What is Web API?

Web API is an application programming interface for a web browser or web server. It is formally a web development concept. We have two concepts here if we are talking about Web API:- 1. Web API 2. Web Services


API vs Web Service

Web  services and API both serve as a medium of communication but they both having slight difference is:- web services always facilitates communication between 2 machines over a network and an API acts as an interface between 2 different application so that they will be communicating with each other. So API is a method through which the 3rd party vendor can write the program with other programs.

For communication “HTTP” is the most widely used protocol. For communication web services also do use “SOAP”, “REST” and “XML_RPC” and in terms of Web API, it can use any means of communication to initiate communication between applications. Web API do defines the methods for one software program to interact with other and when this action do occur in sending data over a network than web services do come into picture. Generally Web API involves for calling the functions from within a software program.

In case of web based application we do use web based Web API, desktop based application such as spreadsheets and word documents use VBA & COM-based Web API which does not involve web services. For eg: – a server application such as “Joomla” do use a PHP based API which is present within the server and does not require web services. It’s not necessary that an API should always be web based instead of an Web API consists of a complete set of rules & specifications for a s/w program to follow in order to have interaction. A web service might not be able to perform all tasks that may be possible from a complete API. In a number of ways an API can be exposed which include DLL, COM objects and .H files in c++/c programming languages, xml over HTTP, JSON over HTTP RMI or Jar files in java etc.

Summary:-

  1. All APIs are not Web services but All Web services are Web APIs.
    2. The operations that an Web API would perform, Web services might not perform all.
    3. A Web service do use only three styles of use: REST, SOAP and XML-RPC for
    Communication but Web API may use any style for communication.
    4. An Web API doesn’t need a network for its operation but a Web service always needs a network for its operation whereas.

There are 2 types of Web API available but you can decide that which Web API is best to use for your application after considering the difference between SOAP and REST API as given below:-

Difference between SOAP and REST

For Web service access SOAP is definitely the heavyweight choice. when compared to REST It provides the following advantages:-
•    SOAP is platform, Language and transport independent and REST requires use of HTTP.
•    REST assumes direct point-to-point communication  and SOAP Works well in distributed enterprise environments
•    Standardized
•    in the form of the WS* standards it Provides significant pre-build extensibility
•    Built-in error handling
•    Automation when used with certain language products

REST is easy to use for the most and is more flexible. It has the following advantages when compared to SOAP:
•    To interact with the Web service no expensive tools require
•    REST can use smaller message formats ,SOAP do use XML for all messages
•    It is Fast so no extensive processing required
•    It is closer to other Web technologies in design philosophy
The client application consumes the data primarily through URL parameters and Path Variables In a Restful Web Service. The response from Restful Web Services is generally a standardized XML or more popularly a JSON.

These are few important points while you start comparing Restful web services with SOAP –
1.    Restful Web Services are fast because there are no strict specifications which are as in SOAP.
2.    With the output message format Restful Web Services are flexible, which can be Plain Text, HTML, XML or a JSON and in case of SOAP is always an XML.

Demerit of Web APIs

If you are using Soap or Rest API and in any case if Companies shut down services and Web APIs that your applications totally depend on and they can go out of business entirely so these kinds of service shutdowns can leave you in a lurch if your application depends on those Web APIs to function.
APIs do have some demerits but still we have some certain reasons to use Web APIs which is as follows:-

Why use  Web API

Clean Data: Web APIs provide data in clean, programmatic ally accessible formats so No need to convert the data from one file format to another and no need to scrub out bad entries and no need to load it into your local system.
Timely Data: Web APIs are capable of providing data that is refreshed much more often than you can achieve with pulling, cleaning, and loading files.
Correct Data: Web APIs always pull data from a single, authoritative source so you know you’re getting the “true” information.
Web APIs allow a specific audience to use data more quickly, easily and efficiently when they are looking to do something specific with the information.” Developers not need to code from scratch for any data interchange. Just just need to use the Web API from the source and can keep using its services which will be fact and reliable.