What is the difference between URL and API?

May 7, 2024 ยท 2 min read

When working with web technologies, you'll inevitably encounter acronyms like "URL" and "API." Though related, these terms refer to distinct concepts. Understanding the core differences will unlock a deeper comprehension of modern web development.

What is a URL?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is the address that points to an online resource, like a web page or file. For example:


Structurally, URLs contain several key components:

  • Protocol: The protocol used to access the resource (https, ftp)
  • Domain name: The web address that hosts the resource (example.com)
  • Path: The local path leading to the resource (/docs/report.pdf)
  • When you type a URL into your browser's address bar, the browser makes a GET request to the server to retrieve the resource at that address. This allows you to access web pages and files on remote servers.

    What is an API?

    API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is a set of programming code that enables data transmission between one software product and another. APIs allow apps to communicate with each other, facilitating useful functionality.

    For example, a weather app might use a weather API to retrieve live temperature data to display on screen. Or a payment app might use a credit card processing API to charge users.

    APIs transmit data through a defined structure, usually JSON or XML. They also include methods that enable apps to make different kinds of requests (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE), triggering CRUD actions.

    Key Differences

    While URLs point you to web resources, APIs facilitate communication between applications:

  • URLs deal with locations of web resources
  • APIs deal with code interfaces for data transmission
  • While URLs use browsers to access content, APIs use programming languages:

  • URL requests rely on browsers
  • API requests rely on languages like JavaScript
  • So in summary, URLs handle locating web assets, while APIs handle application integration. Both serve important, yet distinct roles in modern web technologies.

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