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Home / Viewpoint / REST vs WebSockets The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Communication Protocol

REST vs WebSockets The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Communication Protocol

Wrap up the REST vs WebSockets debate with our conclusive insights. Discover which protocol aligns with your project’s needs, ensuring security, efficiency, and a seamless user experience. Stay ahead in the ever-evolving landscape of web technologies.

Hey there, tech enthusiasts! Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a heated debate about which is the better API communication protocol: REST or WebSockets? Well, you’re not alone. It’s a common conundrum for developers and API aficionados alike. So, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of REST and WebSockets and see how they stack up against each other.

Whether you’re using REST or WebSockets protocols, Apidog is a powerful suite of tools that provides comprehensive support for API documentation, versioning, and testing, making it the ultimate solution for managing and testing your APIs with ease. So, let’s now and download Apidog for free

What is REST?

REST stands for REpresentational State Transfer. It’s an architectural style for designing networked applications. It relies on a stateless, client-server, cacheable communications protocol, which in most cases is HTTP. RESTful applications use HTTP requests to post data (create and/or update), read data (e.g., make queries), and delete data. Thus, REST uses HTTP for all four CRUD (Create/Read/Update/Delete) operations.

REST is not a protocol or a standard but an approach to architecting web services. It is characterized by its simplicity and the use of the existing infrastructure of the web without additional overhead. It’s based on a set of principles that define how resources are defined and addressed.

How REST works

REST works by using standard HTTP methods to operate on resources. Here’s a simplified explanation of how it functions:

Client Request: A client (like a web browser or mobile app) makes an HTTP request to a server. This request includes an HTTP method, which defines the desired action (e.g., GET, POST, PUT, DELETE), and the target resource’s URI (Uniform Resource Identifier).

Server Processing: The server processes the request based on the provided method and resource identifier. It interacts with the necessary data storage or management systems to fulfill the request.

Response: The server sends back an HTTP response to the client. This response typically includes a status code indicating the result of the request (e.g., success, error) and, if applicable, the requested resource’s representation (often in formats like JSON or XML).

Stateless Interactions: Each request from the client contains all the information the server needs to fulfill that request. The server does not store any session information between requests, which is why REST is considered stateless.

Cacheable Responses: Responses can be cacheable, meaning clients can store them to improve performance for similar requests in the future.

Uniform Interface: REST APIs are designed to have a uniform interface, which simplifies the architecture and makes it easier for different clients to interact with the API.

For example, if you want to retrieve a list of users from a RESTful web service, you would make a GET request to the server’s user resource URI. The server would then respond with the list of users in a format that your application can understand and use.

This is a high-level overview, and RESTful services can have more complex operations and features, but these are the foundational concepts that make REST a powerful and widely-used approach for building web services.

Advantages of REST

The advantages of REST, or REpresentational State Transfer, are numerous and contribute to its popularity in designing web services. Here are some key benefits:

  1. Simplicity and Ease of Use: REST is straightforward to understand and implement, using familiar HTTP methods like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE.
  2. Scalability: Due to its stateless nature, REST can handle a large number of requests and is well-suited for the cloud.
  3. Performance: RESTful services can be cached to improve response times and reduce server load.
  4. Flexibility: REST allows for a wide variety of data formats, such as JSON and XML, and is compatible with different types of clients.
  5. Portability: The separation of client and server means that RESTful services can be used across various platforms and devices.
  6. Reliability: Being stateless, REST ensures that each request is processed independently, reducing the risk of server-side failures impacting the client.
  7. Efficiency: REST APIs consume less bandwidth, making them more efficient for internet usage.

These advantages make REST a compelling choice for web API development, offering a blend of performance, scalability, and ease of use that suits the demands of modern web applications.

Disadvantages of REST

While REST (REpresentational State Transfer) has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages that are important to consider:

  1. Lack of State: REST is stateless, meaning that each request must contain all the information needed to process it. This can lead to more complex payloads and increased data transfer, especially if a lot of context is required.
  2. No Contract: REST does not enforce a strict contract like SOAP does. This means that there is often a lack of standardization, and changes to the API can break backward compatibility.
  3. Security: REST relies on underlying protocols such as HTTP for security. This can be less robust than the built-in security features of protocols like SOAP.
  4. Asynchronous Operations: RESTful services do not handle asynchronous operations as well as other approaches. This can be a limitation when dealing with long-running operations.
  5. Performance: While REST can be cached to improve performance, the overhead of HTTP can sometimes lead to slower responses compared to other messaging frameworks.
  6. Limited Methods: HTTP methods are limited, and sometimes developers have to overload POST to perform operations that don’t fit into the CRUD model.

