API vs Web Service: What’s the Difference

API and web services are specific communication paths used by modern web/digital applications. The difference between API and web services is that the latter encourages interaction between two machines over a set network. On the other hand, an API will act as an interface between two various applications so that they can communicate with each other. The API method helps third party vendors write programs that can be easily interfaced with other programs. While web service and API are terms that overlap, constantly, they are two different concepts.

What is a Web Service?

What is the meaning of web services? Simply put, it is a resource that is made available on the internet for a specific purpose. Hence, it requires a stable network so that it can follow a whole host of standards. The web server will run with the help of a computer, it will listen to requests that are made from other computers. Once the request is received, the web service will initiate a return of the requested resources; the whole process is done over a network. The resource can range from XML, JSON, images, audio files, to HTML files. However, web services must make note of the request requirement that is made over a network.

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface, it’s an interface that can be used to program software that works with an existing application. Practically, the API is a set of procedures and functions that provide you with access and helps you build on data and the functions of an existing application.

API is often referred to as the glue that binds the Internet together.

They are entwined into many applications that are used on any smart device. APIs ensure that two separate entities can connect and talk to each other in a standard format.

Terminology Definition:

Before you get to know the differences between API and web services and the various advantages of web services and API, you need to understand the definition behind certain terms that are constantly used between the two:

  • Web Applications: these are computer programs that can be accessed by users through the internet, with the help of a computer’s web browser.
  • SOAP: Stands for Simple Object Access Protocol and it is a messaging procedure that is used to transfer structured data over a network.
  • REST: The Representational State Transfer is a standard architectural style that is utilized when developers are creating Web API.
  • XML: eXtensible Markup Language is a standard format that is used to store and send data. XML will store your data by covering it in descriptive tags.
  • JSON: JavaScript Object Notation is quite similar to XML because it enables and stores the sent data, in a standard format. JSON makes use of a different methodology that is object-based and it helps with systematic data storage.
  • HTTP: Stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol is the base of data transfer and communication are done through the Internet.

API vs Web Service:

There is more than one difference between API and web services, some of them are listed below:


  • All API are not web services
  • The responses are organized using Web API’s media type formatter to convert data into XML, JSON, or any other format.
  • API includes a light-weight architecture
  • It’s quite useful for clients who understand JSON and XML
  • API is suitable for any communication style
  • It’s known for providing excellent support for the HTTPS protocol; URL Request/Request Headers, and so on.


  • All web services are APIs
  • There is a need for web services because it supports XML
  • Unlike API, it doesn’t have a lightweight architecture. Hence you will need SOAP protocol to transmit data, over any network.
  • Any client that can understand XML can make use of web services
  • The internet and web services can use three styles for communication and they are REST, SOAP, and XML-RPC
  • Web services will provide support only for the HTTP protocol

Advantages of web services:

  • Provides quick communication across and within companies
  • Every service exists independently from other services
  • Web services will help you publish its message or function to the world
  • It will also exchange data between various platforms and applications

Advantages of API services:

  • API will help reveal service data to the browser
  • It supports CRUD – Create Read Update Delete - actions that are traditional because it works with HTTP verbs GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE.
  • Since it’s based on HTTP, it’s easy to define and it can be exposed in a REST-full manner.

Conclusion on API and web services:

The World Wide Web came into existence in August 1991. Of course, it was not the behemoth it is today; the Internet back then was sluggish, bare, and barely had any websites. If you had a website of your own, it was considered a huge deal, especially since you would be among a few website owners (at the time). It was after 1998, once Google made its debut, that we were exposed to many paths in cyberspace. Users gained access to email platforms that allowed them to talk to other users through a machine, which later evolved to instant messenger services like MSN and AIM.

Eventually, we saw the rise of social media which changed the way we use the internet because it showed us the power of communication with just a click of a button. Presently, it has become quite clear that the options on the internet are limitless.

The reason web service API is amazing is because it offers a standard process for making requests. Once you start incorporating APIs into your workflow, you will understand the functions more clearly.

Hopefully, the points listed above about the difference between API and web services have helped clear any queries and provided you with enough information as well. The API marketplace is vast and you can choose the one that suits your organization the best.