REST vs SOAP: Difference between Web API Services

Rashmi Bhardwaj | Blog,Programming & Software

Web API Services

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State Transfer (REST) are two answers to the same question: how to access Web services? The choice initially may seem easy, but at times it can be surprisingly difficult. Before discussing REST vs SOAP, let’s first understand what both are.

What is REST?

REST describes a set of architectural principles by which data can be transmitted over a standardized interface (such as HTTP). REST does not contain an additional messaging layer and focuses on design rules for creating stateless services. A client can access the resource using the unique URI and a representation of the resource is returned. With each new resource representation, the client is said to transfer state.

REST, which typically runs over HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), has several architectural constraints:


  • Decouples consumers from producers
  • Stateless existence
  • Able to leverage a cache
  • Leverages a layered system
  • Leverages a uniform interface

What is SOAP?

SOAP is an open-standard, XML-based messaging protocol for exchanging information among disparate operating systems (such as Windows and Linux) to communicate using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and its Extensible Markup Language (XML).

SOAP is an acronym for Simple Object Access Protocol. It is an XML-based messaging protocol for exchanging information among computers. SOAP is an application of the XML specification.

Below points briefly describes the nature of SOAP −

  • SOAP is a communication protocol designed to communicate via Internet.
  • SOAP can extend HTTP for XML messaging.
  • SOAP provides data transport for Web services.
  • SOAP can exchange complete documents or call a remote procedure.
  • SOAP can be used for broadcasting a message.
  • SOAP is platform- and language-independent.
  • SOAP is the XML way of defining what information is sent and how.
  • SOAP enables client applications to easily connect to remote services and invoke remote methods.

Comparison Table: REST vs SOAP

Now once the understanding of REST and SOAP is clear , lets compare and find out how they differ in characteristics and behaviors –

REST is architectural style. It is more flexible.SOAP is protocol. It is highly specified.
Industry StandardNo Official StandardHas Official Standard
FocusFocused on accessing named resources through a single consistent interface.Focused on exposing pieces of application logic as server.
DocumentationEasy documentationComplex documentation
Data FormatsSupports many formatsOnly supports XML format
Performance and ScalabilityBetter performance and scalability
CachingREST reads can be cachedSOAP based reads can't be cached
SecuritySupports SSLSupports SSL in addition to XML signatures and encryption
ReliabilityLimited to single HTTP transactions
REST expects client to retry during connection failure
Ensure ACID transactions
SOAP has successful/retry logic built-in
Areas of useWhere high security and high reliability is not criticalWhere high security and high reliability is critical
Bandwidth RequirementRequire less bandwidth and resource than SOAPRequires more bandwidth and resource than REST
Transport LayerTied to HTTP transport modelBoth SMTP and HTTP are valid application layer protocols used as transport for SOAP
Error HandlingBuilt-in error handlingNo error handling
PayloadNo constraints on payloadPayload must comply with SOAP schema
Download the Comparison Table: REST vs SOAP

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