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Web Service vs API

Are you confused about web services and APIs? What is the difference?

Let's introduce them one by one and then let's outline in what they differ.

API stands for Application Programming Interface and it is a software component which allows two distinct applications to communicate with each other. API exposes functionalities tha can be used from another software to implement. Developers can implement a specific software getting/inserting/deleting/updating data from APIs without the need to recode the exposed functionalities and their logics. Although APIs can be used without network, most of them are behind the integrations made over the internet, then we can call them Web APIs. Most popular protocol architectures to build APIs are Representational State Transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). These protocols make possible to call APIs using same languages and procedures.

Web Service is a resource which exposes functionalities over the internet and that can be used by a different applications which run on different platforms and frameworks. Web services are central to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) which make the software modular and available as services across internet. Web service requires network for being interacted and this networked communication is usually made up through SOAP which encodes data into XML for being then sent via HTTP protocol. Although web service could use REST protocol, SOAP is most common.

Web Services vs API.

While web service needs a network communication , usually internet, API does not. API can use network but usually functions offline like two distinct applications running on the same machine which can interact with each other through APIs without network.

Web service can be accessed only by approved clients therefore there is the control about who accesses and how they are used. API can be accessed by software developers with limited oversight or under prepayment.

Web service usually uses XML to encode data while API uses generally any language.

In conclusion we can say that even if both API and Web Service allow data transfer between software applications, Web Service is an API with stricter requirements: controlled accessibility, network, SOAP protocol.


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