The new look of the WP REST BASED ADMIN UI:
WP Version 4.4 creates a new WP foundation that is being hailed as the next big thing in the world of wordpress. The WordPress REST API is being hailed as the next big chapter for the WP platform.
You are probably already wondering what that means for you. Well, right now it is optional, so you won’t be forced to learn or adapt for a while longer, at least, or perhaps forever?
For those inclined at developing for WordPress, we will explore WP REST API, its features, and what it brings to the workbench for those who work with WordPress professionally.
Dissecting WP REST API (JSON)
Before we dive deeper into the capabilities of the WP [JSON] REST API we first should make sure the basics are covered.
What is an API – Application Programming Interface?
It is much like a software driver that, if its protocol is followed, bridges between two different software applications.
You might have been using them for a while, but not even have technically realized it. For example, using a 3rd party website service or an application that to posts to Facebook or Twitter, is using the Facebook API and the Twitter API protocols/ports/etc connecting their platforms to your software. Therefore, as you might presume, there is a vast use of such API’s on the Internet.
JSON APIs have become common on the internet due to the fact that all major programming languages can easily convert data back and forth to the JSON structure. That way, a bridge or connection/port interface that uses the JSON format can be sandwiched between applications that are running in different programming languages in different environments, effectively connecting them with all the data they independently need from each other.
What Is REST?
REST is short for Representational State Transfer. It describes an HTTP-based style of building APIs that is suitable for high data volume, lightweight, fully backwards compatible (as it is based on HTTP), and also user/editor friendly.
In short, The WP (JSON) REST API is a connection interface between WordPress and other various software JSON literate applications and is characterized by high compatibility. Click here for the official WordPress API documentation.
Why does WordPress need the WP REST API?
The idea of an API for WordPress isn’t new. In fact, the platform already has an API to interact with themes, plugins and more. So why not use that one?
- Because the existing WordPress API is outdated.
While it’s true that we already have a software interface in place, the truth is that it hasn’t aged particularly well. The existing API works nicely for WordPress-internal things, but using it to interact with software outside of the platform is cumbersome — something developers have lamented for years.
- Because the new WP REST API is a universal connector.
The key factor in the development of JSON has been and will continue to be “universality” and to easily communicate (develop, test and debug too) with other websites and services.
The WordPress REST API is extra powerful because it enables WordPress to communicate with other web applications, no matter what programming language they’re written in or what server the other apps are running on; especially cell phones and other mobile devices.
As long as both parties are using the HTTP protocol (which is still the entire known Internet), both sides will be able to initiate and send requests in both directions. Therefore almost any application can, in a standardized way, interact with the new Calypso enabled WordPress platform.
With the update, WordPress is now able to run on enterprise scale; a full-scale application platform; and can easily link itself up to the rest of the Internet.
So what will it mean for WordPress professionals?
Major differences to the old WordPress.com backend can be easily referenced on this handy infographic,
courtesy of WordPress.com:
WordPress development will be further simplified and made more flexible
As mentioned, JSON makes it easier to connect WP to “the internet of things” now part of WordPress’s universe. Access to additional tools has been made for WordPress. Also other programming languages are fair game for being integrated into WordPress. The WP REST API makes it much easier than the old techniques, provides more efficient and standardized ways to process this type of data – and enable proprietary, even encrypted, APIs.
Advances, in other frameworks such as in Ruby on Rails, are now becoming available for WP; and plugins and themes will even become more dynamically extendable.
3rd-party content integration will be made much easier
Because the WP REST API enables WP to talk back and forth with virtually any sever, it is now possible to source page (and post) content from virtually anywhere…
In effect, WordPress can manage content from other and to other web profiles and properties.
The WP back–end will be forever new
As from Calypso update, the WP REST API manages over all the responsibilities of the new admin area.
Since WordPress dashboard now has a universal connector, it is ready to be re-imagined or even replaced. Developers will be able to build new admin areas and advanced blogging capabilities.
WordPress will truly enter the app market.
Another advantage of the JSON format is that it is natively supported by both iOS and Android. This opens the door for anyone looking to build a WordPress-based mobile app.
This goes so far as Sam Hotchkiss speculating at WordCamp San Francisco 2014 about the possible emergence of a third-party app store for plugins.
There will be increased demand for WordPress developers.
Finally, the best news: The integration of the WP REST API also means more work opportunities for those experienced in working with WordPress. While the API will open up the platform to more developers from other disciplines, as it moves beyond its sphere, the demand for WordPress professionals is likely to rise.
If you don’t care about it for any other reason, this one should do the trick.
The plugin that enabled a REST API in JSON format has been in the repository for quite some time and is installed on more than 10,000 sites. Future versions will not require the plugin.
WordPress is becoming a framework, not just a content management system.
Calypso is an alternative to WP-Admin rather than a replacement. Perhaps developers of the 40,000+ WP plugins have lots of reason to feel critical about the big change Calypso enables. Whether it eventually replaces WP-admin, it is up to the community of contributors to the WordPress.org project. The big point is going to be 3rd party plugins. Although you can enable & disable and update plugins using Calypso; many plugins only extend WP-admin menus and screens.
The key points:
- It will open the WP platform to technology outside the WP universe & vice versa.
- WordPress and third-party content will be easier to integrate with one another.
- For developers, the API means more flexibility and extensibility.
- The API opens up WP for new ways of content management.
- Integrating the platform with the rest of the web is likely to result in increase demand for WP.
- The WPREST API will take the place of the now ever outdated WordPress API.
Today, many developers use a plugin to work with WordPress using an API. Developers can access WP Query, the posts API, post meta API, users API, revisions API, taxonomies API, and other capabilities in this way. You can find additional info on the plugin documentation site.
“Our existing codebase and workflows had served us well, but ten years of legacy was beginning to seriously hinder us from building the modern, fast, and mobile-friendly experiences that our users expect.” ~ Matt Mullenweg
And if you want a deeper read on the future of the WordPress API, check out this post on make.wordpress.org.
WordPress REST API examples
The REST API has been around for quite some time in plugin format, so you’ll already find some robust examples of use out on the web:
- Reactor — allows you to build fully functioning mobile applications with your self-hosted WordPress instance.
- Simmer— Develop recipe application on web, mobile or alternative UIs.
- Event Espresso— event registration and ticketing management for WordPress.
- Focused on Fit— an online community with a mobile app that works with the WP REST API.
If you want to learn how to work with the WordPress API in more detail, Delicious Brains has a solid primer.