Difference between SOAP and REST API

Difference between SOAP and REST API is explained below. SOAP is a kind of stateful, session-based, message-based web service. It’s good if your service is designed as a set of complex actions.
REST is a stateless, sessionless, resource-based web service. It’s good if your service is designed to access data and perform simple CRUD operations on it. SOAP and REST are mutually exclusive. A service cannot be both. There are ways to manipulate vanilla WCF to make is RESTful but these techniques are becoming deprecated. If you want to implement a RESTful web service there are two main choices in the Microsoft world: WCF Data Services and ASP.NET Web API.

Definition

REST

RESTs sweet spot is when you are exposing a public API over the internet to handle CRUD operations on data. REST is focused on accessing named resources through a single consistent interface.

SOAP

SOAP brings it’s own protocol and focuses on exposing pieces of application logic (not data) as services. SOAP exposes operations. SOAP is focused on accessing named operations, each implement some business logic through different interfaces.
Though SOAP is commonly referred to as “web services” this is a misnomer. SOAP has very little if anything to do with the Web. REST provides true “Web services” based on URIs and HTTP.
By way of illustration here are few calls and their appropriate home with commentary.

getUser(User);

This is a rest operation as you are accessing a resource (data).

switchCategory(User, OldCategory, NewCategory)

This is a SOAP operation as you are performing an operation.
Yes, either could be done in either SOAP or REST. The purpose is to illustrate the conceptual difference.

SOAP and REST

Why REST?

REST uses standard HTTP. Creating clients, developing APIs, the documentation is much easier to understand and there aren’t very many things that REST doesn’t do easier/better than SOAP.
REST permits many different data formats where as SOAP only permits XML. While this may seem like it adds complexity to REST because you need to handle multiple formats, in my experience it has actually been quite beneficial. JSON usually is a better fit for data and parses much faster. REST allows better support for browser clients due to it’s support for JSON.
REST has better performance and scalability. REST reads can be cached, SOAP based reads cannot be cached.
It’s a bad argument (by authority), but it’s worth mentioning that Yahoo uses REST for all their services including Flickr and del.ici.ous. Amazon and Ebay provide both though Amazon’s internal usage is nearly all REST source. Google used to provide only SOAP for all their services, but in 2006 they deprecated in favor of REST source. It’s interesting how there has been an internal battle between rest vs soap at amazon. For the most part REST dominates their architecture for web services.

Why SOAP?

The reason why to use SOAP is given below

WS-Security

While SOAP supports SSL (just like REST) it also supports WS-Security which adds some enterprise security features. Supports identity through intermediaries, not just point to point (SSL). It also provides a standard implementation of data integrity and data privacy. Calling it “Enterprise” isn’t to say it’s more secure, it simply supports some security tools that typical internet services have no need for, in fact they are really only needed in a few “enterprise” scenarios.

WS-AtomicTransaction

Need ACID Transactions over a service, you’re going to need SOAP. While REST supports transactions, it isn’t as comprehensive and isn’t ACID compliant. Fortunately ACID transactions almost never make sense over the internet. REST is limited by HTTP itself which can’t provide two-phase commit across distributed transactional resources, but SOAP can. Internet apps generally don’t need this level of transactional reliability, enterprise apps sometimes do.

WS-ReliableMessaging

Rest doesn’t have a standard messaging system and expects clients to deal with communication failures by retrying. SOAP has successful/retry logic built in and provides end-to-end reliability even through SOAP intermediaries.