An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of functions and protocols that enable the integration of application software. A web API works as a middleman between the applications and business servers.
APIs enable cost reduction by eliminating the need of developing new integration infrastructure.
With API integration on their side, developers need not start everything from scratch. Rather they can just power their application instantly from third-party data and code.
In this article, we are going to discuss
- How do APIs work
- What is Web API and REST API
- Why businesses should use APIs
How do APIs work?
As mentioned earlier, API acts as a connection between the application and the web server. The user of the application initiates an API call (also commonly known as API request) when he wants to retrieve the desired information/data from the webserver.
Each time you use software/applications to communicate with other online web servers, you’re using APIs to request the information you need.
Understanding Web API and REST API and their difference
Below we discuss two common APIs — Web APIs and REST APIs.
Web APIs are the APIs that allow access to remote information through a communication network. A web API can be accessed over the web using an HTTP protocol.
Web API can be developed by using different technologies such as Java, ASP.NET, etc.
Here REST stands for Representational State Transfer. REST is an architectural style of web service that provides a channel of communication between different systems.
REST is a standard that is followed as an architectural means of designing a network-based software system.
Web API and REST API are two separate concepts. The below comparison will help you to gain some understanding of their differences.
Web API Vs REST API
|Sl. No||Parameter||Web API||REST API|
|1||Protocol||Web API supports HTTP/s protocol and URL requests headers that enable services to reach various clients through the web.||In REST API, all communications are supported only through HTTP protocol.|
|2||Format||Web API provides flexibility to any style of communication.||REST API uses REST, SOAP, and XML-RPC for communication.|
|3||Design||Web APIs are lightweight architecture and are more suited for smaller devices like smartphones.||REST uses a Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style. REST APIs send and receive data over systems, making it a comparatively complex architecture.|
|4||Support||Web API can be hosted only on Internet Information Service (IIS) or self that supports XML and JSON requests.||REST API can be hosted only on IIS that supports standardized XML requests.|
Benefits of API for the businesses
APIs are common these days in modern business and software applications.
APIs enable companies to rapidly develop key functionality without spending months or years of coding to implement.
It has also enabled end users to connect their favourite apps and retrieve data freely among them via API calls.
Below are some benefits that businesses can reap from using REST and Web APIs in their applications:
1. Reduced development efforts:
As the demand for new applications continues to rise, companies are looking for quick ways of prototyping and creating new software. Using Web APIs significantly reduces the time and effort required for the development of a web-based application. You can easily enhance the functionality of your application by linking to third-party APIs and accessing their data.
Let’s say you want to implement delivery services for your store. In that case, you need not develop the entire GPS from scratch. Rather you can just implement Google Maps API and let your customers use the full maps functionality on your website.
Using the power of APIs is more efficient, as it provides a building block to your software development.
2. Less maintenance:
APIs are third-party interfaces, and your business should not be concerned about their timely maintenance and updates. Your application makes the call to the API and retrieves the required data.
You must simply focus on the maintenance of the functionality of the application that is unique to your business.
Applications using popular APIs are readily accepted and trusted by the users. These applications have higher authority and trust factors associated with them.
4. Enhanced security:
APIs provide a secure gateway for the exchange of information between your app and exchange data.
If you’re integrating with the REST or Web APIs from reliable sources, then your application security is enhanced as you’re under the direct surveillance of remote servers.
Moreover, these third-party APIs are protected by different layers of security. The exchange of information can also be encrypted to enhance the security of the systems.
5. User convenience:
By using web APIs, businesses can create effective ways of interacting with customers.
The main goal of using APIs in the development is to enhance the experience of the user while using your application.
With the power of external APIs, you are offering your users functionality that is not part of your native application. APIs act as a bridge between your native application and third-party services.
For example, many brands are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) APIs for offering personalized recommendations to the users.
6. Encourages innovation
Innovation provides a competitive edge to the companies and plays a significant role in the success of the organization. APIs are great resources for driving innovations and implementation of new-age technologies with limited resources.
Do more with Web APIs
Leveraging the power of APIs in your application is the best way to enhance your functionalities without developing the code from scratch.
APIs have become the means to save several hours of hard work by ensuring smooth integrations with third-party services.
With the growing popularity of APIs and the diversity of applications, businesses are increasingly relying on REST and Web APIs to develop scalable applications. This article introduced you to APIs, its need, and their benefits. It also gave you a better understanding of the differences between Web API and REST API.
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