Why we love the WordPress REST API (and why you will too)

A couple of weeks ago Alley Chief Strategy Officer Brad Campeau-Laurion and I traveled to London to attend the first Day of REST conference and hack day. We had a chance to both catch up with several of our friends in the WordPress community, and, more importantly, brainstorm, share, and collaborate on our current and future projects that use this powerful new core feature.

If you’re not familiar with the WordPress REST API, here’s the elevator pitch: Your site is as unique as your business. The data and functionality are exclusive to you. But once you scale, you quickly hit challenges when you need to integrate with other services (whether they’re your own or someone else’s). APIs solve this problem by creating a standard common interface that both systems can agree on.

Doesn’t WordPress already have an API?

Yes it does! The XML-RPC API was introduced in 1998 and here at Alley we have a lot of experience using it on some very large sites. We also have experience with its limitations. Quite frankly, the industry (at large) is moving quickly away from XML based APIs. It’s time consuming and expensive to bend this legacy API to fit into an ecosystem where everything else is RESTful (Google Analytics, Twitter, Facebook, Stripe, etc).

So why do you love the WordPress REST API? 

Over the past ten years I’ve built a few dozen integrations with various technologies. PHP, JavaScript, .NET, and C++ all handle XML differently (and bring their own fun challenges to the table). I’ll spare you the war stories, but I think most developers have some battle scars and twitch a little when they hear acronyms like XSLT, SOAP, and WCF.

During the conference we got to see some pretty amazing implementations of the REST API. Seeing how other teams were solving complex problems inspired me, personally, to tackle some unique challenges for our own clients.

Fast forward to the hack day, and if I needed any more convincing, this did it. Alley’s Fieldmanager plugin is used extensively on both small and large sites. Our goal was to extend Fieldmanager to seamlessly integrate with the native WordPress REST API endpoints (allowing you to get your Fieldmanager meta along with your post data). The native hooks and filters of the REST API are powerful yet easy to understand. After a day of hard work, coffee, burritos, and beer, I’m excited to say we had our endpoint fully functional. Be on the lookout for native REST API support in Fieldmanager in the near future.

The WordPress REST API is going to make integrations cheaper, faster, and selfishly easier for us moving forward. That’s why we love it and that’s why I think you’re going to love it too.