Business Insights

APIs and SDKs: what are they for and when should you use them?

Oct 13, 2023

A core concept of the modern day app development process is that your work is never done. You should always be adding new app features to help not only take what you already have and make it better, but to continue to play an invaluable role in the lives of users everywhere. A great app is one that makes a person's life easier in some way - it helps them complete a task in a more straightforward way than they could before, or offers a solution to a problem they've been facing.

Two of the most invaluable tools you'll have to that end are APIs and SDKs. But what are they, what are they used for, and how can they be employed to add the app features and app functionality that your users will be clamoring for? The answers to those questions require you to dive deeper into a few basic concepts.


What is an API?

Short for "Application Programming Interface," an API is essentially the "middle man" between two pieces of software. It establishes the definitions and protocols necessary to get two different pieces of software to communicate and share information with one another.

The classic example of this would be the "Stock Market" app on your phone. The app itself is one element, a publicly available data source containing real-time stock information is the second. An API is used to allow the "Stock Market" app to retrieve this data, displaying it on your phone with a tap of your finger.

In the case of Weavy, our APIs connect an app to the chat, files, and feeds functionality that is powered by our environments. APIs also power the third-party integrations that are part of the Pro APIs.


What is an SDK?

Short for "Software Development Kit," and SDK is essentially a collection of tools that make the mobile app development process possible. It contains elements like a compiler, which takes information from one programming language and converts it into another. It also includes code samples for applications, code libraries (otherwise known as a framework), tools for the purposes of testing and analytics, support documentation, and more.


Using APIs and SDKs to our advantage

The most important thing to understand about this is that during app development, you're not choosing between an API or an SDK to add features, expand functionality, or complete your important work. They're two sides of the same coin.

To return to the example of the "Stock Market" app on your phone, an SDK is the toolkit that you would use to build the app from the ground up. It has everything you need to optimize it not only for your desired programming language, but for the precise platform (iOS or Android) that it will live on.

Once that work is completed, the API would then be used to define how your app works together with another - in this case, whatever server or service it is retrieving the stock market information from. The same concept is true of apps like "Weather" on your phone, where the app is built with an SDK and the data it serves you is made possible thanks to a specialized API for whatever service it is using to get that information from.

In the end, using an API or an SDK has part of the app development process is a decision in service of a larger goal. You had a vision for an app that you worked hard to bring to life. Now, you need to A) get people to notice it, B) entice people to download it, and C) make sure that they keep using it, even as they continue to wade through a sea of similar options in various app stores online.  That means continuing to deploy new and exciting in-app features like in-app chat or in-app feeds. APIs and SDKs are a big part of how you do it.

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