REST API: Here’s What You Should Know in 2024

May 21, 2024 | By Sam Pelton
Cartoon representation of computers connecting via a network with a developer sitting at one of the computers programming

When it comes to APIs, sometimes it pays to be RESTful…

REST API is common terminology in the web development world.

But maybe you’re not a developer. Or maybe you’re a new developer. Or maybe you’re just curious to get deeper into the meaning behind some of the terminology you use.

In any case, the question becomes, what does REST API really mean? And why does it matter?

So let’s dig into the nitty gritty of REST API and get your questions answered.

First off, let’s answer the question about what the term “API” itself refers to.

What Is an API?

The term API stands for “application programming interface” and refers to an interface that allows for different pieces of software to connect with each other.

APIs essentially act as intermediaries enabling different software components to "talk" to each other and share data or functionality.

The types of connections available will vary depending on what is supported across applications.

The available functionalities of a software’s API will be spelled out in documentation that outlines how developers can go about implementing whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish.

Here’s an example of what API documentation looks like:

Screenshot of an example of our API documentation

And APIs are prominent29.5% of developers’ time is spent programming them.

So now that we know what “API” refers to, let’s talk about REST API specifically.

What Is a REST API?

The term REST API stands for “Representational State Transfer” API and refers to an API that holds to REST—which is a certain kind of “software architectural style.”

The REST architectural style defines a set of constraints and principles for creating web services. Some of these principles include:

  • The style is centered around resources—that is, any kind of specific data that can be accessed via the web. This data is identified by unique URLs.
  • The style is stateless—that is, each request that’s submitted must contain all the necessary information for the server to understand the request.
  • The style emphasizes caching—that is, “storing” responses that are sent and received.
  • The style is client-server based—that is, a request is initiated from a client (i.e., a web browser, mobile app, or other application) to an API-hosted server, and the server then responds by sending back an error or fulfilling the requested action.
  • The style allows for layers—that is, different components can be added to the process without breaking it.

REST in itself does not necessarily refer to API. But the full term REST API refers to an API that follows the REST structure as described above.

How Can You Use REST APIs?

Functionally, to use a REST API, there must, of course, be API support within the application in which you’re trying to create a request and action.

Then a user can use an API client to send HTTP requests to the API endpoint URLs as designated in the API documentation for the service in question.

The common submission methods used in REST API are called GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE. Each of these methods accomplishes different tasks:

  • GET: retrieves data from a server—like checking out a book from a library.
  • POST: submits new data to a server—like giving a new book to a library.
  • PUT: updates or replaces data in a server—like replacing an old book with a new edition in a library.
  • DELETE: removes data or a resource from a server—like getting rid of a book from a library.

REST APIs can be set up to accomplish almost any task imaginable—whether action-oriented or data-oriented.

For example, with the Mobile Text Alerts SMS API, the REST API allows you to perform actions such as…

  • Sending text messages
  • Sending iMessages
  • Pulling subscriber contact data
  • Updating subscriber contact data
  • Creating trackable links

As long as a developer is able to program the API to do it, it can often be done.

Want to update your CRM database when a new contact submits a registration form? Use REST API.

Want to trigger an abandoned cart text message when someone leaves your site from the checkout page? Use REST API.

Want to see an updated list of who has subscribed to your emails when you get a new email subscriber? Use REST API.

Why Should You Use REST APIs?

REST APIs offer a lot of benefits for users.

In general, the main benefit is that you get to connect two or more applications together so you can customize your tech stack in ways that really make sense for your business.

Depending on what kinds of integrations you set up, this can…

  • Help the applications in your tech stack better “speak” to each other so that you can create workflows that are just… better
  • Save you hours of work, since you’re able to automate a lot of processes that you might otherwise have to do manually
  • Gather data that you need in order to help you make more informed decisions

Here are just a few other standout benefits of REST APIs specifically…

  • Simple: REST APIs are a simple way to integrate. If a developer simply follows the instructions in the provided API documentation, they shouldn’t have a problem creating the integrations they need (as long as what they’re trying to do is supported by the API in question).
  • Scalable: “Scale” is a bit of a buzzword, but REST API actually does allow you to do just that. Because of how it’s set up, you can handle a lot of requests, so you’re able to process more and more as needed.
  • Flexible: REST APIs follow standard data formats—which means that you can use any platform or programming language for submitting requests, as long as it can make HTTP requests.
  • Compatible: Similar to the “flexibility” benefit, REST APIs follow best practices for the web, which makes it compatible with how the internet works—making integration between different types of software much easier.

