Why Is The WordPress REST API Such A Big Deal?

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When we think of WordPress, we think of a monolithic application we install on a server. It provides a backend that generates web pages in concert with a database, an interface we use to configure our websites and publish content, and a front-end that displays the pages of the site.

All of this functionality is bundled into one “thing” called WordPress. WordPress has plugins and themes, so it’s modular in that sense, but both types of extension simply modify the functionality of the core application — and they have to be written in PHP.

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The upcoming JSON REST API will change that, transforming WordPress from a monolithic application into a framework on which applications can be built. The REST API will provide end points that make WordPress content, admin functions, publishing tools, and configuration available to any compatible application.

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The API has the potential to fundamentally change how we think about and develop for an application that has given millions of people and companies the freedom to publish online without needing to learn the complexities of web development. Today, WordPress is an enormously flexible tool, but the API takes that flexibility to the next level.

PHP is a powerful programming language, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Many web developers would much prefer to use JavaScript to create plugins, themes, and integrations for WordPress. The JSON REST API makes that possible. There are already examples of JavaScript front-ends that make use of the API.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be JavaScript. Pick your language of choice: Python, Go, Haskell, Rust, whatever — it’s possible build applications that integrate with WordPress in whichever language you prefer. WordPress will effectively become the content management and web framework on which novel applications are built.

We can see one example of this potential in Calypso, a custom WordPress front-end from Automattic that leverages the API and is written in JavaScript using modern tools like Node, Express, React.js, and Redux.

What’s good for developers is also good for WordPress users. We can expect to see an explosion in the quantity and quality of integrations, which is especially important in a mobile-first world — WordPress’ existing official mobile clients are nothing to write home about. The WordPress plugin ecosystem is huge, but it’s small potatoes compared to the potential of the REST API.

As you’d expect for an application on which so many people depand, progress on integrating the full API into WordPress Core is moving slowly — some parts of the API are ready to use already, and others are proposed for inclusion in upcoming releases. The REST API is being developed as a feature plugin, so if you want to check it out on a current version of WordPress, you can.

WordPress is hugely popular and will no doubt continue to be so, but unless it can attract developers, over time, the community will grow stale and younger competitors — of which there are many — will take its place as the web’s CMS of choice. The REST API gives WordPress a new lease of live, offering developers the best of both worlds: a battle-tested near ubiquitous platform compatible with the best in modern web development technology.

About the Author 

graemeGraeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://blog.nexcess.net/.

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  1. Shady Anwar

    Thanks for the article. I recommend linking to V2 of WP REST API instead of deprecated V1.