5-Minute Explanation of API Types for Product Managers

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are essential tools that allow different software applications to communicate and interact with each other. APIs come in various types, each serving a specific purpose within the world of software development and integration. In this article, we will explore the different categories of APIs and help you understand their functionalities.

Access-based Categorization

Open APIs

Open APIs, also known as public APIs, are accessible to everyone without any special permissions. Examples of open APIs include Google Maps, where users can directly access the service once they register and obtain an API key. Open APIs are widely available and do not require any specific contracts or agreements.

Partner APIs

Partner APIs, on the other hand, are limited to strategic business partners. These APIs are not publicly accessible and require signing contracts or agreements to gain access. Partner APIs are typically used by organizations to communicate with external partners and enhance their services through collaboration.

Internal APIs

Internal APIs, also referred to as private APIs, are used within a specific organization to improve productivity and efficiency. These APIs are not accessible to the general public or external partners. Internal APIs allow different teams within an organization to communicate and exchange information without causing disruptions. For example, if one team is working on authentication and another team is responsible for search functionalities, using internal APIs enables smooth cooperation without disrupting each team’s development process.

Data-based Categorization

Data APIs

Data APIs, also known as CRUD APIs (Create, Read, Update, Delete), provide access to data for various operations. These APIs allow users to perform actions such as adding new data, retrieving existing data, updating data, or deleting data. Popular examples of data APIs include the Google Data API, Evernote API, and Todoist API.

External Service APIs

External Service APIs are provided by third-party service providers and offer specific services to developers. These APIs allow developers to integrate external services into their applications, such as email services (SendGrid, Mailgun), payment gateways (Stripe), or location trackers (HyperTR). External Service APIs provide developers with additional functionality without having to build everything from scratch.

Composite APIs

It combine multiple APIs, including both internal and external APIs, to offer comprehensive functionality. Composite APIs are used in scenarios where a specific action requires the use of multiple APIs. For example, creating a new account in Salesforce may involve both internal and external API calls. Composite APIs enable seamless integration and allow developers to achieve complex functionalities by leveraging the capabilities of multiple APIs.

In conclusion, APIs play a vital role in software development by enabling communication and integration between different applications. By understanding the various types of APIs, developers can choose the most suitable option for their specific requirements. Whether it’s open APIs, partner APIs, internal APIs, data APIs, external service APIs, or composite APIs, each type serves different purposes and unlocks unique possibilities for developers.

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