Public versus private APIs

May 08, 2023

APIs, or application programming interfaces, are a crucial part of modern technology as they allow different systems and software to communicate and share data. They enable developers to create apps and services that can integrate and interact with other systems and services.

There are primarily two types of APIs, which are public and private, and each has its own unique set of characteristics and benefits.

Public APIs

Public APIs are widely known and easily accessible to developers, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google Maps. These APIs allow developers to build applications around them and are generally open to the public. They provide a set of instructions and standards for accessing the information and services being shared, which allows developers to create an application around those assets.

Public APIs can be an excellent way for companies to monetize their data and services, but what's even more interesting is that they can also create a moat around their platform by attracting developers. In fact, some of these APIs are growing even faster than the companies' original businesses, a testament to the power of open access.

Private APIs

Private APIs, on the other hand, are primarily used within a company and therefore are not accessible to the public. They allow internal developers to access back-end systems, data, and software with ease, and enhance productivity, streamline collaboration, and reduce operating costs.

Private APIs are a self-service experience for internal developers, which allows them to quickly access the resources they need. They provide an open architecture that allows developers to easily integrate with back-end systems, and they can save time and resources, streamline collaboration, and give developers unfettered access to everything they need.

Private APIs can also reduce operating costs by eliminating the need for layers of web services, back-end applications, and server resources. On the partnership front, versions of private APIs can be customized for partners, enabling faster technical integrations. This often translates to remaining competitive, higher productivity, and improved efficiencies.

Companies primarily use private APIs to improve agility, flexibility, and velocity, which is essential for staying competitive in today's fast-paced business environment.

Things you can do with a private API:

  • Build internal apps for company use around a microservices model

  • Build customer-facing apps with internal assets

  • Create a shared pool of data and assets that allows teams to collaborate faster and easier

  • Strengthen partnerships, allow potential partners to test out integrations, and streamline technical integrations

  • Streamline inbound and outbound marketing data collection, simplifying layered technology stacks via APIs

Private APIs are also great for:

  • Self-service style access to data and software gives teams greater agility, and creates a less siloed environment

  • Rapid and scalable development fuels innovation (because there’s less need to build things from scratch)

  • Faster mobile development

  • Simplification of IT infrastructures

  • Facilitating better business development because partners can easily integrate

Both public and private APIs have their distinct use cases, and they can both be immensely helpful to businesses. Just make sure you pick the right one for your project!