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REST API on WordPress for Next-Gen Readiness

How The REST API Makes WordPress More Advanced And Next-Gen-Ready

The REST API will radically alter the way users and developers interact with WordPress from day to day. We look at the implications thereof. ...

In ways only dimly conjectured a decade ago, the WordPress REST API is set to transform the landscape of WordPress. 

Over the years, JavaScript has led the way in helping developers create interactive experiences on the Web. In fact, JavaScript is used as a client-side scripting language by 98.8% of all websites. Increasingly, the need for a paradigm shift in how WordPress enables developers and users to interact with content became evident. 

Now, remember that WordPress will continue to be built on PHP. The chief end of the WordPress REST API is to trampoline the CMS into the stratospheric advances made in the wake of JavaScript, making it “next-gen-ready.” 

In this post, we will look at how it’s all going to work out, along with its implications for developers and users alike. So, let’s get cracking! 

Bringing The REST API into WordPress Territory

The WordPress REST API is set to open the CMS up to the changes in how websites and apps are developed today. 

(That being said, if your site is working along your expectations, feel no obligation to use the REST API. If, however, you want to write your theme and plugin as a client-side JavaScript application, you will need the REST API to access content within your WP site.)

The WordPress REST API was first introduced in WordPress 4.7 with a view to transforming WordPress into an application platform rather than letting it remain a content management system. What difference does it make? A CMS shines at coordinating a complex website, but an application platform can also be used to run single-page applications or SPAs, such as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Maps, etc. 

It’s important to realize that grafting a new limb, as it were, onto WordPress is a colossal task. This is primarily because WordPress is an open-source platform, so any such development must bring the entire WordPress community into the loop. 

As a result, the architects behind the development had to assess the benefits and the large-scale impact of facilitating OpenAI access to the data on millions of websites. 

The development transpired across two WordPress versions, 4.4 (“Clifford”) and 4.7. (“Vaughan”), which enabled developers to experiment with the API without risking data exposure. WordPress 4.7 introduced the REST API endpoints. Today, all the current versions of WordPress come equipped with initial content endpoints, paving the way for innovative, experimental interactions with your site. 

Decoding The Significance of The WP REST API

In order to decode the significance of the addition of the REST API to WordPress, it is helpful to trace the development to the basics of online data sharing. 

Now, we interact with the Web on a request-response basis: a web browser makes a certain request, and the server responds to the request (see below image). That’s the basis of our interaction. 

basics of online data sharing

Of course, the browser’s response is determined by the server’s request. More often than not, we make a GET request, such as typing Google’s URL into the address bar. The server then responds by opening Google’s landing page. 

But we can also make other requests, including POST, DELETE, and PUT (more on these later in the post). With each request, the server initiates a new session and responds according to the request made. Now, this is the basis for building WordPress sites, and this, at the risk of sounding unpopular, is not going to change in the near future. This is not the “paradigm shift” we hinted at the beginning of this post. 

Here is what it fundamentally means: with the addition of the REST API, the content on your WordPress site is readily accessible as primary data. 

As a result, you can make changes to the data from outside the WP admin dashboard. This opens the door to data serialization via JSON. (As you must know, data serialization is the process of turning abstract data into a concrete representation.)

The typical WordPress developer may not be familiar with JSON, at least not to the same extent as with XML. Basically, a JSON response to a WordPress post will contain additional information about the post. By transcribing this (meta)data into JSON, you can interact with the WordPress content in new ways. 

Equally, the REST API allows you to create better user experiences. Compared to admin-ajax, the REST API provides “a more predictable and structured way to interact with your site’s content.” 

In general, as well, the REST API is more flexible than the Ajax API. It handles API calls more efficiently than Ajax. Plus, unlike Ajax, the REST API uses cutting-edge authentication protocols, leading to enhanced security. 

