REST vs. Websockets, oh my

, Feb 28, 2012

There is an entirely absurd discussion going on about “REST vs. Websockets”, predictably claiming that in the long term, REST will be succeeded by Websockets. This is stupid on many levels. I’ll try to be brief:

  • To be pedantic, REST vs. … almost never makes sense, as people are rarely talking about REST (the architectural style) in comparison to another architectural style. But never mind, let’s assume that what was meant was actually “RESTful HTTP” vs. “Websockets”, then …
  • Websockets is not something “more”, it doesn’t add something, it’s not dynamic, or interactive, or in any way “good” – unless you make the same claim about TCP. Websockets essentially allows you build your own proprietary protocols that may or may not be great, with all the typical advantages and disadvantages these end up having: possibly better performance, possibly better suited to the specific task at hand, less standardized, not widely implemented, etc. It’s not a case of one being better than the other, it’s about being different.
  • In the long run, HTTP (used in a way aligned with its architectural goals) will continue to have benefits for loosely coupling systems. If that’s what you want, it makes the most sense. If you’re after the most efficient communication possible, and are willing to sacrifice some of the loose coupling – fine, go ahead, use Websockets. But it’s not as if one will supersede the other.
  • Does this mean I claim that HTTP is perfect? Of course not, it most definitely could be improved. But if this improvement comes, it’s definitely going to introduce more, not less constraints.