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API, EDI, web service: what are the differences?

Reading time:
7 minutes
API, EDI, web service: what are the differences?

API, EDI, web service: what are the differences?

Reading time:
7 minutes
API, EDI, web service: what are the differences?

The constant evolution of digital technologies has given rise to specific terminology that can sometimes be confusing. Three recurring terms in the world of data integration and exchange are : 

  • APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)
  • EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)
  • Web services

While all these systems are useful for sharing and transmitting data, each has its own particularities.

Understanding APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are cloud-based, standards-driven software applications that enable the integration of Web applications. They facilitate communication between services by automating the translation and sharing of data. This eliminates the need for human intervention. APIs are distinguished by three key elements:

  • Procedures: these are programmed to execute specific tasks initiated by user commands.
  • Protocols: they use different protocols to regulate the data format between systems, depending on the type of API.
  • Tools: these are the functions needed to develop software and programs.

The benefits of APIs

Greater scope for company performance

APIs enable companies to access a wide range of external services and functionalities. This enhances their operational reach and their ability to offer a variety of products or services!

Customized services

Using APIs, companies can create personalized experiences for their customers by integrating third-party services to meet specific needs.

Ability to adapt to any technology

APIs offer flexibility by enabling different technologies and platforms to communicate with each other. This facilitates the integration of new systems or services.

Easy-to-use components

APIs simplify the integration of specific functionalities without having to rebuild the entire system. This means faster, more efficient implementation!

Automated data sharing

APIs facilitate the automated exchange and sharing of data between different applications or systems. This improves the fluidity of operations.

Automatic information updates

APIs enable real-time updates. This ensures that integrated data and functionalities are constantly up to date (without manual intervention).

Effective internal and external communication

By facilitating the exchange of data and services, APIs improve internal communication between a company's various stakeholders, as well as collaboration with external partners.

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Understanding EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) enables companies toexchange information electronically. This simplifies workflows and strengthens communication in the supply chain. By restricting access to verified users, this technology secures data exchanges and improves the efficiency of information transfers. By automating transmissions via an electronic format, EDI reduces the need for human intervention, speeding up exchanges while minimizing data integration costs.

The benefits of EDI

‍Greater data speedand accuracy

EDI offers direct electronic exchange of data between systems, reducing human error and speeding up transaction processing.

Reducing paper waste

By promoting electronic exchanges, EDI considerably reduces the need for physical documents.

Improved internal and external communications

EDI simplifies and accelerates the exchange of information, strengthening collaboration between internal departments and external partners.

Improving operational efficiency

By automating processes, EDI frees up time for higher value-added tasks. This reduces costs and improves productivity.

Improved supply chain management

EDI improves inventory visibility, reduces delays and optimizes delivery planning. As a result, operations are better coordinated.

Understanding Web Services

Web Services are software systems designed for machine-to-machine interaction over networks, usually the web. With this system, applications can communicate and share data over remote networks using standardized web protocols.

The main features of Web Services


Web services are designed to be platform- and language-independent, promoting interoperability between different systems.

Use of web standards

They rely on web protocols and languages such as HTTP, XML, JSON, SOAP, etc., to enable flexible and efficient communication.

Feature display

Web services expose specific functionalities or services that enable other applications to use them via standardized requests and responses.

Understanding the differences between APIs, EDI and Web Services

Although these three terms are often used in similar contexts, there are some notable differences!

Scope and objectives 

  • APIs are mainly focused on communication between applications for access to functionality
  • EDI focuses on the exchange of standardized documents between trading partners
  • Web services provide specific functionality via standardized web protocols.

Formats and protocols

  • APIs can use a variety of data formats (JSON, XML, etc.) and protocols (REST, SOAP). 
  • EDI is often based on specific formats such as EDIFACT and ANSI X12. 
  • Web services use standardized web protocols.

Target audiences 

  • APIs are widely used by developers to integrate functionality into applications. 
  • EDI is most commonly used in the commercial sector for document exchange. 
  • Web services are used for communication between computer systems.

In short, although these concepts have similar data transmission objectives, their approaches, target audiences and specific uses distinguish them from one another. Understanding these differences is essential to choosing the best approach to data integration and exchange for specific needs!