Give it a REST

Tobin Bradley writes:

We found out a few days before the conference that we had won the G. Herbert Stout Award for Visionary Use of GIS for our REST Web Services Framework. Mrs. Stout was there to present the award, and it was a very humbling and happy experience for us. Congratulations to the Mecklenburg County GIS staff, and congratulations to Asheville for winning in the city category - it was definitely well deserved!

On the one hand, it's neat that anything "REST" wins an award in geospatial. On the other hand, REST can't take any credit because there actually isn't any of it in these services. And that's fine (except for the misleading label) because Mecklenburg County GIS doesn't need REST for this. REST is a style for huge, distributed information architectures that need to last for decades, like the Web (or even a national spatial data infrastructure).

I'd like to see more GIS developers follow the lead of CloudMade and tout HTTP APIs. Not only would it be in almost all cases more truthful, there's the advantage to being able to point users to the HTTP specification, HTTP libraries and tools, and not having to explain why there's no "REST specification".

Update (2009-02-23): Where are my manners? Congratulations on the award. Making an HTTP API that users like is no small thing, and neither is open sourcing a well-documented implementation to a GIS community that still tends to be locked up by proprietary vendors.


Re: Give it a REST

Author: Tobin

Hi Sean,

Thanks for the congratulations! We're using the term REST loosely to describe the transport method (as opposed to, say, SOAP) rather than the more correct Fielding definition of the term. I think that's fairly common use of the term and I think you can differentiate between REST and a RESTful application, but I can see how one might object. Terminology is a common problem for me. To this day my wife claims my geranium isn't a geranium.

Cheers, and great job with your blog!

Re: Give it a REST

Author: Sean

Common misuse of the term would be more accurate. We have to take our terms seriously.