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Are RESTful Web Services really RESTful APIs?

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Recently Leonard Richardson, co-author or RESTful Web Services, has been wondering why people no longer appear to be referring to Web Services anymore ...

[...] I noticed that nobody uses the term "web services" anymore. Everyone talks about "APIs"

Now it is stretching things to say that "nobody uses the term" any more, when in fact there are still lots of occurrences, ranging from Cloud and mobile, through Cloud IDEs and including Social Networking. But Leonard's point is that the term is perhaps not being used as much as it once was.

The change I noticed is just that the terms used to be used interchangeably, and now "web service" has pretty much died out. When I say "web service" people know what I'm talking about, but I feel like I'm speaking out of a phrasebook, or doggedly saying "free software" in an "open source" world.

He wonders if this subtle change is indicative of something more fundamental and important going on within the industry? It is also true that the term "web service" used by REST proponents was never the same as the SOAP use of the same words. So is this something that is applicable only to the REST community? Is the apparent drop in use of the term in the SOAP community simply tied to the apparent downturn in the use of WS-*?

But Leonard wonders if this change is a problem?

[I believe] that there's a reason people might have stopped saying "web service" around 2007, but that using "API" as a generic term leads to products that are worse than they could be [...]

So is it really true that the term "web service" is dying out and being replaced by "API"? If so, why and what are the potential implications? Does this lead to poorer implementations due, presumably, to confusion arising around the term "API" as it applies to the Web? As one of the commenters on his original article states:

My understanding is that APIs don't self-describe. Obviously not all web services do either, but at least there exist standardized formats dedicated to description. As an anecdotal data point, though, we had a client hire us recently to write an app using their web service (not their API). It's SOAP, baroque and hideous, which probably has something to do with why they call it that. But I've certainly seen plenty of sites boasting about their APIs in the wild.

So it's obviously not so black and white. But is there something going on within those shades of grey?

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