Most developers have some kinds of personal projects. The most evident question for them is “how to start making a new app?” It is always scary to sit in front of an empty monitor, wondering what to do first. 

Today you may find thousands of blog posts offering quick tips on how to start programming a calculator, a tracker of steps, or one more social network clone. Of course, they can be useful for exploring the technology stack, however, let’s face the truth – the world doesn’t need more similar solutions that everyone is tired of and that will not offer anything new. It’d be better to initiate and build an exciting app around open REST APIs!

In this post, we share a brief REST API definition and describe its most evident advantages. Additionally, we propose to explore some nontrivial REST API examples that will definitely inspire you and your future projects. So, let’s make the long story short and dive into details. 

What is REST?

REST stands for Representational State Transfer. This is a software architectural style that determines a range of constraints to be used for creating web services. REST services allow the requesting systems to access and manipulate textual representations of web resources by using a uniform set of stateless operations.

In other words, REST is a set of rules for communication between a client and server. There are some constraints on the REST definition:

  • Client-server architecture. The website/app’s UI should be separated from the data request/storage to be able to scale each part individually.
  • Statelessness. The communication should have no client context stored on a server, meaning that each request to the server should be made with all the required data, and no assumptions should be made if the server has any data from previous requests.
  • Layered system. A client should not be aware of how it is communicating  – directly with the server or intermediary. The intermediary servers allow for the scalability and security of the underlying server.

Rest Client, Rest Service, and REST API

  • REST Client is about a code or an app that can access these REST services. A browser can act as an uncontrolled REST client (for a long time, for all REST requests the browser used an in-built function called XMLHttpRequest). Then it was succeeded by FetchAPI – a promise-based approach to requests. 
  • REST Service is the server. There are many popular libraries that simplify the creation of these servers. For example, Django for Python and ExpressJS for NodeJS.
  • REST API – it defines the methods allowed to access/submit data to the server.

You may ask “What do you mean by REST API exactly”? Lets’ figure it out.

What is REST API and Why It is Used?

API means the ​​Application Programming Interface. 

REST API provides a set of methods that a programmer can use over HTTP to send and receive data. Since these methods use HTTP, any programming language can work with them.

Nowadays thousands of REST APIs are available on different possible sites. Usually, you can find dozens of different available APIs for publicly available data such as weather or stock markets.

Many popular web platforms like Facebook and Twitter also provide APIs for developers. Some of the proprietary APIs have a limit on the number of calls to them. Many require registration and obtaining a private key. Most secure APIs require OAuth configuration to securely log in. You may find a huge list of public APIs on Github and an even larger list on RapidAPI.

How Does a REST API Work?

REST defines the API structure. Constructing the API, development teams oblige to a certain set of rules. For example, according to one rule, linking to a URL should return some information. Every URL is a Request, and the data returned is known as Response.

REST API breaks down a transaction in order to create a sequence of small components. Each component addresses a specific fundamental aspect of the transaction. 

REST APIs leverage HTTP methods described by the RFC 2616 protocol. It uses such requests as: GET to fetch data, PUT to alter the state of data, POST to create data, and DELETE methods to eliminate it.

What are the benefits of REST API?

  • The separation between the client and the server. The REST protocol fully separates the UI from the server and the data storage. This increases the scalability of projects and improves the portability of the interface to other types of platforms.
  • REST API is always independent of the type of language of the platform. It always adapts to the type of syntax or platforms being used. It gives considerable freedom when changing or testing new environments during development.
  • Scalability and visibility. The separation between client and server means that every development team can scale the product without too much problem. They are allowed to migrate to other servers or make all kinds of changes in the database.

REST and HTTP are not the same

There are many people who still compare HTTP with REST. However, they are not the same.

REST also intends to make the web environment more streamlined and standard, however, it advocates using REST principles more strictly. That is where people try to compare REST with the web (HTTP). 

The REST architectural style, data, and functionality are considered resources and are accessed using URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers). A range of simple, well-defined operations acts upon the resources. Clients and servers exchange representations of resources by using a standardized interface and protocol. Typically, it is HTTP.

Resources are decoupled from their representation. That is why their content can be accessed in different formats (for example, HTML, XML, text, JPEG, PDF, etc. Metadata about the resource is used, for example, to detect transmission errors, control caching, perform authentication or access control. Each interaction with a resource is stateless. These principles help RESTful apps to be lightweight, fast, and simple.

Now it is time to explore any great REST API example or some of them that your next project may need.

15 Impressive REST APIs Examples

This list is certainly not exhaustive. We just think that most of the REST API listed below are particularly interesting and worthy of your side projects.

They all are completely free and require nothing more than getting an API key – no need to figure out how to handle OAuth or pay to use them.

What is a REST API example?

  1. Urban Dictionary API – you will be amazed to know what slang people use worldwide.
  2. TransLoc OpenAPI – will provide you with live data on the public transport of cities and campuses.
  3. Vedic Society API – provides descriptions of all nouns (names, places, things, etc. ) from Vedic literature.
  4. Genius API – crowdsourced lyrics and music knowledge.
  5. PokeAPI – this is the biggest media franchise of all time that has an easy way to get data about Pokemons.
  6. Merriam-Webster Dictionary API – for those who need definitions and synonyms of real words.
  7. WeatherBit API –  for those who need current and historical weather data.
  8. Numbers API – provides interesting facts and questions about numbers.
  9. US Government Data API – a large dataset of the United States agriculture, health care, public safety, and many more.
  10. Bible API – the best selling book of all time.
  11. The Guardian API – getting access to all the content the Guardian creates, categorized by tags and section.
  12. NASA API – interesting data on asteroids, galaxies, and more.
  13. Storm Glass API – global marine weather from multiple sources.
  14. Upwork API – freelance job board and management system.
  15. Kitsu API – anime discovery platform.

Now, what should you do with them?

All public APIs mentioned above are great. However, only the fact of their profusion does not help to determine what to do for a new project.

Start with simply getting and displaying data. Perhaps, this can be a weather forecast or any word definition. Then try to follow the next step and take pieces of data and map it to a visual element.

Getting started is always the hardest step. However, we are sure that you will act plenty of next steps for your project once you’ve gotten past the initial hurdle of fetching and displaying the information.

Now you know what the meaning of REST API is. Do you have your own vivid examples? Do not doubt to share them.