Open API (Public API) – Explained

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If you’ve come across the terms “open API” or “public API” before, you might be wondering what they mean and what their advantages and drawbacks are. In this article, we’ll look at what an open API is, how it works, and how it differs from a closed API.

What is an open API?

Open APIs are application programming interfaces that are published on the internet and can freely be accessed by software developers. These APIs allow the owners of internet-based services to provide universal access to their service. They are most commonly REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs that expose only certain features of the service while protecting the rest of the back-end.

Social media is an area where open APIs are often used. For example, Facebook provides developers with an open API that allows them to create applications that can post items to a user’s news feed. Today, software developers can easily perform different advanced processes by implementing Abstract APIs in their code.

An open API can be designed in different ways. However, all open APIs must be easily accessible by as many clients as possible. Thus, proprietary protocols and custom data formats are not recommended for creating open APIs. Instead, open-source technology and community-driven standards work best when building open APIs.

Rest APIs vs. SOAP APIs

REST APIs and SOAP APIs are the two most commonly used open API architectures. Both approaches differ significantly in how they interface with web services. For example, RESTful APIs use the JSON (Javascript Object Notation) format for data exchange while SOAP APIs use the XML (Extensible Markup Language) format.

Although both API architecture types have proponents and opposers, the software industry is currently moving away from using SOAP-based APIs. Older open APIs with an older client base usually offer both implementations. Newer open APIs, however, typically utilize only the REST API architecture.

Open APIs vs. Closed APIs

Closed APIs, unlike their open counterparts, are private, and thus, not openly accessible to the public on the internet. Accessing these APIs typically requires issuing requests through secure firewalls or VPN services. Since closed APIs are used in secure environments, they usually do not implement user authentication as the API calls should ideally originate from trusted entities.

Closed APIs are mostly used for internal processes such as container orchestration tools and microservices. These internal services use closed APIs to communicate with each other. Open APis, on the other hand, are usually focused on enabling end-user interactions with the services.

Benefits of Open APIs

Open APIs provide a couple of advantages to both the publishers and the developers who use them. For the publishers, open APIs enable them to easily expand their user base without having to develop software for niche use cases. The organization can preserve its source code while allowing developers to extend its services.

For third-party developers, open APIs can enable them to make money by licensing software applications that connect to a service. They also enable developers to create innovative software products quickly and easily.

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