SOAP vs REST

Somehow, I managed to miss the resolution on the whole SOAP vs REST debate. I remember being thoroughly out-gunned by Paul Prescod in a debate at our old company on this topic. That was about four years ago. The debate was raging, and today, everyone’s just decided to go ahead with what they want to do. Everyone, that is, except a few people on Infoworld, who apparently recognize the still-glowing embers as an inferno.

So what happened? As near as I can tell, a number of things have occured to make the debate less relevant, and perhaps even declare de facto winners:

  1. There are some of tools today that let you choose the type of interface you’re going to offer quite late.
  2. The SOAP specs morphed and added the document encoding.
  3. A whole boatload of enterprise companies jumped on the SOAP bandwagon

Looking on programmableweb.com, which ironically does not appear to have its own API, it appears that there are about twice as many REST APIs as SOAP (183 vs 87). Having said that, SOAP is the standard for just about any enterprise integration project: almost every software package has a SOAP interface now.

So, I guess the debate resolved into two camps. If you’re looking to integrate within the enterprise, and perhaps with partners, do it through SOAP. If you’re offering a public API, and your business depends in part on the uptake of that API, do it with REST.

The REST side makes perfect sense: REST is all about using WWW protocols that make sense over the Internet. On the other hand, if we’re using SOAP mostly within the enterprise, it makes me wonder what happened to CORBA. I think I’ll leave that particular stone unturned – I know what happened to CORBA, and I still have the flashbacks to prove it.

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