API vs Web Service: What's the Difference? (with Examples) | RapidAPI (2023)

Table of Contents

  • API vs Web Service
  • APIs and Web Services
    • Terminology Definition
    • What is a Web Service?
    • What is an API?
  • So What’s the Difference?
  • Is a REST API a Web Service?
    • Here’s How the REST API Works:
    • Benefits of REST APIs
  • The Core Differences
  • Get Started with APIs

API vs Web Service

In August of 1991, the World Wide Web was born. It was nothing like it is today — in fact, it was slow and quite bare, with hardly any websites online. If you had your own website, you were one of the few out there!

It was even a world before Google. Google didn’t exist until 1998 and most people used Yahoo! to search the web.

As those who were tech-savvy got to know the ins and outs of coding computer languages, we were lucky enough to experience some of the most impressive innovations, available right at our fingertips over the internet.

Suddenly, we were exposed to Google, a search engine that could list everything existing on the World Wide Web.

We had email services that allowed us to talk to other people through a machine — though we later turned to instant messaging services like AIM and MSN. Eventually, websites like Myspace, then Facebook, popped up. These allowed us to create our own Internet versions of ourselves and interact with other people we’d never meet otherwise.

Social media forever changed the way we use the internet. It showed people that we could communicate with each other through a machine at our fingertips — and quickly.

It became clear that the options were limitless. Websites could replace what we do in real life if it was faster and easier.

(Video) Difference Between API and Web Services

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APIs and Web Services

API vs Web Service: What's the Difference? (with Examples) | RapidAPI (1)

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A web service and anAPI are two very similar concepts, so it can be difficult to understand the similarities and differences.

Terminology Definition

Before we get started further explaining web services and APIs, we first need to define a few other terms:

  • XML [eXtensible Markup Language] is a standardized format for storing and sending data. Similar to HTML, XML stores data by wrapping it in descriptive tags.
  • JSON [JavaScript Object Notation] is similar to XML in that it also stores and enables you to send data in a standardized format. JSON just uses a different, object-based, methodology for systematically storing data.
  • HTTP [HyperText Transfer Protocol] is the foundation of transferring data and communications on the internet.
  • SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] is a messaging protocol used for exchanging structured information[XML data] over a network.
  • REST[REpresentational State Transfer] is a standardized architectural style that can be used when creating a web API.
  • Web applications (Web app) are computer programs that are accessed over the internet through a computer’s web browser.

What is a Web Service?

A Web service is a way for two machines to communicate with each other over a network.

A web server running on a computer listens for requests from other computers. When a request from another computer is received, over a network, the Web service returns the requested resources. This resource could be JSON, XML, an HTML file, Images, Audio Files, etc.

It’s important to note the requirement of the request being made over a network.

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What is an API?

An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of definitions and protocols that allow one application to communicate with another application.

(Video) Difference Between API and Web Service

In general, when we speak about APIs, we are likely speaking about web APIs [APIs that are accessible over the internet]. This is not always the case though. APIs can be exposed through local files (such as a JAR file in a Java program, .H file in C/C++ programs, etc.) to allow two local applications to communicate with each other. This doesn’t require a network as the two applications are communicating within a single device.

Learn more about types of APIs.

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So What’s the Difference?

You might be wondering to yourself, APIs and Web services sound like the same thing. It’s a way for two computers to communicate with each other over the internet, right? Well, not quite.

As we mentioned in the section about “What is an API?,” not all APIs are accessible over the internet(a network), while Web Services must always be accessed through a network. That’s the difference right there.

All Web Services are APIs, but not all APIs are Web services.

Is a REST API a Web Service?

The short answer? Yes, REST APIs are a type of Web Service APIs.

A REST API is a standardized architecture style for creating a Web Service API. One of the requirements to be a REST API is the utilization of HTTP methods to make a request over a network.

REST was officially defined by computer scientist Roy Fielding in 2000 during his Ph.D. dissertation. It essentially changed the way applications are built. The implementation of the frontend “client” can be built completely independently from the backend “server.”

A REST request from the client to the server usually consists of the following components:

(Video) APIs and Web Services: What's the Difference?

