To be able to exchange large amounts of data and information, you need the right solution. API and web services offer an optimal way to ensure that two parties can exchange information and communicate with each other. Find out more about web services, API, about their advantages and differences in this blog post.
What is a webservice?
A webservice is an interface through which systems can communicate with each other over the Internet. Specifically, this refers to software and hardware. A web server on a computer waits for a request from another server, processes it, and sends it back to the server that made the request. This server can then process the information. Web services thus make it possible for website providers to offer different services over a network.
What is an API?
APIs (Application Programming Interface) are also application programming interfaces for programming software and integrating it into a system in such a way that information can be exchanged between the application and program parts. In other words, they connect different parts of a software platform so that the desired data ends up in the right place. APIs are used primarily in production control, accounting, warehouse management, sales, customer and supplier connectivity, web stores, and mobile applications.
Different types of APIs:
Function oriented APIs
Interfaces use functions and their parameters for communication
File oriented APIs
Access to individual files or file functions via a file system call
Object oriented APIs
Work with interface indicators and are much more flexible than the function-oriented APIs
Protocol oriented APIs
Are independent of a defined operating system or specific hardware
How does an API interface work?
The API specifies the form in which the information and data are received and returned. The program connection takes place in source code format. For a program to be able to call up and use the functionalities of another software, the latter must have implemented the corresponding API. A common structure must therefore be defined in advance. It also requires access to databases, hardware, interfaces, and individual application functions.
An API can be used both as an internal communication channel and for external communication. So on the one hand there are the internal APIs, which are also called private APIs, and on the other hand, the external APIs, which are also called open APIs.
Internal / private APIs
This type of APIs is only accessible to developers and users within an organization and is mostly used for internal team processes.
External / open APIs
With these APIs, external developers have the possibility to access information from different tools and integrate between them. Existing tools are used for this purpose.
Difference webservice and API
Basically, it can be said that there is overlap between a web service and an API, yet they are not the same. Every web service is also an API since it exposes the data or functionalities of an application. But not every API is also a web service at the same time.
Another important difference is that not all APIs are accessible via the internet and therefore no network is necessary. APIs are accessible via local files so that two local applications can communicate with each other. This process happens within a single device. Webservices, on the other hand, always work over the internet and thus always require a network to access the web service.
An API is an interface that makes it possible to build on the data and functionality of another application. A web service, on the other hand, performs a specific task over a network.
An API, unlike a web service, is also protocol agnostic, which means that it is independent of the protocols used for communication. A protocol is negotiated with the communication partner before the data is transmitted. So while APIs use arbitrary protocols or styles, web services typically use SOAP (Service Oriented Architecture Programs) and tend to offer specific data to specific partners.
Advantages of an API
There is the so-called API security, which is responsible for protecting the integrity of APIs. Especially with web APIs that work over the Internet, security is not always guaranteed, so you should be sufficiently informed about it so that no information is disclosed to third parties. When web APIs are used, access must be allowed and delegated to specific people, this is done via the OAuth standard (Open Authorization). Here, third parties can be granted access without having to disclose passwords.
Depending on the API type, different formats are used to guarantee security. There are implementations of the type REST (Representational State Transfer) or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).
REST APIs use HTTP as the format and support TLS encryption (Transport Layer Security), which ensures that the data being exchanged is encrypted. This security can be recognized by the “HTTPS” (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) designation.
SOAP APIs use Web Services Security (WS Security), which are built-in protocols that ensure confidentiality and authentication. A combination of XML encryption, XML signatures, and SAML tokens are used for this purpose.
To ensure API security, it is beneficial to have a trained API management team that is well versed in the subject and is solely concerned with ensuring that no errors or vulnerabilities occur.
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