The WordPress WP REST API v1.2.3 adds extensibility and functionality to an already robust and trusted content management system. It offers a significant benefit to any WordPress developer, or any user with specialized business needs, in niche application development. Incorporating the REST design features and custom post types into WordPress code transforms it into an entirely new application framework that can adapt to customized data types, leverage new software-as-a-service ecosystems, and remain relatively easy to understand and maintain.
This API promises a reliable return on investment of time and money because its core functionality is less likely to break when new datatypes are introduced or third-party protocols are changed, A RESTful application programming interface (API) offers the developer a functional flexibility to WordPress that will also extend its longevity as a reusable tool.
This article outlines the benefits to users and developers by briefly describing the significance of REST as both a general web design concept and specific WordPress feature. Leveraging post-WordPress v3 improvements, like user-implemented custom post types, extends what is already a popular backend beyond content management into a reusable provider of customized services that a developer can build in reasonably short periods of time. These major improvements, CPTs, and REST, by themselves add new functionality and extensibility to a well-known and very stable software product.
What Is REST?
REST (REpresentational State Transfer), using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), is a web design concept offering key advantages to WordPress, such as:
- An agnostic framework providing greater stability as data types change.
- The ability to interact with a wider range of legacy objects and verbs.
- Interoperability to run with new authentication protocols.
- Reusable interfaces regardless of native protocols like JSON and AJAX.
- Back-end integration with diverse plugins and other Services-as-a-Service.
- Scalability as new application interfaces are developed.
How Does REST Work for You?
Architecture and Application Programming Interface (API)
Networking and computer hardware typically appear as the base of any model of classic software design; the “soft” human interface is on top. The Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) Reference architecture stacks seven distinguishable tiers like a wedding cake, with the application programming interface (or API) on top. WordPress is a software application that operates in this API layer.
Any application rests on top of an operating system when you further subdivide the top API. The application converts data gathered from local storage, network connections, or the internet, into useful information according to pre-determined protocols, pre-programmed rules, and procedures. A browser is an example of an application running on an operating system.
Hypermedia data objects interact in this memory pool following code specifications (like HTML “verbs” GET, PUT, and DELETE) as well as security authentication standards like OAuth, CORS, and SSL. You probably built software for clients that captured specific objects “floating” in this memory pool. Specialized APIs are designed to capture (interact with) specific kinds of objects.
REST as Equal-Opportunity Software Employer
REST differs from older web application designs in the way it loosely defines or REpresents the way objects are found in memory. A wider range of “floating free” objects in memory are brought “onboard” (State Transfer) because the REST API is not constrained by the way it “sees” the data by strict rules, definitions, specifications, or protocols. Adopting a REST design eliminates the need for building separate APIs for each new project. This software design also has greater flexibility dealing with future changes in either data or protocols.
Why Decoupling Is Important to You
The term agnostic is used to describe a REST web design because it has been uncoupled (or unlinked) from many constraints of older protocols and specifications. This decoupling is especially important as data shifts from an older hypertext focus to a new, broader definition of hypermedia, extending the hypertext fabric of hyperlinked data to include graphics and video. Decoupling a web design from established rules and specifications is important as definitions change.
Broader concepts of data combined with interoperability in the use of, for example, HTTP verbs and syntax, enhances extensibility and scalability of web design. Developers can apply the same basic operations (“legacy verbs”) to more open-ended objects without “breaking” software. REST parses a wide range of languages and specification without prejudices or preconceptions. You might consider REST as a universal translator of new interactions between legacy systems and your WordPress web pages.
URLs and the Internet of Things (IOT)
The emerging Internet of Things (IOT) is also forcing changes in the universe of objects and how they are described in, for example, WordPress. Consider the way these objects are identified using the Universal Resource Identifier (URI) and its uniform resource locator (URL) and uniform resource name (URN) subcomponents.
Compare, for example, URLs describing different protocols for the same domain like http://mydomain.com and ftp://mydomain.com. As the IOT expands, URI name, location, and retrieval methods will have greater diversity and require greater flexibility in handling granular differences. REST, as a web design concept, helps rather than hinders software development.
RESTFUL WordPress Application Framework
From Taxonomies to Custom Post Types
Post Types Unlimited and Pods, both listed in the plugin section of WordPress.org under the keyword post types, automatically provide code modifications upon activation that enable you to, for example, create user-defined custom post types (CPT) with their own separate taxonomies.
However, these plugins only provide code changes to the WordPress core files. None of the software packages listed will complete the code necessary to display your registered CPTs and taxonomies in your installation’s theme. All packages require either additional manual coding or purchase of additional software add-ons that can make menu-driven software modifications without any additional manual code. Another plugin to consider is Custom Post Type UI by webdev Studios. It also only updates the WordPress core files.
From Content Management System to Application Framework
Developers, since WordPress v3.0 “Thelonius”, can register their own CPTs and thereby transform the classic WordPress Content Management System (CMS) framework into applications with customized datatypes. REST extends feature capability to protocols, specifications, and software technologies like JSON and AJAX. If you make a living as a developer, it matters how well and quickly you translate a client’s needs into an easy-to-operate software application they know and trust.
There is both a working version and a beta version of WP REST API v2.0-beta4. Use the beta version only for testing purposes; never install it on a production website.
WordPress Customized for Future Applications
In summary, the REST API and CPTs are not features the typical WordPress end-user needs. However, if you are a developer, you are paid to accommodate a client’s business needs beyond providing a stable but “off-the-shelf” content management system. You need a framework that promises a return on your investment of time and money. Any WordPress user wants a stable reliable framework that is less likely to break when protocols change or a datatype is modified to reflect new attributes. A REST API improves that certainty in reliability and performance.
Incorporating the REST API and considering CPTs with specialized taxonomies is always a worthwhile activity. The REST API provides the opportunity for a wider reach in added functionality from outside sources and greater durability in your application design because it more readily accommodates future changes in protocols. Installing this API and CPTs will ensure you meet your clients’ needs in cost-effective ways now and in the future.
How are you finding the REST API to work with? Are you excited for the future of WordPress with this new functionality? Let us know in the comments!