Web API vs. Rest API: What Are The Main Differences?

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Aditya Rayaprolu
Written by
Aditya Rayaprolu

Updated · Aug 24, 2023

Aditya Rayaprolu
Technology Architect | McKinsey & Company | Joined February 2023 | LinkedIn
Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya is an Azure DevOps and Infrastructure Virtualization Architect with experience in automation,... | See full bio

Lorie Tonogbanua
Edited by
Lorie Tonogbanua


Lorie Tonogbanua
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Lorie Tonogbanua

Lorie is an English Language and Literature graduate passionate about writing, research, and learnin... | See full bio

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An API (Application Programming Interface) refers to a method created and used by developers. It allows data sharing and communication between two applications or servers. 

There are many types of APIs today. However, the most commonly used types are Web APIs and Rest APIs.

A Web API lets users reach a web server through HTTP calls or requests. On the other hand, a Rest API allows users to connect to any server over HTTP.

Both APIs are the same in that they are stateless, cacheable, and resource-oriented. Despite these similarities, Web API and Rest API differ in many aspects. 

Continue reading to learn more about what sets them apart from each other. 

🔑Key Takeaways

  • In web development, an API (Application Programming Interface) allows data sharing and communication between 2 applications or servers. 
  • The differences between 2 of the commonly used APIs, Web API and Rest API, are based on the following: architectural style, interface, communication, and uses. 
  • Web API asks the web server to request a response to a user’s call commanding a web application to do specific tasks. 
  • Rest API works like any other website where a user starts to call a server, and it responds using the HTTP protocol. 
  • Developers introduced the first version of API in the 1980s, but its development has started since the 1950s. 
  • Web API was first introduced in the 1980s, while the development of Rest API started in the 2000s. 

Differences Between Web API And Rest API

Web APIs work between a web server and an application. 

A user starts a call commanding a web application to do a particular task or request. The application will respond using an API to ask the web server to make the request. 

This case shows the API is the middleman between the web server and the application.

On the other hand, Rest APIs work like any other website.

A user starts a call to a server. The server responds using the HTTP protocol. A great example is Facebook's Graph API. It's an API designed for tasks like photo uploads, data queries, and more. 

Check out the table below to see how the Web API and Rest API differ:



Rest API

Architectural style

Allows fine-coordinated changes between client and server-side 

Rest Architecture allows independent development on the client and server-side


Provides customized interfaces based on the API provider

Features an industry-uniform interface


Flexible for making use of any communication style

Mainly use XML, JSON, and plaintext formats


Ideal for streaming services since it’s binary data

Ideal for cloud services, apps, and data manipulation

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Benefits Of Using Web API And Rest API

Web APIs help businesses use third-party data. It is an open-source framework that also supports seamless data integration. This makes it ideal for streaming services or any business communicating binary data.

Rest APIs only work when a request is successful. You can migrate between servers and update the database anytime with these APIs. 

Web APIs and Rest APIs come with advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these things can help you choose between the two based on your needs.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a Web API:



Support for all architectural styles and communication protocols is available

Development cost is high

Can be used online and offline

Requires regular maintenance

Communication is more secure since it supports HTTP features

The process of creating this API is time-consuming

Can host it inside IIS or outside as a self-hosted application


On the other hand, below are the benefits and downsides of using a Rest API:



Easy to understand and learn

No state mechanisms in place

Organizes complex applications for easier resource management

It does not demand security, unlike SOAP

Caching versioning and an HTTP proxy server allow it to manage high loads

Not ideal for sharing private or confidential data

Supports HTTP calls for retrieving requests and data

Difficulty in transferring or sharing binary data

Can easily synchronize data with any website 

Only supports limited representational state transfers

Fexible with XML, JSON, or plaintext formats.


Rest request verification is possible using OAuth protocols


What Are APIs? - Simply Explained

Evolution Of Web APIs And Rest APIs

With APIs, developers can synchronize data within websites without any issues. Web APIs and Rest APIs have significantly progressed in data sharing and communication.

Here's a timeline showing the beginning of APIs, including how Web and Rest APIs developed until today:

1950s – The beginning of the API idea

The first API idea aimed to help two computing devices communicate and share data. It was only limited to simple command-line interfaces. 

With this application program interface, programmers were able to interact with computers.

1960s to 1970s – The evolution of the API concept

APIs developed as more people used computers. From there, the term “API” referred to the interaction of an application with the rest of a specific computer.

1980s – The introduction of API for the Internet: The start of Web API

With the rise of the Internet having 5.16 billion users, APIs have become valuable. This also marked the start of Web APIs. 

These interfaces made remote procedure calls possible. The APIs used by local networks also started connecting to computers outside the network.

1990s – The growth of Web API

The high demand for applications made developers use Web APIs for data exchange. The process remained simple thanks to a standard set of protocols.

Early 2000s – The beginning of REST API

As developers recognized the potential of Web APIs, they invented REST APIs. It helped create a standard protocol that allowed two remote servers to communicate and exchange data from anywhere. 

Mid 2000s – Businesses and platforms started using Rest APIs

eBay and Amazon used the first Rest APIs. Then, Flickr used its own Rest API for social sharing. 

Facebook and Twitter joined later on. Amazon also used its API to contribute to the Cloud.

Late 2000s – Revolution of Companies using API

APIs became helpful for web development and even assisted companies in managing infrastructure.

2010s – New generation APIs for social media

As social media grew popular, developers created a new generation of APIs. Cloud platforms and third-party services use them to integrate with organizations' information systems. 

Cloud systems are crucial for users and enterprises, where 92% rely on multi-cloud services.  

2020s – The modernization of API

When everyone started depending heavily on web services, APIs continued to become mainstream. It is now used for AI construction and has become essential for IoT (Internet of Things) devices. 

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Wrap Up

Web and Rest APIs help developers create applications that share data over or through HTTP. However, they offer different features to meet various needs. 

Developers usually prefer these two because they are lightweight and interchangeable in some instances.

A Web API is ideal if you need a customized experience and support for several data types. Otherwise, Rest APIs offer a more straightforward and accessible option.


Can a Web API be RESTful or not?

A Web API can be RESTful when the developer designs it using the REST architectural design. RESTful Web APIs are noticeable since they are independent of the technology used to create them. 

How do I find the REST API of a website?

You can find the REST API of a website by pinpointing the API endpoint. For example, the website uses a REST API if the endpoints have a domain, path, port, or query string.

How many types of APIs are there?

Web services use four APIs: partner, public, private, and composite. These types vary in scope of use. The API types based on protocols or architectures are Rest, RPC, and SOAP.

What is the default URL for the REST API?

The default URL for the Rest API uses the format: "<scheme>://<host>/<basePath>/users." For example, IBM's default URL to access the messaging REST API is "https://localhost:9443/ibmmq/rest/v1/messaging."


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