These disadvantages don’t necessarily prevent REST from being a useful architectural style, but they are factors to consider when designing and using RESTful APIs.

REST API URL - Best Practices and Examples
REST API URLs have an optimal and standardized structure. Most developers mutually agree to conform to the standard in order to increase predictability and familiarity to REST API URLs, allowing them to work around them more efficiently.

What are WebSockets?

WebSockets is a protocol that enables bidirectional, full-duplex communication between a client and a server over a single, long-lived connection. It is designed to provide a low-latency, high-performance way to exchange data between a client and a server. WebSockets are ideal for applications that require real-time data transfer, such as chat applications, online gaming, and financial trading platforms.

How WebSocket works

WebSockets work by establishing a connection between the client and the server, and then keeping that connection open for as long as needed. This allows the server to send data to the client at any time, without the need for the client to request it. The client can also send data to the server at any time, allowing for true bidirectional communication. If you want to learn more about WebSocket works you can refer to the articles below:

What is WebSocket and How It Works
This article will explore what WebSocket is and how it works, including the relationship between WebSocket and HTTP.

Advantages of WebSockets

WebSockets have several advantages, including:

  1. Low latency: WebSockets provide low latency communication, which means that data can be sent and received quickly, without the need for repeated requests and responses.
  2. Real-time communication: WebSockets are ideal for applications that require real-time data transfer, such as chat applications, online gaming, and financial trading platforms.
  3. Efficient data exchange: WebSockets use a binary protocol that is more efficient than text-based protocols like HTTP.
  4. Cross-platform compatibility: WebSockets are supported by most modern web browsers and can be used on a wide range of platforms.

Disadvantages of WebSockets

However, WebSockets also have some disadvantages, including:

  1. Complexity: WebSockets are more complex to implement than traditional HTTP-based communication methods.
  2. Security: WebSockets can be vulnerable to security threats such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).
  3. Scalability: WebSockets can be more difficult to scale than traditional HTTP-based communication methods.

When deciding whether to use WebSockets for your project, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the protocol. If low latency and real-time communication are important for your application, WebSockets may be the best choice. However, if security or scalability are concerns, other protocols such as HTTP or MQTT may be more appropriate.

Comparing REST and WebSockets

When comparing REST and WebSockets, it’s like comparing two different communication styles in the world of web development. Let’s break it down:

REST (Representational State Transfer):

  • Stateless: Each request from a client to server must contain all the information needed to understand and complete the request.
  • Client-Server: A uniform interface separates clients from servers, which promotes independence and portability.
  • Cacheable: Clients can cache responses to improve efficiency, which is great for scalability.
  • Layered System: REST allows for a layered system architecture where client-server interactions can be mediated by hierarchically arranged layers.
  • Use Cases: Ideal for standard CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations and when you need a stateless communication protocol.


  • Persistent Connection: Unlike REST, which uses separate HTTP connections for each request, WebSockets create a single, continuous connection between client and server.
  • Real-Time: This allows for real-time data transfer, making it perfect for applications that require instant updates, like chat apps or live sports scores.
  • Bi-Directional: Both the client and server can send messages at any time, independently of each other.
  • Use Cases: Best suited for applications that require real-time data push/pull and when maintaining a connection state is necessary.

Key Differences:

  • Connection Overhead: REST has more overhead due to establishing a new connection with each request, whereas WebSockets reduce overhead by using a single connection.
  • Data Transfer: WebSockets provide a more efficient data transfer method, especially for frequent and small data packets.
  • Complexity: Implementing WebSockets can be more complex due to the need to handle the persistent connection and message framing.

In summary, REST is generally easier to implement and works well for applications with standard server interactions, while WebSockets are tailored for more dynamic, real-time communication needs. The choice between REST and WebSockets ultimately depends on the specific requirements of your application.

WebSockets vs Server-Sent Events: Explore the Key differences
Server-sent events (SSE) and WebSockets are both technologies used for real-time communication between a client and a server. They are commonly used in web applications to enable real-time updates and push notifications.

HTTP or WebSockets: How to choose

Choosing between REST and WebSockets depends on the specific needs of your application. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:


  • Choose REST when you have a server-client architecture that requires stateless operations.
  • Use REST for applications that perform standard database CRUD operations (Create, Read, Update, Delete).
  • Opt for REST if your application doesn’t require real-time updates and can function with request/response cycles.


