As a developer we might have worked with REST as well as SOAP based services. However, when it comes to decide which one to use, many developers are not very clear on the answer. Let’s look at what the differences are in these two ways of creating web services. Before we dig down into the differences here is a short history about REST and SOAP.
REST: REST (REpresentational State Transfer) was introduced and defined in 2000 by Roy Thomas Fielding in his PhD dissertation “Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures”. Rest facilitates the philosophy of the open web.
SOAP: SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) was introduced in 1998 by Dave Winer in collaboration with Microsoft. SOAP is mainly used to address the goals of the enterprise market.
|Makes data available as a resources. E.g. AccountInformation, Invoice||Makes application logic available as a servies. E.g. getAccountInformation, PayInvoice|
|It’s an architectural style. No strict contract between client and server.||It’s a protocol.|
|It uses standard HTTP. Easy to implement.||Works on top of any communication protocol.|
|Returns data in many different formats (JSON, XML, etc.)||It can be fully described using WSDL.|
|Better performance and scalability. Reads can be cached.||Provides end-to-end reliability and successful/retry logic is built in.|
|REST allows better support for browser clients due to its support for JSON.||Security and authorization are part of the protocol.|
|Only works on top of HTTP protocol.||Hard to implement and not so popular among web and mobile developers.|
|No built-in standards for security or reliability.||Permits XML data format only.|
|No constraints on the payload.||SOAP defines standards to be strictly followed.|
Requires more bandwidth and resource than REST.
When to Use What
|When your bandwidth is very limited.||When performing transactions that involve multiple calls.|
|When client and server operates on a web environment.||When you want to enforce a strict contract between client and server|
|Examples: Social Media Service, Web chat service||Examples: Financial services, telecommunication services|
In nutshell, identify your project need and goal you want to achieve before you pick any of the approaches.