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Difference Between APIs and Web Services

In the ever evolving world of software development, it is essential to understand the difference between various terms and technologies. Two frequently used but often confused terms are APIs (Application Programming Interface) and Web Services. While they both facilitate the communication between software products, they serve different purposes and unique characteristics.

Let us explore the key differences between APIs and Web Services in this quick read.

API (Application Programming Interface)

APIs are sets of rules and protocols that allows different software applications to communicate with each other. Application refers to any software with a distinct function. Interface is a contract of service between two applications. This contract defines how the two application can communicate with each other.

API architecture can be described as the interaction between a client and a server. The application that sends the request is the client, and the application that receives the request and sending the response back is the server. For example, weather app in our mobile phone. Here, the weather app in our phone is the client and the weather database is the server.

Web Services

A web service is a specific type of API that follow a set of standard protocols and technologies to enable communication over the internet. Web services are accessible over the internet using standard web protocols such as HTTP. They use SOAP or XML to allow communication between different platforms and technologies which is universally supported.

Web services usually comes with detail documentation that specifies how to make requests, what data to be send and how to interpret the responses. This documentation is important for developers looking to integrate with the service.

Key differences between API and Web Services



Web Services


May or may not require a network for communication

Requires a network for communication


Flexible and not restricted to any specific protocols

Use standardized web protocols like HTTP, XML, SOAP


Light weight architecture

Considered as heavy weight architecture


Access to specific function in an application

Communication between distributed systems


Can be implemented in different programming language

Follow standard protocol and specifically designed for web based communication

Conclusion In conclusion, while both APIs and web services helps software communication, they differ in scope and implementation. APIs are the general concept of interfaces for software communication, while web services are a specific implementation of APIs over the web.

Developers choose between APIs and web services based on their requirements. Knowing these differences are important for developers to make a decision, when designing and implementing communication solutions for the applications.

Thank you for reading, if you have any questions about the article, please leave me a comment.

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