What Are REST API Best Practices?

When trying to implement a REST API, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind…

1. Read the Documentation Thoroughly

Make sure you thoroughly read and understand the documentation before implementing.

The API documentation should provide clear instructions for what you’re able to do and what is required in order to accomplish it.

2. Use HTTP Methods Correctly

Remember the “HTTP methods”? GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE?

You want to make sure you use these methods correctly, so that you’re putting the correct method out there based on what you’re trying to accomplish.

3. Be Careful About Requests You Submit

Any typos or incorrect formatting in the URLs you submit could cause the request to fail.

So make sure you’re following the structure and conventions specified in the documentation and that everything in your input is correct.

4. Pay Attention to Rate Limits

The API you’re trying to connect with will likely have “rate limits.”

These limits exist to help prevent abuse of the API, but they can have an impact on how quickly you’re able to submit requests. If you submit more requests than the rate limit allows, they’ll fail.

Make sure you’re staying within the designated limits of the API documentation. If the limits are too constrictive for what you need to do, you can always contact support for the service you’re trying to connect with—they may or may not be able to increase the limits for you after they review your use case, but it’s worth a shot.

5. Thoroughly Test and Debug

Before blasting out a bunch of requests, make sure to test and debug any issues that come up.

You can use tools like Postman, cURL, or browser developer tools to inspect requests and responses. Check logging to help view and debug any errors.

6. Provide Feedback

If you do run into any issues with implementing your API, or if any questions or suggestions arise, submit feedback to the API provider.

Your feedback can be invaluable to helping them perfect their API offering so they can make it as useful as possible for you.

What Are REST API Best Practices?” With the subheadings above (just the subheadings, now the explanations” and corresponding icons

What Are REST API Challenges?

While using a REST API provides a lot of benefits, as with anything there are challenges.

1. Over-Fetching and Under-Fetching

In some cases your API client may end up receiving more data than it needs. This is called over-fetching.

On the other hand, in other cases your API client may end up requiring multiple requests to fetch the required data, which is called under-fetching.

Either of these issues can lead to performance problems with the API.

To prevent this, make sure you’re following the API documentation correctly and that your data storage and transferring is as efficient as possible.

2. Lack of Standard

Since REST does not have formal specifications, there can be inconsistencies in how different APIs are designed and implemented.

What this means is that developers need to learn a unique process for each API they work with.

This is simply the nature of REST APIs. But the basic structure is similar enough that developers shouldn’t have too much difficulty.

3. Backward Compatibility

The world of technology is always changing.

This propensity to change can be a challenge for managing REST APIs. If you use an API client that doesn’t keep up with the changes, you may run into issues.

Make sure you’re keeping up with the latest updates and that you’re using an API client that is also up-to-date.

4. Security Liability

If proper security measures aren’t in place, REST APIs can leave you vulnerable to security risks.

And depending on what you use your REST API for, a security breach could potentially be devastating for you or your business.

To help prevent unauthorized access, you’ll want to implement appropriate security measures—and make sure the service whose API you’re using implements appropriate security measures as well.

5. Management

More and more businesses are seeing the value of REST APIs and are adopting them.

However, this more widespread adoption of APIs leads to another issue—management.

If your business interacts with APIs across several different services, how can you keep track of it all?

After all, each business has its own API documentation, processes, and capabilities.

You’ll need a way to manage and track things, and perhaps one or two team members who are dedicated to API management.

REST API Examples

So what does a REST API actually look like in practice?

