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What’s the Difference Between an API and an SDK?



In your search for ways to build or enhance the functionality of your website, mobile app, or other types of application, you may have come across the acronyms API and SDK. These are software products or services designed to make the process of developing software for developers easier and faster. Most modern websites use APIs or SDKs from third parties.

In this article, you’ll learn what APIs and SDKs are, how they work, their examples and usage, and what their differences are.

What is an API?

The term Application Programming Interface is usually abbreviated as API. It is a software-to-software interface that enables the communication between applications. It allows your software application to access and communicate with third-party software.

Consider it as a contract of some sort, with a written agreement (documentation) describing how two people or software programs can communicate with one another. The API documentation contains all the information you need to use it and access its services.

APIs relieve you of the strain of writing new program features from scratch. You can add functionality from other sources to your program with just a few lines of code.

Let's look at how API functions to help you understand the idea.

How do APIs Work?

Although there are many kinds of APIs and they all operate in slightly different ways, they generally have several elements in common. For instance, you likely entered some keywords relating to this topic into your browser before landing on this webpage.

The keywords you typed in the search bar represent your request, and the list of search results represents the response to your request. In the background, your browser sends the request to the web server, which responds with the requested information in a matter of milliseconds.

Let's break it down:

  1. Client: In the context of an API, a client is your application, such as a browser, that makes a request or calls when trying to access specific data or functionality through an API.

  2. Request or Call: A block of information, consisting of a request verb, headers, and sometimes a request body, that the client sends via a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). After receiving a call, the API sends requests to the server.

  3. Server: A server is the receiver of the request.

  4. Response: The requested Information returned by the API in response to a request.

APIs: Examples and Usage

There are many ways in which developers or companies utilize APIs to offer services to their users. Here are a few of the most common APIs that you may already be familiar with or will likely use in the future:

Twitter API: You can integrate a Twitter widget on your website using Twitter API. The widget fetches tweets from a Twitter server and displays them on your site

QuickBlox API: It allows you to integrate voice and video calling, chat messages, and other features into your apps.

Google Maps API: It enables the integration and use of maps on your website.

What is a Software Development Kit?

An SDK (software development kit) is a collection of tools that includes all the programs and libraries required to create apps for a certain platform or operating system. There is usually at least one API in the toolbox.

Software companies provide SDKs to developers to assist them quickly integrating their apps with their services.

SDKs are typically language-specific. This means that to create an iOS app, a developer requires the iOS SDK, and to create an Android app, they need the Android toolkit.

SDK typically includes the following resources:

  • APIs provide developers with the ability to perform specific programming functions using pre-built code.

  • Tools that aid developers to create, test, and run their applications as well as a debugger.

  • Development environment, documentation, libraries, code samples as well as guides to aid the developer's development.

SDKs: Examples and Usage

Stripe SDK: This allows developers to incorporate payment services into their applications.

QuickBlox SDK: It's an easy-to-use, secure cloud platform for audio and video conferencing, chat, and user authentication across mobile and desktop. QuickBlox SDK offers the building blocks for real-time communication. With the help of this SDK, you can add messaging functionalities to your app.

Facebook’s JavaScript SDK: This gives you the ability to create and integrate the sign-in feature in your project.

SDK minimizes the need for developers to develop software functions or applications from scratch, thereby, reducing development time.

Difference Between APIs and SDKs

The terms API and SDK are often used interchangeably. Since SDKs often include APIs, there can be some confusion about their differences. While both APIs and SDKs are intended to make developing applications simpler, they are best used in different circumstances.

An API allows for communication between two software. APIs are used to access certain functions or services from a third-party software service. Meanwhile, SDKs consist of kits of items needed to develop an application. SDKs can also be used to add functionality to the software.

Let's examine some other distinctions:

  • SDKs enable the development of a new application. It serves as the foundation or building block for the development of new applications.

  • APIs are used to improve the functionality of apps and cannot be used to create new applications.

  • SDKs frequently provide an API that functions within the SDK's parameters.

  • APIs do not include an SDK.

QuickBlox APIs And SDKs

QuickBlox is a platform for delivering real-time communication to accelerate innovation by enhancing or developing interactive applications for end users.

QuickBlox SDKs and APIs offer you an easy way to integrate chat messaging, voice and video calling, and group video conferencing calls into your applications.

There is an SDK pre-built for your project type, platform, or computing language. For example, if you're building an app for Android you can use either Java or Kotlin SDKs instead of building from scratch—they'll save time and make it easier on yourself!

Take the next step:

Register a free account on QuickBlox. This gives you access to all of our SDKs and APIs, which are available for use without charge. You can also download sample codes if you want to see how things work before diving into something new.

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