In computing, Representational state transfer (REST) is an architectural style consisting of a coordinated set of components, connectors, and data elements within a distributed hypermedia system, where the focus is on component roles and a specific set of interactions between data elements rather than implementation details. Its purpose is to induce performance, scalability, simplicity, modifiability, visibility, portability, and reliability. REST is the software architectural style of the World Wide Web.
The term representational state transfer was introduced and defined in 2000 by Roy Fielding in his doctoral dissertation at UC Irvine. REST has been applied to describe desired web architecture, to identify existing problems, to compare alternative solutions and to ensure that protocol extensions would not violate the core constraints that make the web successful. Fielding used REST to design HTTP 1.1 and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI).To the extent that systems conform to the constraints of REST they can be called RESTful. RESTful systems typically, but not always, communicate over Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) with the same HTTP verbs (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc.) that web browsers use to retrieve web pages and to send data to remote servers. REST systems interface with external systems as web resources identified by Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs), for example /people/tom, which can be operated upon using standard verbs such as GET /people/tom. The name "Representational State" is intended to evoke an image of how a well-designed Web application behaves: a network of web pages (a virtual state-machine), where the user progresses through the application by selecting links (state transitions), resulting in the next page (representing the next state of the application) being transferred to the user and rendered for their use.
REST was defined by Roy Thomas Fielding in his 2000 PhD dissertation "Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures". Fielding developed the REST architectural style in parallel with HTTP 1.1 of 1996-1999, based on the existing design of HTTP 1.0 of 1996.
In a retrospective look at the development of REST Roy Fielding said:
Throughout the HTTP standardization process, I was called on to defend the design choices of the Web. That is an extremely difficult thing to do within a process that accepts proposals from anyone on a topic that was rapidly becoming the center of an entire industry. I had comments from well over 500 developers, many of whom were distinguished engineers with decades of experience, and I had to explain everything from the most abstract notions of Web interaction to the finest details of HTTP syntax. That process honed my model down to a core set of principles, properties, and constraints that are now called REST.
The architectural properties of REST are realized by applying specific interaction constraints to components, connectors, and data elements. One can characterise applications conforming to the REST constraints described in this section as "RESTful". If a service violates any of the required constraints, it cannot be considered RESTful. Complying with these constraints, and thus conforming to the REST architectural style, enables any kind of distributed hypermedia system to have desirable non-functional properties, such as performance, scalability, simplicity, modifiability, visibility, portability, and reliability.