Review of RESTful Web Services

Reviewing the REST Gurus

This book is in the “Reviewing the Gurus” portion of our web site, but we certainly don’t mean to imply that we know more about REST than the authors.  Now that really would be a funny joke (unlike the comic above).  Rather, our specialty is in comparing the sometimes lofty claims made about technologies to gritty reality based on our experiences in the trenches, and that’s what we do in our own book in the chapter on REST (see preview here).  Without repeating that same material, here are some comments specifically on this book (as opposed to comments on REST in general).

Have Some Serious Pre-requisites before Taking this Class

Currently this book is the authoritative source on REST.  But it’s not for beginners to web services.  If you don’t know the basics of HTTP, SOAP, WSDL or SOA, then you’ll be completely lost.  It’s also preferable to know a little bit about technologies like AJAX, JSON, XHTML, UDDI, Atom, JavaScript, XPath, XML and DOM and SAX XML parsing.  Many examples use Ruby on Rails, which might slow you down a little if your preference is Java.  You also might want to research a little about Amazon’s “S3” service (a giant internet disk drive that you read and write to for a fee.)  Also glance over (same as if you’re not familiar with that service (it’s a way of getting your browser’s bookmarks on a host that you can then access from any other browser in the world).  To talk to S3 and, you can use RESTful web services.

All the Negative Reviews of this Book at Amazon in a Nutshell

If you read the reviews on Amazon, almost unanimously, everyone says there’s a lot of redundant, repetitive, and repetitious information that repeats over and over again and again.  For example, one reviewer makes the claim that Chapter 4 is utterly identical to Chapter 8.  That’s a bit of an over-statement, but there is some truth to it too.  Chapter 4 explains what REST is, while Chapter 8 discusses REST best practices.  Problem is, most of the best practices are simply “don’t diverge from the definition of REST”, so naturally the information in both Chapters significantly overlaps.  This “Chapters 4 & 8” redundancy is just one example of the overall organizational problems in the book, which is its primary weakness.  However, while it’s true that the concepts presented in the book are repetitive, it’s also true that the presentation is generally not confusing.

Arguably you only really need to read the Introduction, and then Chapters 1, 3, and 4.  Then go have a beer and watch T.V.   Hey!  Oprah is on!  If you read the Introduction, and then Chapters 1, 3, and 4, you’ll know the REST basics.

Bottom Line

Yes – there’s plenty of room for organizational improvement.  But the book holds its own on the Amazon Software best-seller list, and completely confusing books just don’t do that, so don't take the negative reviews too seriously.  We’d be lucky if all software books were this insightful and well written.