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Why APIs are the foundation for payments success

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are one of the key building blocks in the digital transformation we see today

Our world is now connected in more ways than anyone could have imagined 20 or 30 years ago. Thanks to internet technology and the explosion of digital communication, we are all part of a global IT fabric where information can be shared instantly across geographies, time zones, communities, and businesses.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are one of the key building blocks in this transformation, and in particular REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs. REST APIs are the power behind very successful business such as Facebook, Amazon and Google, and have helped create value for countless other businesses and brands.

Not all APIs are the same – SOAP has lost its shine

REST APIs use the stateless communication between clients and servers. The client and server can use any language or platform as long as the communication is via standard HTTP verbs/protocol such as POST, PUT, GET, DELETE etc. The predecessor to REST was SOAP, and it had several limitations. The main problem was that it used a cumbersome and long-winded XML message format, a weakness that is particularly evident in mobile communication where file size and bandwidth are critical. Every SOAP API was also designed differently with arbitrary operations/actions and resources that create tight coupling among systems/components. In short, SOAP APIs aren’t scalable and can slow down processing time –clearly a bad thing for payments processing and the mobile-first world.

SOAP has now largely been replaced by REST. Although the way gateways communicate with card schemes has changed little in recent years, API development has opened a universe of possibilities for developers. In turn, REST is providing a firm foundation for the e-commerce boom. Today, if companies want to compete in the digital space, they need to use REST-based APIs. XML-based SOAP web services have neither the scale nor the versatility to support fast-moving digital businesses.

The advantages of REST

REST architecture is simple, lightweight and facilitates the following critical elements in a system: scalability, ease of use, ability to modify, visibility, portability, reliability, flexibility, and overall performance.

REST has the advantage of being interoperable and self-sufficient; it doesn’t need to talk to other systems to understand and execute an operation and is easy to modify. In fact, REST demystifies the software developer's kit (SDK), touted by processors of all sizes as the way to integrate payments and power mobile solutions. Because the kits are built to be self-sufficient, they use REST architecture.Self-sufficiency means that other processes will not be affected by changes in one module, and any upgrades to a different functionality will not shut down an entire system. For business, that means responsiveness, reliability and portability. REST APIs are therefore ideal if you want to use mobile apps to develop your business and support payments.

REST is best for developers

Most often, REST APIs are documented in the form of self-serve API reference guides, which are easy for developers to look at and immediately know what they can do with each resource and what operations are allowed (standard HTTP verbs). If you’ve ever tried to find support for old technology, you’ll know that it is either non-existent or piecemeal, and invariably comes with a big price tag because developers, engineers and the market have moved on. From a business perspective, the demand for support is now so niche that companies either charge extra or no longer offer it.

REST APIs are the way forward and are loved by both the development and architecture communities because they are versatile and offer speed to market.

Paysafe's online Developer Centre provides comprehensive and interactive REST API reference material with code samples and snippets you can try. In addition, software developer kits are available in more than six programming languages on GitHub, making it simple to integrate into any system.

Powering e-commerce and mobile applications

Mobile communication will increasingly be a feature of payments, so e-commerce-enabled business must integrate with REST APIs and mobile software developer kits. Combining REST APIs with webhooks (event notifications) can improve overall information and communication flow, as messages are sent to a registered recipient whenever something occurs in the merchant account. Declines, approvals, notices: all become real-time and actionable information. This helps to limit fraud and improve fulfilment, customer analysis and general operational efficiency.

Building digital payments with Paysafe

Merchants of all sizes must embrace digital payments to stay relevant. Today, that means migrating away from SOAP/XML systems and adopting REST architecture. Do talk with your payment processor about integrations and time scales so that together you can have a smooth transition. If your processor is not able to give you a REST API or if you are thinking about integrating payments into your business, contact Paysafe and learn how we can support you with our REST-based APIs, software developer kits and related tools and resources.