Developers who work with Web services and APIs need to understand the difference between these two similar concepts. Each has its particular purpose, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Instead, it depends on how the developer wants to use them and which one makes more sense given what they’re trying to do. This article will explain the difference between APIs and web services by looking at what each does, what problems they solve, and which one you should use when building your next big software project.
What is an API?
An Application Programming Interface (API) is sometimes also referred to as a service, software, or platform. It’s similar to a software development kit (SDK), allowing developers to create applications on top of various services. In contrast, web APIs are tools for creating web applications based on third-party services.
What is a Web Service?
A web service is a software application that facilitates interaction between two separate applications over a network. These two applications may be running on different computer systems, often separated by great distances. Typically, software applications provide some service to users, but in contrast with an application program interface (API), web service does not always provide services to humans directly. Instead, it uses its programming logic to exchange data with other services or software applications for business processes or remote control.
Features of Web API
These features are:
- An API allows developers to leverage APIs via automated routines
- The more active developers on an API, the more robust it becomes
- Developers can get behind-the-scenes access to backend data processing
- APIs are often used in conjunction with push notifications or SMS texts to send content from one system directly into another
The main features of API are HTTP, REST, CRUD, and Routing. REST stands for Representational State Transfer. It’s an architectural style that uses stateless, client-server communication over HTTP to expose resources to lightweight clients such as web browsers or mobile devices. A RESTful web service exposes its functionality through a set of resources accessible via uniform resource identifiers (URIs). Each URI points to a resource that can be manipulated using standard HTTP operations like GET, POST, PUT and DELETE.
Features of Web Services
There is no need to install or configure anything on the server side, as you can access web services through HTTP protocol. Web services are also platform-independent and thus easy to integrate with any application across various platforms. In addition, enterprises often use them due to their proven, secure, reliable, and faster access mechanism than any remote procedure call system such as RMI or SOAP.
Differences in API and Web Services
HTML is not supported in Web services. When you choose to publish rich text with HTML content as your web service message body, you will convert it to plain text in JSON or XML format. Complex algorithms need to be decoupled into external services, which is difficult with APIS but not with web services. However, the architecture of web services needs a more complicated design. For example, there are several rich text format (RTF) properties that you can use in your API: line spacing, color, text size, borders, fonts, and more.
To sum up, both APIs and web services are similar in that they provide access to data. However, an API has stricter requirements than a web service. But there are generally far fewer programming interfaces available for Web Services than with APIs. Instead, dive into more interesting points about APIs & web services on Contentful.