  • URL Path [https://api.example.com/user]
  • Header – (optional) additional information that the client needs to pass along in the request such as Authorization credentials, Content-Type of the body, User-Agent to define what type of application is making the request, and more]
  • Parameters – (optional) variable fields that alter how the resource will be returned.
  • Body – (optional) contains data that needs to be sent to the server.

Here’s How the REST API Works:

Let’s say that you want to see what your best friend posted on Instagram. To do this, you need to go on the app and open up your friends Instagram page.

In this example, your Instagram app [the client], would make a request to Instagram’s server [the server] to request your friend’s Instagram profile. This request would be a GET request to the /users endpoint and in the parameters of the request your friend’s account ID would be included.

  • HTTP Method: GET
  • URL: https://api.instagram.com/v1/users/
  • Parameters: user={best_friends_user_id}

[Disclaimer: This is a very simplified example of a request to the Instagram API]

In the same way that you use a GET request to retrieve data, a POST request would be used to create data on a platform. So let’s use the example of posting an image to Instagram. This request would be a POST request to the /media endpoint with a body of the image and parameters with your caption.

  • HTTP Method: POST
  • URL: https://api.instagram.com/v1/media/
  • Parameters: caption={my_great_caption}&user={my_user_id}
  • Body: Image to upload

[Disclaimer: This is not an accurate example request to the Instagram API. The post media endpoint is a private endpoint.]

Benefits of REST APIs

The reason REST is so great is that it offers a standardized methodology for making requests to an API. Once you learn one REST API, other REST APIs are going to function in a similar way.

If an API is available over the internet, there is no need to install additional software within your application. You can access the data from any application that is connected to the same network as the API.

With separated development on the client and server, the client code can be updated without affecting the server, and the server code can be updated without affecting the server. This is assuming the changes are developed in a backward-compatible way.

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The Core Differences

If you got a little lost reading about APIs and web services, here is a quick summary of what we covered above.

(Video) Web Services vs API

  • APIs are application interfaces, meaning that one application is able to interact with another application in a standardized way.
  • Web services are a type of API, which must be accessed through a network connection.
  • REST APIs are a standardized architecture for building web APIs using HTTP methods.

We hope that this article has helped you sort through the differences, ins and outs, and general information you may need to know for an API and Web service.

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What is the difference between API and web service with example? ›

The key distinction is that web services are a type of API: All web services are APIs, but not all APIs are web services. 'API' is the broader category because, by definition, it refers to any software component that acts as an intermediary between two otherwise disconnected applications.

What is difference between web service and Web API? ›

Web service is used to communicate between two machines on a network. Web API is used as an interface between two different applications for communicating with each other. It uses HTML requests that can be compressed, but XML data cannot be compressed. Data can be compressed.

What is an example of a web service? ›

As an example, Amazon provides a web service that provides prices for products sold online via amazon.com. The front end or presentation layer can be in . Net or Java but either programming language would have the ability to communicate with the web service.

What is API example? ›

APIs are mechanisms that enable two software components to communicate with each other using a set of definitions and protocols. For example, the weather bureau's software system contains daily weather data. The weather app on your phone “talks” to this system via APIs and shows you daily weather updates on your phone.

What are the 4 main types of Web APIs? ›

Four types of web APIs

APIs are broadly accepted and used in web applications. There are four principal types of API commonly used in web-based applications: public, partner, private and composite.

Is rest an API or Web service? ›

A REST API (also known as RESTful API) is an application programming interface (API or web API) that conforms to the constraints of REST architectural style and allows for interaction with RESTful web services. REST stands for representational state transfer and was created by computer scientist Roy Fielding.

What is meant by API and web services? ›

Web API. Web services are a type of API, which must be accessed through a network connection. APIs are application interfaces, implying that one application can communicate with another application in a standardized manner. Web service is used for REST, SOAP and XML-RPC for communication.

What's the difference between a service and an API? ›

The basic difference between them is as follows: Web Services provide interaction between two machines over a network while APIs acts as an interface between two different applications for interoperability. Web Services requires a network connection while APIs may or may not require a network for their operability.

What is difference between API and web service and Microservice? ›

While APIs and Webs Services are the communication interface for different architecture styles, microservices is a distinctive method to develop software systems that have well-defined interfaces and operability.

