols, among others, are only a few of the many communication protocols that are supported by web APIs. Additionally, it offers freedom in data format, supporting formats like XML, JSON, and unique forms. Web APIs can be expanded to include features other than the fundamental CRUD activities.

How does REST API differ from Web API?

Web API is a more general phrase that encompasses a variety of protocols and techniques, whereas REST API adheres to the REST architectural style. Web API gives freedom in terms of protocols and data formats whereas REST API adheres to particular restrictions like stateless communication and a standard interface.

When should I use REST API?

Web and mobile apps that need resource-based communication and standardised data interchange frequently utilise REST API. It is also appropriate for offering open APIs for integration with third parties.

When should I use Web API?

It's common practise to use web APIs, such SOAP-based APIs, to interact with older systems that demand particular protocols. Enterprise applications that require adaptability in protocols and data formats can also use it.

Can a Web API be a REST API?

Yes, if a Web API adheres to the architectural tenets of REST, such as resource-based communication and conventional HTTP methods, it may be implemented as a REST API.

Which API is better: REST API or Web API?

The exact needs of your application will determine whether you should use a REST API or a Web API. While Web API provides greater versatility in terms of protocols and data formats, REST API is preferred for its simplicity, scalability, and compatibility.

Are there other types of APIs besides REST and Web APIs?

There are more API types than REST and Web APIs, like GraphQL APIs, RPC (Remote Procedure Call) APIs, and others. Every kind has unique benefits and use cases depending on certain requirements.


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