A RESTful API is an application program interface (API) that uses HTTP requests to GET, PUT, POST and DELETE data.
A RESTful API -- also referred to as a RESTful web service -- it is based on representational state transfer (REST) technology, an architectural style and approach to communications often used in web services development.
How does it work?
A RESTful API breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules. Each module addresses a particular underlying part of the transaction. This modularity provides developers with a lot of flexibility, but it can be challenging for developers to design from scratch.
A RESTful API explicitly takes advantage of HTTP methodologies defined by the RFC 2616 protocol. They use GET to retrieve a resource; PUT to change the state of or update a resource, which can be an object, file or block; POST to create that resource, and DELETE to remove it.
With REST, networked components are a resource you request access to -- a black box whose implementation details are unclear. The presumption is that all calls are stateless; nothing can be retained by the RESTful service between executions.
Because the calls are stateless, REST is useful in cloud applications. Stateless components can be freely redeployed if something fails, and they can scale to accommodate load changes. This is because any request can be directed to any instance of a component; there can be nothing saved that has to be remembered by the next transaction. That makes REST preferred for web use, but the RESTful model is also helpful in cloud services because binding to a service through an API is a matter of controlling how the URL is decoded. Cloud computing and microservices are almost certain to make RESTful API design the rule in the future.