What are the four examples of web services? ›

There are a few central types of web services: XML-RPC, UDDI, SOAP, and REST: XML-RPC (Remote Procedure Call) is the most basic XML protocol to exchange data between a wide variety of devices on a network.

What is web service short answer? ›

Web services, as the name suggests, is simply a software system that is specially designed to propagate communication between the client and server applications on WWW (World Wide Web). In simple words, it is the method of communication among two or more devices over a network.

What are the two types of web services? ›

Web services are of two kinds: Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State Transfer (REST). SOAP defines a standard communication protocol (set of rules) specification for XML-based message exchange. SOAP uses different transport protocols, such as HTTP and SMTP.

What is API real world example? ›

Here are a few common examples of APIs: Sharing flight information between airlines and travel sites. Using Google Maps in a rideshare app. Building chatbots in a messaging service.

Is Facebook an API? ›

What is the Facebook API? The Facebook Graph API is an HTTP-based API that allows developers to extract data and functionality from the Facebook platform. Applications can use this API to programmatically query data, post in pages and groups, and manage ads, among other tasks.

Is Google an API? ›

Google APIs are application programming interfaces (APIs) developed by Google which allow communication with Google Services and their integration to other services. Examples of these include Search, Gmail, Translate or Google Maps.

What type of API is Amazon? ›

Amazon API Gateway is an AWS service for creating, publishing, maintaining, monitoring, and securing REST, HTTP, and WebSocket APIs at any scale. API developers can create APIs that access AWS or other web services, as well as data stored in the AWS Cloud .

Which API is most used? ›

Most Popular API Integrations
  • Skyscanner Flight Search – Learn More.
  • Open Weather Map – Learn More.
  • API-FOOTBALL – Learn More.
  • The Cocktail DB – Learn More.
  • REST Countries v1 – Learn More.
  • Yahoo Finance – Learn More.
  • Love Calculator – Learn More.
  • URL Shortener Service – Learn More.
20 Aug 2022

What are the two types of API functions? ›

You can find two types of API functions in Node. js, namely Synchronous, blocking functions, and Asynchronous, non-blocking functions.

Is soap an API or Web service? ›

But deciding one over the other can be surprisingly difficult. SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) is a standards-based web services access protocol that has been around for a long time.

How many types of API are there? ›

There are four widely agreed-upon types of web APIs: open APIs, partner APIs, internal APIs, and composite APIs.

Is an API SOAP or REST? ›

SOAP is a protocol, whereas REST is an architectural style

An API is designed to expose certain aspects of an application's business logic on a server, and SOAP uses a service interface to do this while REST uses URIs.

Is REST API and RESTful web services Same? ›

Put simply, there are no differences between REST and RESTful as far as APIs are concerned. REST is the set of constraints. RESTful refers to an API adhering to those constraints. It can be used in web services, applications, and software.

Is Netflix a Microservice? ›

Due to this reason, Netflix is able to scale its services rapidly, via horizontal scaling and workload partitioning as part of the microservices-based architecture.

What is an example of a Microservice? ›

Containers are an excellent example of microservices architecture as they allow businesses to focus on developing services without worrying about dependencies. Cloud-native applications are commonly built as microservices by leveraging containers.

Is Google a web service? ›

Google.com is a well-known web search engine. Google has made a web service available that allows developers to interface with their search engine within their own applications. A user can search for any topic on the web. A query will return data about the web pages that are found.

What is difference between SOAP and REST? ›

REST is a set of guidelines that offers flexible implementation, whereas SOAP is a protocol with specific requirements like XML messaging. REST APIs are lightweight, making them ideal for newer contexts like the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile application development, and serverless computing.

Why is it called web service? ›

Web services are typically function calls made over a network using web technology to transmit the information. Often the information that is transmitted is formatted as XML. A web service can be contrasted with a typical web request even though they both use web technology.

What is web service testing with example? ›

Web Services Testing is a type of software testing that validates Web services. The purpose of Web Services Testing is to check the functionality, reliability, performance, and security of an API(Application Program Interface). Web Service Testing is similar to unit testing in some cases.

Is an API an application? ›

API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Each time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone, you're using an API.