Implications for Users And Developers

Coming to the implications of the addition of the REST API to WordPress, users will see changes to the standard WordPress interface, including the newly minted “Gutenberg” editor (see below image). The WordPress mobile app is also reconfigured to include new changes and developments. Self-hosted WordPress admin screens will gradually look like WordPress.com screens. 

WordPress Gutenberg

Image Source

As far as WordPress developers are concerned, the implications of the recent developments are wide and far-ranging. If you are a WordPress developer, you:

  • Can use the REST API to create single-platform applications.
  • Can integrate WordPress with other front-end systems.
  • Can develop a WordPress site even if you are not a PHP pro.
  • Can create Gutenberg blocks instead of adding meta boxes.
  • Need to master JavaScript to build with WordPress. 

In the next section, we will learn how to access and authenticate WP-REST. 

Accessing And Authenticating WP-REST

In order to access the WP-REST, you will need to access your WordPress site via the command line. WP-CLI is the official WordPress Command Line Interface. Access the REST API of your site in the following manner (“Us And Gem” is a fictional online jewelry store.)

Accessing the REST API

Now that you have successfully accessed your site, you need to go through the authentication process. Contrary to the usual process, you will need to install an authentication plugin instead of logging in to your admin site. 

There are two ways of site authentication. For local sites, you can use the Basic Authentication handler. Just download the Basic Authentication plugin into your plugin directory and then enable it in the WordPress admin panel. 

The other way of site authentication is using the JWT Authentication plugin. Compared to Basic, JWT is a more robust form of authentication, which is why it is widely preferred for authenticating live sites. For example, the following code snippet uses curl (cURL) to access draft posts. Because drafts are not public, you need authentication to access them. 

authenticating

Coming now to the commands that you will use to interact with your WordPress site. We already gave you their names: GET, DELETE, PUT, and POST

  • The GET command retrieves a particular resource from your site. In the following example, we are fetching the latest post on the blog of Us And Gem. 
WordPresss commands
  • The POST command “posts” or adds a resource to the server. In this code snippet, we are creating a new blank draft post. 
POST command
  • The PUT command is used to update a resource on the server. The below code is seeking to make a change to a particular post using its ID. 
 PUT command
  • The DELETE command deletes a resource on the server. Suppose you want to remove an outdated post. The following snippet removes it and relegates it to trash instead of permanently deleting it. 
DELETE command

If you want to permanently delete the post, concatenate ?force=true to the ID. Remember: once executed, you cannot undo the deletion. 

Certain Disincentives in Lieu of A Conclusion

So far, we have been looking at WP REST API without flipping the kaleidoscope, as it were. This concluding section is a slight flip to our perspective. 

To begin with, you might run into compatibility issues. The REST API will not work if the WordPress app is installed on a device that does not run JavaScript or if it has been turned off. Secondly, websites and apps developed with JavaScript may not always be accessible.

JavaScript is widely used for creating dynamic content. However, certain screen readers may not support JavaScript, causing accessibility problems for visually challenged users. Consider using JavaScript frameworks like Angular, React, and Vue to improve the accessibility of web pages and applications. 

Finally, the SEO challenges posed by single-platform applications are well-documented. For instance, hash-bound routing is up against a major gridlock because Google crawlers ignore hashed URLs. Different views of the same page are not indexed separately. 

History-bound routing is equally problematic since crawlers will extrapolate a unique URL for every separate piece of content. However, these new URLs do not exist on the app’s server, leading to 404 errors when you try to access a non-existent URL. 

As a result of these SEO challenges, it is always good practice to do a thorough SEO audit of any website you build using the REST API. 

The REST API is a portal to newer opportunities and challenges for both WordPress developers and users. Experts quite confidently assert its potential to transform how we develop and use WordPress. The rest is a mystery.😊 

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Prajakti

Prajakti is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Mavlers. She brings with her a rich content creation experience of over 10 years. A creative mind and a good hold on syntax make her traverse her writing through different forms of content including blogs, interviews, infographics, case studies, etc. While writing is her first love, she’s also an avid birdwatcher.

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