Three people examining First vs. Third-Party APIs.

Let’s explore First vs. Third-Party APIs. APIs are everywhere, and as a developer, understanding how to implement them is imperative. The goal of APIs is to make life easier and more efficient — both for the developer and the end-user.

Incorporating APIs into your development workflows requires you to make a number of key decisions, including whether or not to develop in-house or to use external partnerships. Meaning, whether you should develop a first-party API or integrate a third-party API.

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example database provided to you as part of the trial!

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There are advantages and disadvantages to both, especially when weighing the pros and cons of customization vs productivity, which is something to consider when you’re aiming to become an API-driven enterprise.

Contents for First vs. Third-Party APIs

What Is an API?

What Are First-Party APIs?

What Are Third-Party APIs?

How Does DreamFactory’s Tools Assist with Automatic API Generation?

What Is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs allow two applications to exchange data and communicate with one another. For developers, they increase efficiency, automation, personalization, and adaptation — and for the end-user, APIs make it possible to utilize a wide range of services all in one platform.

For example, every time someone uses a mobile application to book a flight, check the weather on their phone, or reserve a table at a restaurant, they’re using an API.

In the eyes of a developer, as Forrester Research analyst Josh Walker explains, building an application without APIs is like “building a house with no doors. The API is how you open the blinds and the doors to exchange information.”

From banking applications to everyday consumer use, APIs impact us all. For developers, they’re particularly important when writing a new program. APIs support developers in that they do not need to start from scratch. Instead, they can contract out key components of their newly written program that have already been created, and most often, to a higher standard. For example, if you want your users to be able to easily schedule appointments, you may want to integrate your app with the Google Calendar API.

There’s no denying that APIs are everywhere, and as a developer, it’s important to understand the key differences between first- and third-party APIs.

What Are First-Party APIs?

First-party APIs are those that are developed internally. These APIs are developed using in-house resources, talent, and systems.

There are clear strengths associated with first-party APIs, including:

  • A first-party APIs gives you complete control over an API’s design, lifecycle, implementation, etc. This is why first-party APIs are so ideal when developing highly unique or security-based applications.
  • The ability to oversee an API’s entire lifecycle often makes an API much more useful and functional over time. At the beginning of an API’s lifecycle, services such as analytics and reporting can be integrated early on, allowing for greater specification. This approach also provides complete control over the deployment and retirement phases of an API. For developers, this benefit is invaluable.
  • Some of the weaknesses associated with first-party APIs to consider include:
    • Developing an API internally can be both costly and time-consuming, not only in terms of the development phase but also in regard to constant upkeep. This is something to consider based on your current budget and timeline.
    • The possibility of feature creep, which once again, can be costly. This is the tendency for a development project’s requirements to increase during the development phase based on variables that were not originally foreseen.

What Are Third-Party APIs?

As implied, a third-party API is an API that’s developed out-of-house, which is typically much less specialized in comparison to a first-party API. Third-party APIs also include those that are incorporated into a project, such as Google Maps

The strengths associated with third-party APIs, include:

  • As long as you do not require a solution that’s specifically tailored to a client’s unique needs, a third-party API will often be the more efficient, and often safer solution.
  • Your ability to save an immense amount of time. For example, if you’re developing an in-house API and require a maps platform. Why go through the trouble of designing and developing a maps solution when you could just use Google Maps?
  • Access to outside experience, as well as a different point-of-view, is particularly beneficial when aiming to solve a more complex problem.
  • Your ability to focus on building your applications instead of APIs. This is particularly useful during mobile application development. Learn more here.

Learn more about how you can power your tools with the data they need here.

Some of the weaknesses associated with third-party APIs to consider include:

  • If you’re developing an API for a client that requires highly specific needs, a third-party API approach may not be ideal. These APIs will come with specific regulations and requirements which may have a negative impact on your end goal.
  • The fact that the security of your API depends on the thoroughness of someone else. Always be mindful of authentication and authorization.

First vs. Third-Party APIs: The Winner?

So, which is better, a first-party API or a third-party API?

The answer to this question is based on an API’s purpose, being rather case-specific.

When deciding to go with a first-party API or a third-party API, you’ll need to consider your current infrastructure, resources, budget, and overall goals. You’re basically comparing an option that provides full control vs a simplified, more automatic out-of-the-box solution, which, of course, restricts control.

A first-party API will always require a lot more time, money, and effort based on its complexity. A cost/benefit analysis will be required if you want to have total control over your product. First-party APIs vs third-party APIs is essentially a comparison of control vs simplicity and productivity.

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example database provided to you as part of the trial!

Create Your API Now

How Do DreamFactory’s Tools Assist with Automatic API Generation?

We’ve covered First vs. Third-Party APIs. If you’re looking for both a simple, yet comprehensive solution to REST API automation, generation, and management, DreamFactory offers a wide range of features, including but not limited to:

  • Instant API creation
  • Deep SQL support
  • Server-side scripting
  • Rock-solid security
  • Admin console
  • Application deployment
  • Logging and reporting

Ready to get started? Try your free 14-day DreamFactory trial today!