Where are web services used? ›

Web services are used for a variety of applications, but the most common is for reusing code and connecting existing programs. The web service method can help developers segment applications into components that can be used and reused for various needs.

What are web services tools? ›

A Web Service is a software functionality that supports machine to machine communication over the world wide web. It generally uses web technology like HTTP for transferring the messages between electronic devices or applications. These messages are mostly in XML and JSON file formats.

What are web services methods? ›

Following four HTTP methods are commonly used in REST based architecture. GET − Provides a read only access to a resource. POST − Used to create a new resource. DELETE − Used to remove a resource. PUT − Used to update a existing resource or create a new resource.

Is WhatsApp an API? ›

WhatsApp Business API is an application program interface that allows businesses to receive and answer unlimited WhatsApp messages seamlessly. It was created by Facebook in August 2018 to provide medium and large businesses with a tailored solution for scaling their customer engagement via WhatsApp.

What is the main use of API? ›

API is an acronym that stands for “application programming interface,” and it allows apps to send information between each other. While there are numerous protocols and technologies involved, the underlying purpose of APIs is always the same: to let one piece of software communicate with another.

What are the three most common types of APIs? ›

Web APIs
  • Open APIs. Open APIs, also known as external or public APIs, are available to developers and other users with minimal restrictions. ...
  • Internal APIs. In contrast to open APIs, internal APIs are designed to be hidden from external users. ...
  • Partner APIs. ...
  • Composite APIs. ...
  • REST. ...
  • JSON-RPC and XML-RPC. ...
  • SOAP.

Is Microsoft an API? ›

What is a Microsoft API? A Microsoft application programming interface (API) is a web service developed by a division of Microsoft, such as Microsoft Azure. APIs allow developers to add the functionality of a feature to their client applications.

Is API a server or database? ›

Application Programming Interface (API)

The API is not the database or even the server, it is the code that governs the access point(s) for the server. An API is not a database. It is an access point to an app that can access a database.

Is an API Paas or SaaS? ›

APIs tend to also offer metered billing upfront. For these and other reasons, APIs are a distinct subset of SaaS. For fast-moving developers building on a global-scale, APIs are no longer a stop-gap to the future—they're a critical part of their strategy.

Is postman a API? ›

Postman is an API platform for building and using APIs. Postman simplifies each step of the API lifecycle and streamlines collaboration so you can create better APIs—faster.

Is JSON is an API? ›

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) API is an application programming interface designed for lightweight data interchange (text-based data exchange format) between two computer applications operating on the same hardware device or between different computers in different geographical areas.

Is Gmail an API? ›

The Gmail API is a RESTful API that can be used to access Gmail mailboxes and send mail. For most web applications the Gmail API is the best choice for authorized access to a user's Gmail data and is suitable for various applications, such as: Read-only mail extraction, indexing, and backup.

What is SOAP and REST API with example? ›

SOAP is a protocol, whereas REST is an architectural style

For example, a SOAP API that exposes functionality to create a user might include a function called "CreateUser" that would be specified in the SOAP body. A REST API would instead expose a URL /users, and a POST request towards that URL would create a user.

What is difference between API and REST API with example? ›

REST (Representational State Transfer), is an API that follows a set of rules through which applications and servers communicate.
Difference Between REST and RESTful API.
NatureHighly adaptable and user-friendlyToo flexible
3 more rows
28 Jun 2022

Is Web API SOAP or REST? ›

SOAP APIs are designed with the capability to create, update, recover and delete records such as passwords, leads, accounts, and custom objects. While Web API in the time of Web 1.0 was synonymous with SOAP-based web services, today in Web 2.0, the term SOAP is edging towards REST-style web resources.

What is API with real life example? ›

API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Each time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone, you're using an API.

What is an example of a REST API? ›

For example, a REST API would use a GET request to retrieve a record, a POST request to create one, a PUT request to update a record, and a DELETE request to delete one. All HTTP methods can be used in API calls. A well-designed REST API is similar to a website running in a web browser with built-in HTTP functionality.

What is SOAP with example? ›

SOAP is the Simple Object Access Protocol, a messaging standard defined by the World Wide Web Consortium and its member editors. SOAP uses an XML data format to declare its request and response messages, relying on XML Schema and other technologies to enforce the structure of its payloads.


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