Sat May 21, 2022

What Are The Principal Types of Web-Based APIs?

A dog wearing glasses and using an ipad

APIs are amazing because they allow developers to exponentially enhance the way programs work by communicating with other software systems. But not all APIs are created equal.

What is an API?

APIs are applications that enable communication between diverse software systems. API stands for Application Programming Interface.

APIs allow a vast array of unrelated software systems to interoperate with one another. Additionally, APIs provide a way for developers to add functionality to software by leveraging a comprehensive set of available APIs. This is why complex systems require API monitoring.

APIs do not all operate similarly, however. Developers can work with various API types, protocols, and structures that suit the differing needs of different application software and businesses.

What are the Principal Types of APIs?

There are four main types of APIs for the web:

  • Open/Public
  • Partner
  • Internal/Private
  • Composite

Open/Public APIs

Open or public APIs are user agnostic. They have no restrictions whatsoever so anyone can use these APIs for their purposes.

Public APIs usually involve limited authentication and authorization. Organizations that offer public APIs could choose to monetize it on a per-call basis.

Public APIs are usually issued by large enterprises.

Partner APIs

A partner API is a selectively available API issued by companies to partner businesses. It’s used by businesses to make specific data sets or information available to other businesses that fulfil certain criteria.

Partner APIs could be paid or free. In either case, partners use such APIs to facilitate business dealings with the API provider.

An example of how partner APIs work. Stripe provides APIs to businesses that want to use Stripe as a payment gateway. Stripe benefits through payments for services rather than for the APIs themselves.

Developers and API consumers are given clear rights and licenses guiding the use of partner APIs.

Internal/Private APIs

Private APIs are created for use within organizations to connect internal systems and applications.

Because internal APIs are intended for private use, they usually have low level security and authentication. Whatever security is needed is provided by company policies.

This trend is however changing with more information surfacing about the need for security in API strategy.

Composite APIs

This type of APIs combine different data and service APIs. They produce a sequence of related operations through the combination of multiple APIs.

Their main use case is to address complex API behaviors. They also improve speed and performance in comparison with individual APIs.

Closing Thoughts

As a developer or API consumer, the choice of what type of API to use or build depends on the desired use case.

There are public libraries available for open APIs and businesses usually detail everything you need to know about using partner APIs.

This makes collaboration easy and seamless. So don’t let anything stop you from building that project.