API Marketplace vs API Gateway (What’s the Difference?)

With API marketplaces, API gateways, API management platforms, API directories — and more — it can be hard to keep track of all the API tools and technology available for developers today. This article examines two common API related tools, an API marketplace and an API gateway, and explains the differences.

What is an API Marketplace?

You are probably familiar with a variety of different online marketplaces including Amazon or Facebook Marketplace. On these sites, you can list an item for sale or buy something listed by another user on the platform. An API marketplace works in the same way as these other online marketplaces, allowing providers to list APIs and developers to consume them.

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Like other types of marketplaces, a typical API marketplace has several components including a developer portal and an API provider portal. For example, RapidAPI is a marketplace that features both a developer dashboard to monitor API usage, billing, and more. There is also a provider dashboard to define the API endpoints and pricing, track developer consumption of the API, and get insights into revenue earned.

Other key components of an API Marketplace include search capabilities, standardized documentation, API testing, code snippets, API key provisioning, discussions, and customer support services.

Ultimately an API marketplace makes it easy for developers to find and connect to APIs. A marketplace also allows providers to publish, monetize and manage APIs, without having to develop these systems themselves.

What is an API Gateway?

An API gateway is the programming element that orchestrates and coordinates how various requests are processed in a microservice architecture. It sits at the front of the APIs and acts as a single entry point into a system allowing multiple APIs to function cohesively and offer a smooth experience to the developer consuming the APIs.

Ultimately, the main goal of an API Gateway is to help an organization deploy, secure and publish their APIs. The gateway could be utilized to facilitate internal usage of APIs or to expose the APIs to third-party developers. An API Gateway will likely include capabilities like rate limiting, authentication, authorization logging, usage tiers, injection prevention, transformation, and orchestration.

An example of an API gateway is MuleSoft or Apigee.

Similarities Between an API Marketplace and API Gateway

API marketplaces and API gateways can be confused because they seem similar on the surface. A marketplace and gateway are both used to manage multiple APIs from a single point. In the case of the RapidAPI Marketplace, you can see analytics and details about all of your API subscriptions from a single dashboard. An API gateway would likely feature a similar centralized analytics panel.

Differences Between an API Marketplace and API Gateway

Despite these similarities, the purpose of an API Marketplace and an API gateway are fundamentally different. An API marketplace’s main purpose is allowing developers to discover and connect to many different APIs that have been created by different API providers. It also provides a platform for API providers to monetize or distribute their APIs.

In contrast, the main purpose of an API gateway is to coordinate how API requests are processed in a microservice architecture.

An API marketplace can also be used to manage many APIs from a variety of different API providers. An API gateway is typically only used to manage APIs from one provider.

Another way to think about the differences between an API marketplace and an API gateway is to consider the end-user. An API marketplace caters towards both API consumers and providers since it allows consumers to connect and discover APIs, and allows providers to expose their APIs. In comparison, an API gateway is more specifically geared towards a creator of an API.

Can an API Gateway and an API Marketplace Be Used Together?

Absolutely! Let’s take a look at an example of a company building a public API offering. The company building out their API might utilize an API gateway to consolidate all of their microservices into a single cohesive API connection experience. Once the API is built using an API gateway, then the company will utilize an API marketplace to launch publicly, market, manage, and monetize their public API offering.

Summary

API marketplaces and API gateways are both important programming tools. It is helpful to know how they compare so you know what scenarios to use them in. Review the chart below for a comparison of the two.

  API Marketplace API Gateway
Goal Help developers discover and connect to APIs Help API providers secure and expose their microservices through a single API
Key Capabilities Search, documentation, API testing, code snippets, user authentication, API analytics, discussions, API support Rate limiting, user authentication, logging, usage tiers, injection prevention, transformation, orchestration
End-User API consumers and API provider API provider
Examples RapidAPI MuleSoft

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Source: RapidAPI