7 votes

Roy Fielding's misappropriated REST dissertation

Tags: web, rest, http, api

2 comments

  1. ryanatkn
    Link

    We remember Fielding’s dissertation now as the dissertation that introduced REST, but really the dissertation is about how much one-size-fits-all software architectures suck, and how you can better pick a software architecture appropriate for your needs. Only a single chapter of the dissertation is devoted to REST itself; much of the word count is spent on a taxonomy of alternative architectural styles3 that one could use for networked applications.

    Fielding came up with REST because the web posed a thorny problem of “anarchic scalability,” by which Fielding means the need to connect documents in a performant way across organizational and national boundaries. The constraints that REST imposes were carefully chosen to solve this anarchic scalability problem. Web service APIs that are public-facing have to deal with a similar problem, so one can see why REST is relevant there. Yet today it would not be at all surprising to find that an engineering team has built a backend using REST even though the backend only talks to clients that the engineering team has full control over. We have all become the architect in this Monty Python sketch, who designs an apartment building in the style of a slaughterhouse because slaughterhouses are the only thing he has experience building. (Fielding uses a line from this sketch as an epigraph for his dissertation: “Excuse me… did you say ‘knives’?”)

    2 votes
  2. thundergolfer
    Link
    This is fascinating. I've really got to read that dissertation.

    This is fascinating. I've really got to read that dissertation.

    2 votes