  • Choose WebSockets for applications that need real-time data transfer, like chat applications or live streaming services.
  • Use WebSockets when the overhead of HTTP request/response is too high, and you need a more efficient, bi-directional communication.
  • Opt for WebSockets if you need to maintain a persistent connection between the client and server.

Considerations for Decision:

  • Performance: REST can be less performant in scenarios requiring real-time updates, while WebSockets provide a more efficient data transfer method.
  • Complexity: WebSockets may add complexity due to the need for managing a persistent connection.
  • Scalability: REST is generally more scalable due to its stateless nature, but WebSockets can be scaled with proper infrastructure.

In essence, if your application requires real-time interaction and you’re prepared to handle the additional complexity, WebSockets might be the way to go. Otherwise, REST is a proven, scalable choice for more traditional web applications.

Security features of HTTP and WebSockets

When it comes to security, both REST and WebSockets have their own set of features and considerations. Here’s a breakdown of the security aspects of each:

REST Security Features:

  • Transport Layer Security (TLS): REST APIs should always use TLS to encrypt data in transit, protecting against eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Authentication and Authorization: Implementing robust authentication mechanisms like OAuth2, and ensuring proper authorization for accessing resources is crucial.
  • Input Validation: Validating all input data to prevent common web vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), etc.
  • Security Headers: Utilizing HTTP headers like Content-Security-Policy, X-Content-Type-Options, and X-Frame-Options to enhance security.

WebSockets Security Features:

  • WebSocket Secure (WSS): Prefer using wss:// over ws:// to establish a WebSocket connection over an encrypted TLS connection.
  • Validation: Both client input and server data should be validated to prevent attacks such as Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and JSON injection.
  • Authentication/Authorization: Similar to REST, WebSockets also need proper authentication and authorization checks, especially during the handshake process.
  • Rate Limiting and Origin Checks: To prevent abuse, rate limiting and validating the Origin header during the WebSocket handshake can be effective.

Both REST and WebSockets require a comprehensive security strategy that includes encryption, access control, and input validation to protect against various web vulnerabilities. While REST is built on top of the stateless HTTP protocol, WebSockets provide a stateful connection, which introduces different security considerations, particularly around maintaining and securing the persistent connection.

API Management Tool for Both WebSockets and REST API

When managing APIs that use REST or WebSockets, it is important to ensure that they are secure, scalable, and reliable.

To test and debug your WebSocket APIs we suggest using some excellent API debugging tools, such as Apidog, which has the ability and simplify the process of testing WebSocket service. With Apidog, you can debug WebSocket APIs, send all kinds of HTTP requests, generate request parameters from dynamic values, and import APIs into test cases. Apidog also provides a graphical interface to simplify testing WebSockets, eliminating the need to manually configure cURL commands.


Testing WebSocket API with Apidog

Firstly, start the Apidog application.

New WebSocket API

Click on the "+" button on the left side, A new drop-down will be opened. From there choose "New WebSocket API":

Select New WebSocket API

We’ll be testing a raw WebSocket request. Now let’s add the URL. Press the "connect" button and test the connection:

Send the WebSocket request

Send the WebSocket request and analyze the response.

Analyze the response.

After our test is done, we can disconnect simply by clicking the Disconnect button.

Testing REST API with Apidog

Open Apidog and create a new request.

Open Apidog and create a new request.

Specify the HTTP method you want to use, in this example, we're going to select GET as the HTTP method.

Specify the HTTP method you want to use

Enter the URL of the resource you want to update, add request headers, and/or the request body. Then click the “Send” button to send the request

Enter the URL of the resource you want to update

Check the response from the server to ensure that the request was successful.

Check the response from the server

By using Apidog, you can manage and test your APIs with ease, ensuring that they are secure, scalable, and reliable.



In conclusion, when deciding between REST and WebSockets for your application, it’s essential to consider the specific requirements and context of your project. REST is ideal for applications with stateless interactions and standard web requests, offering ease of use and scalability. WebSockets, on the other hand, excel in scenarios that demand real-time communication and persistent connections, providing a more dynamic user experience.

Security should also be a top priority, regardless of the protocol you choose. Implementing best practices such as TLS encryption, robust authentication, and input validation will help safeguard your application against potential threats.

As we look towards the future, the evolution of web technologies may introduce new protocols or enhancements to existing ones. Staying informed and adaptable will ensure that your application continues to meet the needs of its users effectively.

Remember, the goal is not just to choose a technology but to create a secure, efficient, and user-friendly application. Whether you go with REST or WebSockets, make sure it aligns with your vision and the expectations of your audience.


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