Demystifying the Differences Between APIs and Web Services 

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Graph showing differences between APIs and Web services.

APIs and web services are two overlapping entities in the tech world. While the two share some similarities, they are often used interchangeably. However, they aren’t really the same thing. So it’s okay if you’re a little confused about these two tech terms. Set your worries aside because we are here to demystify the concepts of web services and APIs for you today.

This article will outline APIs, web services, and their key differences and similarities. Read on to learn more, or feel free to schedule a call now to talk with one of DreamFactory’s expert API specialists to discover how API integration can elevate your business operation.

What Are APIs?

An application programming interface, or API, allows multiple applications to talk to one another, sending information back and forth with ease. A fundamental principle to understand when it comes to APIs is that they are comprised of a set of functions that allow applications to access data and interact with external software, operating systems, and microservices. In addition, APIs enable users to access and build upon the data and functionality of existing applications.

APIs have been around for a long time. Shortly after the first computer application was created, developers began linking them together. Thus, the API was born. Most APIs used today are web APIs as they expose a web application’s data and functionality over the world wide web. Every time you log in to Facebook, stream Netflix shows, or book flights online, you are using APIs. These programming interfaces seem to be everywhere, and some have even described them as “the glue holding the Internet together.”

Two of the most common types of API designs are the REST API and the SOAP APIs.

  • REST APIs: Representational State Transfer APIs deliver data using the lightweight JSON format. Almost all public APIs use REST API technology.
  • SOAP APIs: Simple Object Access Protocol APIs use XML to transfer data. SOAP APIs are not as accessible or easy to scale compared to REST APIs.

Related Reading: APIs and Logistics: How APIs Are Changing the Face of the Logistics Industry

What Are the Pros of APIs?

Some key benefits associated with APIs include:

  • APIs allow multiple applications to quickly and efficiently communicate and send data back and forth among multiple applications.
  • APIs can be used by almost all modern programming languages.
  • APIs help to improve connectivity and collaboration.
  • APIs help enhance customer experience.
  • APIs create new revenue opportunities for the companies that use them.

What Are the Cons of APIs?

The key drawbacks associated with APIs include:

  • APIs can take a long time to develop.
  • Extensive programming knowledge is often needed when creating an API from scratch.

If you’re interested in creating an API but don’t know where to start, it’s time to connect with a DreamFactory API specialist today. Schedule a call today to learn all about API suppliers, API manufacturing, and the API market as a whole. 

What Are Web Services? 

A web service is a collection of open protocols and standards used to exchange data between systems and applications and allow machine-to-machine interaction over a network. Essentially, web services allow you to exchange data over computer networks. A web service is a resource that is made available over the internet, which means that it requires a network to function.

A web service application architecture is a modular service-oriented application architecture where applications that comprise it are connected by web services. In many cases, developers use web services to connect microservices and monolithic applications to form a larger application.

It is common for services-oriented application architectures to include a mix of microservices and monolithic applications. It is also common for them to use a combination of APIs and web services to integrate the apps and microservices that comprise them.

Web services are generally associated with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), an architectural pattern for designing software applications. In SOA, features are split up and made available as services in a network. In addition, web services often use SOAP protocol where XML data is shared through HTTP requests. However, web services can also use REST, UDDI, and XML-RPC.

Related Reading: Microservices vs. Web Services

What Are the Pros of Web Services?

Some key benefits associated with web services include:

  • Web services offer faster communication within and across organizations as data can be exchanged over computer networks.
  • All web services exist independently from one another.
  • Web services help to exchange data between different applications and different platforms.

What Are the Cons of Web Services?

Some key drawbacks associated with web services include:

  • Web services can not be accessed from a browser.
  • Web services are more limited in their protocol and programming languages.

APIs vs. Web Services  

Now that we’ve outlined both APIs and web services, let’s break them down side by side in an API vs. web service comparison.

  • API: an interface that allows its users to build upon the data and functionality of another application. 
  • Web Service: a network-based resource that fulfills a specific task.

In addition, some of the key differences and similarities between APIs and web services are outlined in the table below. 

Understanding APIs  Understanding Web Services
Not all APIs are web services.  All web services are APIs.
It supports XML, JSON, and almost any modern programming language like Java, JavaScript, Python, and more. It supports only XML.
APIs have lightweight architecture.  Web services generally use SOAP protocol to send and receive data over the network. SOAP is a complex protocol, so the architecture is not lightweight.
APIs can work both online and offline. Web services must have a network to function.

Related Reading: Why Calculate the Cost of APIs and How To Get Started

Getting Started with DreamFactory

If you’re ready to discover how implementing APIs can help elevate your company, then DreamFactory is here to help. From web development to software development to data management to API testing, DreamFactory has you covered. Register today to discover DreamFactory’s new features and to try out the platform for yourself!