Representational State Transfer

What Does Representational State Transfer Mean?

Representational state transfer (REST) is a distributed system framework that uses Web protocols and technologies. The REST architecture involves client and server interactions built around the transfer of resources. The Web is the largest REST implementation.


Systems that conform to REST principles are referred to as RESTful.

Techopedia Explains Representational State Transfer

Roy Fielding, one of the main authors of the HTTP specification, developed the REST concept in 2000 as part of his doctoral dissertation.

REST may be used to capture website data through interpreting extensible markup language (XML) Web page files with the desired data. In addition, online publishers use REST when providing syndicated content to users by activating Web page content and XML statements. Users may access the Web page through the website's URL, read the XML file with a Web browser, and interpret and use data as needed.

Basic REST constraints include:

  • Client and Server: The client and server are separated from REST operations through a uniform interface, which improves client code portability.
  • Stateless: Each client request must contain all required data for request processing without storing client context on the server.
  • Cacheable: Responses (such as Web pages) can be cached on a client computer to speed up Web Browsing. Responses are defined as cacheable or not cacheable to prevent clients from reusing stale or inappropriate data when responding to further requests.
  • Layered System: Enables clients to connect to the end server through an intermediate layer for improved scalability.

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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.