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API vs. Web Service in a nutshell

· 7 min read
Oleg Kulyk

API vs. Web Service in a nutshell

Before we get into the comparison between the two relatively similar concepts, let us first develop a better understanding of them by first learning what they are and what they offer in terms of functionality and uses. So let's begin!

What Are Web Services?

Web Services are applications that allow communication between multiple machines over the internet. These machines can then transfer data and information among themselves. Web Services are designed with WSDL or Web Service Description Language and use a wide range of protocols and programming languages so that they can work seamlessly on all sorts of platforms and devices.

Web Services perform the role of a channel for exchanging information and data between two or more clients and servers. Clients make RPCs or Remote Procedure Calls which are a kind of requests to the Server. Upon receiving these requests, Servers approve and enable Clients to access and utilize whichever Web Service the client requested.

What Kind of Web Services Are There?

There are many kinds of Web Services out there; some of the most common are:


WSDL is a very handy Web Service as it defines all resources available in a web application. WSDL functions using an XML-based language, so its services are mostly in XML format.


SOAP allows two applications to communicate among themselves by using SOAP messages. These SOAP messages are XML data. They share and transfer data and information across the network in which the applications are connected.


REST services are used to create protocols by using HTTP. These constraints and protocols are used to build APIs for applications.

Why Use Web Services?

People use Web Services for a lot of reasons; some of them are:

  • Web Services are easy to implement, and you can easily merge and incorporate them in; some-built architecture or even service-oriented ones.
  • One of the main reasons people use Web Services is that they are very convenient and easy to use.
  • Web Services are not dependent on other services, meaning they exist and function independently.
  • They allow data sharing and enable fast communication between applications of various platforms.
  • Web Services allow applications to connect in multiple ways; thus, they solve the interoperability problem that often exists between devices and systems.
  • Web services prioritize and focus on enabling systems and platforms to connect seamlessly.
  • Web Services are reusable. Meaning you can use web services in and for other services as well. They are compatible with a wide array of internet standards. This includes Axis2, Apache, etc.
  • Web Services can be merged in order to execute and integrate advanced and complex functions.
  • Web Services are loosely coupled, which means it doesn't allow two instances to communicate directly among themselves.
  • Regardless of internal or cross-communication, Web services allow fast communication thanks to their design.

What Are the Drawbacks of Web Services?

Every application and software has drawbacks; some drawbacks of Web Services are:

  • First of all, web services are not accessible when you are using browsers
  • Web services have glitches and often have mistakes.
  • Some of the protocols of web services are unreliable, like HTTP.
  • Web services require specialization as per customer needs and demands.
  • Web services cannot work off of newer web development components. They include: HttpRequest,XML, AJAX, etc.

What Are APIs?

API is an abbreviation for Application Programming Interface. It allows different applications to communicate amongst themselves seamlessly without the need for human interaction. While Not all APIs are made publicly open and available, some are open and free to use. This is done to prevent misuse of data.

Data is a currency in this age, so many rules and regulations are set that determine how APIs can function when interacting with data. Data is stored not only on the surface but is also integrated into websites by developers internally. APIs act as an interface that users can use to access and request data. Moreover, APIs determine how various programs interact between themselves.

Why Use APIs?

APIs are used for a wide array of reasons; some of them are:

  • APIs are very efficient
  • Offer high abstraction
  • APIs are straightforward to use.
  • APIs don't have language constraints, meaning they can work in multiple languages.
  • APIs can work with limited bandwidth
  • APIs are very flexible.
  • APIs offer scalability and are easy to configure.
  • Developers prefer APIs as it provides them with more control.
  • They are customizable and can be personalized.
  • APIs can be seamlessly integrated with GUIs.
  • APIS can help users reveal data in their browsers.
  • APIs are HTTP based and can be operated with HTTP operators.

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What are the Drawbacks of APIs?

APIs have a few drawbacks; some of them are:

  • Creating and developing an API is not an easy task. APIs take a long time to build. Despite having simple and light architecture, they require you to have programming and coding knowledge to make and develop
  • Creating an API from scratch takes a lot of time.
  • APIs don't offer accurate and reliable boundaries.
  • APIs need regular maintenance as applications and websites are constantly being updated. And this is quite expensive.
  • APIs are prone to crashing. They can crash anytime during testing or bug fixing.
  • APIs require a fixed scale to function correctly.

APIs vs. Web Services

Here is an overall comparison between APIs and Web Services:

APIsWeb Services
All web services are APIs.All APIs are not technically considered as Web Services.
APIs are not built to be always web-based.Web Services are built upon APIs by incorporating in HTTP.
Network isn't always needed for APIs to function.Web Services always need a network connection to function.
APIs serve as an interface between two or more applications that want to communicate with each other or transfer data.Web Service is what two or more devices or applications use to communicate and exchange data.
APIs can be utilized to carry out any given manner of communication.Web Services can only be utilized to carry out SOAP, REST, and XML to communicate.
APIs can initiate, facilitate and execute interaction between applications.Web Services are incomplete, as in they cannot perform functions that APIs can.


What are some components that Web Services follow?

Web Services follow components like SOAP, WSDL, UDDI, etc.

What is REST API?

REST API is considered to be a Web Service API. It uses HTTP protocol and methods when it makes requests.

What are the advantages of using REST APIs?

REST APIs do not require any additional software to be installed, and all REST APIs work and function in a similar manner. This means learning one REST API is enough to work with other REST APIs.

What are API filters?

Web API filters are literally filters that allow you to process and sort out data in a more customized way. There are many kinds of API filters, for instance: Exception Filter, Action Filter, Override Filter, etc. These filters allow you to process data across multiple levels of any API framework by adding constraints and logic to help you to be more precise.

Some Common terms used here

WSDL: It stands for Web Service Description Language.

XML: It stands for eXtensible Markup Language.

HTTP: It stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol.

REST: It stands for REpresentational State Transfer.

JSON: It stands for JavaScript Object Notation.

SOAP: It stands for Simple Object Access Protocol.

The Verdict

Web Services and APIs are pretty similar and often used interchangeably, but they offer different functions and functionality. Both of them allow data sharing and transferring between two or more devices and applications and share similar concepts. Both of them are equally necessary, and it all comes down to your preference and needs.

Happy Web Scraping and don't forget to extend your computer science knowledge to build more reliable scrapers 📚

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