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For APIs exposed to web pages, see Web API (content-facing).
For the Microsoft ASP.NET Web API, see ASP.NET MVC Framework.

A web API is an application programming interface (API) for either a web server or a web browser.


A server-side web API is a programmatic interface to a defined request-response message system, typically expressed in JSON or XML, which is exposed via the web—most commonly by means of an HTTP-based web server. Mashups are web applications which combine the use of multiple such web APIs.[1] Webhooks are server-side web APIs that take as input a URI that is designed to be used like a remote named pipe or a type of callback such that the server acts as a client to dereference the provided URI and trigger an event on another server which handles this event thus providing a type of peer-to-peer IPC.

While "web API" in this context is sometimes considered a synonym for web service, Web 2.0 web applications have moved away from SOAP-based web services towards more cohesive collections of RESTful web resources.[2] These RESTful web APIs are accessible via standard HTTP methods by a variety of HTTP clients including browsers and mobile devices.


A client-side web API is a programmatic interface to extend functionality within a web browser or other HTTP client. Originally these were most commonly in the form of native plug-in architectures however most newer ones target standardized JavaScript bindings.

The Mozilla Foundation created their WebAPI specification which is designed to help replace native mobile applications with HTML5 applications.[3][4]

Google created their Native Client architecture which is designed to help replace insecure native plug-ins with secure native sandboxed extensions and applications. They have also made this portable by employing a modified LLVM AOT compiler.

API modeling languages[edit]

A number of modeling languages have been proposed for describing practical web APIs including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mashup Dashboard". ProgrammableWeb.com. 2009. 
  2. ^ Benslimane, D.; Dustdar, S.; Sheth, A. (2008). "Services Mashups: The New Generation of Web Applications". IEEE Internet Computing 10 (5): 13–15. doi:10.1109/MIC.2008.110. 
  3. ^ WebMonkey News
  4. ^ Mozilla WebAPI Wiki

Further reading[edit]