REST API vs Web API (vs SOAP API) [What’s the Difference?]

REST API vs Web API

In the world of web development, there are several confusing words that we often hear and let them pass because we can’t wrap our heads around them. They include Web API, REST API, and SOAP API, among others. If you have been finding these words confusing, read through to understand what they mean, how they relate, and their differences.

What is REST API?

Before we jump right into it, let’s first understand what REST is. Contrary to the belief of many, REST is not a protocol, a tool or library, but rather an architectural style of web service that provides a channel of communication between systems or computers on the internet. It is a standard that is utilized as an architectural means of designing a Network-based software system.

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Therefore a REST API is an application program interface that is backed by the architectural style of REST. It refers to tools, service or software that is based on the REST architectural principle. Although REST can be used on nearly any protocol, they take advantage of HTTP when used for web APIs. The primary advantage of REST APIs is that they offer more flexibility. In REST APIs, data is not constrained to resources or methods. Therefore, it can make multiple types of calls, return various data formats, and even change structurally with the appropriate implementation of hypermedia.

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Examples of REST APIs

  1. Instagram API permits your applications to retrieve user tags, photos, account and much more.
  2. Twitter also provides a REST API which a developer can query to source the latest tweets, or provide a search query that will return the results in JSON format.
  3. GitHub also offers super REST API that you can utilize to perform actions such as following GitHub issues, tracking user activity, and create repositories from your app.

What is Web API?

Web API is basically an open-source framework that is used to write HTTP APIs. It refers to an API over the web which can be accessed using the HTTP protocol. It is important to note that it is a concept and not a technology. Developers can build Web API using a vast array of technologies such as .NET, and Java, among others. Web API can be RESTful or not. Web API implements protocol specification and thus it incorporates concepts like caching, URIs, versioning, request/response headers, and various content formats in it.

Examples of Web APIs

  1. Google APIs – In any area of modern technology, you can be assured that Google will set the benchmark. Their APIs include Google Analytic API, YouTube API, Blogger API, and Google Font API, among others.
  2. There are also social media APIs such as Twitter API, Facebook APIs, Scoop.it API and Linkedin API.

What is SOAP API?

SOAP (Simple Access Protocol) is a standard messaging or communication protocol system that allows processes that utilize various operating systems such as Windows and Linux to interact and communicate through HTTP and its XML. 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.

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Differences between REST and SOAP APIs

REST API SOAP API
It has no official standard since it is primarily an architectural style It is an official standard because it is a protocol
Can use several standards like HTTP, URL, JSON, and XML Based largely on HTTP and XML
It takes less bandwidth and resources since it deploys multiple standards. It takes more bandwidth as it uses XML to create payloads
It utilizes URL exposure such as @path to expose business logic It uses services interfaces such as to expose business logic
Convenient with JavaScript and allows easy implementation. Also convenient with JavaScript but is not supportive for greater implementation
Utilizes Web Application Description Language Uses Web Services Description language
More secure since it boasts SSL and HTTPS It only features SSL

Learn more about SOAP vs REST APIs here.

Related Reading

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Source: RapidAPI