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A RESTful API is an application program interface (API) that utilizes HTTP requests to perform operations such as retrieving (GET), updating (PUT), creating (POST), and deleting (DELETE) data.

A RESTful API, also known as a RESTful web service, is based on the principles of representational state transfer (REST) technology. REST is an architectural style and communication approach commonly employed in web services development.

How RESTful APIs Work

RESTful APIs leverage the HTTP methodologies outlined in the RFC 2616 protocol. They employ the following HTTP methods: GET to retrieve a resource, PUT to modify or update a resource (which could be an object, file, or block), POST to create a resource and DELETE to remove a resource.

In the REST architecture, networked components are treated as resources that you request access to. These components are like black boxes, with their internal implementation details hidden. The fundamental assumption is that all API calls are stateless, meaning that no information is retained by the RESTful service between executions.

This stateless nature of REST makes it well-suited for cloud applications. Stateless components can be easily redeployed in case of failures, and they can scale dynamically to handle varying loads. Since any request can be directed to any instance of a component, there is no need to maintain any session-specific information between transactions. This makes REST a preferred choice for web applications. Moreover, the RESTful model is also valuable in cloud services, as it allows for flexible binding to service through API-controlled URL decoding.

Given the rise of cloud computing and microservices, it is highly likely that RESTful API design will become the standard approach in the future.