Here are some examples (note that these examples may or may not be true to life)…

Use Case Examples

  • X (formerly Twitter): X offers a REST API that allows developers to read and write Twitter data. Some API capabilities could therefore include retrieving tweets, posting new tweets, searching for content, and managing user profiles and direct messages.
  • Google Maps: Google Maps provides a suite of APIs, including the Maps JavaScript API, Geocoding API, Directions API, and Places API. These REST APIs could enable developers to embed Google Maps into their applications, retrieve location data, calculate routes, and find information about places.
  • Stripe: Stripe is a popular payment processing platform that offers a REST API for integrating various payment functionalities into applications. Developers could use the Stripe API to accept payments, manage subscriptions, and handle customer billing and invoicing.
  • Flickr: Flickr, a popular photo-sharing platform, provides a REST API that could allow developers to search for and retrieve photos, upload new images, manage albums, and interact with user accounts and groups.
  • OpenWeatherMap: OpenWeatherMap is a free weather data and forecast API that could current weather data, forecasts, and historical weather information for locations worldwide. It could therefore allow developers to integrate weather information into their own applications.
  • Spotify: Spotify’s API provides access to data such as playlists, albums, artists, and audio features, which could enable developers to build music-related applications.

Get a Free 14-Day Trial with Mobile Text Alerts

set password visible
Examples of Using REST API for SMS Marketing” with the bullet points listed under “How Can You Use REST API for SMS?” section

Example Requests

GET Request

Pulling a list of users from an API…

GET /api/users


Accept: application/json

Retrieving details of a specific product…

GET /api/products/123


Accept: application/json

POST Request

Creating a new site post…

POST /api/posts


Content-Type: application/json


"title": "My New Site Post",

"content": "This is the content of the site post.",

"author": "John Doe"


Registering a new user…

POST /api/users


Content-Type: application/json


"username": "johndoe",

"email": "",

"password": "secret123"


PUT Request

Updating an existing product…

PUT /api/products/123


Content-Type: application/json


"name": "Updated Product Name",

"price": 29.99,

"description": "This is the updated product description."


DELETE Request

Deleting a specific order…

DELETE /api/orders/456


Authorization: Bearer <access_token>

How Can You Use a REST API for SMS?

Here’s a specific example of how you can use REST API—*italic text*to manage SMS services for your business.

Case in point: our service Mobile Text Alerts has an API that you can use to accomplish tasks such as…

  • Send text messages to your audience
  • Create automated SMS drip campaigns
  • View delivery reporting for your text messages
  • Add contacts to your SMS database
  • Create trackable links that you can send in your text messages to be able to measure click rates
  • Send iMessages (this is a new functionality currently in beta)

Here’s an example of what the documentation looks like:

Screenshot of API documentation

The ability to accomplish these tasks and others like them means that you can automate your SMS process for maximum efficiency.

Here are some examples of how that could be useful…

  • Automatically update your SMS subscriber list whenever someone is added into your CRM
  • Schedule a text message reminder whenever someone registers for an event on your site
  • Trigger a text message when someone abandons their shopping cart

Because of the flexibility of REST APIs, the possibilities are pretty broad.


Here are other answers to some frequently asked questions…

What Is RESTful API?

“RESTful” is an informal way to refer to applications that support a REST API.

These would be APIs that hold to the REST architecture—APIs that are resource-centered, stateless, caching-focused, client-server based, and layered.

What Does REST API Stand For?

REST API stands for Representational State Transfer and Application Programming Interface.

REST APIs allow users to connect software applications via structured methods that follow specific principles of being resource-centered, stateless, caching-focused, client-server based, and layered.

How to Build a REST API?

Building a REST API would involve the following:

  1. Planning and designing the API
  2. Setting up the appropriate development environment
  3. Implementing the code
  4. Testing the API
  5. Documenting the API

Have You Tried Implementing a REST API?

REST APIs open up a world of possibilities for how you integrate and create efficient processes for your business.

Have you tried implementing REST APIs for your business?

What solutions in your tech stack have API compatibility?

What tools and processes could be automated using an API?

Consider implementing API integration for at least 1 tool in your tech stack this month.

Try out an SMS API for yourself today.

Get a Free 14-Day Trial Account

Start sending mass text messages to your entire list today!