The Differences Between API and Web Service
Confused between the terms API and web service? You’re not alone. These terms seem to be used interchangeably but they are in fact two separate ways to transfer data between software applications. Let’s look at the key differences between the two.
API v. Web Service, Definitions
As explained in our blog, What is an API, an API is a software intermediary that connects multiple applications and allows them to communicate using a set of definitions and protocols. APIs allow users to build on the data and functionality of another application. For example, users who leverage SiliconExpert’s direct API, can use our API to automate interactions with our database.
On the other hand, a web service uses a network, such as the world wide web, to connect software applications on different machines with open protocols and standards. This is where it gets murky; a web service is a type of API but not all APIs are web services. Web services are one way that APIs can be implemented. SiliconExpert’s P5 web service provides access to our core engineering products, part search and/or BOM manager through a web browser.
Comparing Web Service and API
A key difference between web service and API is the way that software applications or machines communicate. With web service, a network is required to transfer information. However, with an API a network is optional. APIs are also commonly leveraged on internal databases and do not require a network.
APIs have four common types, private, partner, open, and composite. The varying types allow for varying ranges of oversight and access, creating greater flexibility for the provider as well as the developer when choosing what option is right for them. Web services are only accessible to approved users. This enables the provider to have greater control over the data, how their service is used, and the overall functionality of the services provided.
The architecture is the set of rules that govern how data is shared and the three most common API architectures are RESTful, SOAP and RPC. Web services most commonly follow the SOAP, or Simple Object Access Protocol. As mentioned prior, web services give the provider greater control over data sharing which aligns with SOAP as this architecture follows a strict set up guidelines for data transfer to provide greater security and data integrity. Due to the strict oversight of SOAP, this is not considered a lightweight architecture as it is code heavy. APIs may leverage any of the three architectures mentioned giving it more of a lightweight architecture and are less code heavy.
Web services are often more limited in the way the data is encoded, only using XML format. APIs have greater flexibility and can encode data transfers in XML or JSON format, a lightweight alternative.
Lastly, the way that requests are made vary between the two services. Web services will us HTTP, hyper-text-transfer protocol, whereas APIs can leverage either HTTP or the more secure HTTPS call. Either way, both will follow the standard formats of requests, GET, POST, DELETE, or PUT.
What’s right for me?
The answer to this question comes down to how you want to access and use the data. Both APIs and web services facilitate the transfer of data. With an API, you can use almost any modern programming language to improve connectivity and collaboration across multiple applications. APIs also do not need a network to share data. However, API’s do require extensive programming knowledge to develop from scratch and can take a long time to develop.
While a web service is more limited in protocols and programming languages, they are much quicker to implement. Web services can enable faster communication within and outside of an organization across a network easing the data exchange.
There is slight, but important, difference between the two offerings. With SiliconExpert web service, P5, you can access Part Search and BOM manager directly through our website. Getting access to our component database is as easy as getting a username and no development time is required. On the other hand, our API solutions are a good fit for those who would like to access the data within their native ecosystems.
The Power of SiliconExpert’s APIs
SiliconExpert’s API offers our robust component database can help take your product lifecycle management to the next level. Whether you want to embed our data into your native tools or access our web service, our 1+ billion components and 300+ attributes per component lower your overall BOM risk and avoid supply chain disruptions. Start your free trial today.