As with any industry, the web API space faces different approaches to standardization. Not least of which are the differences between how API providers choose to definetheir APIs in a machine readable way with API specifications and description languages.

API definitions have emerged as ways to annotate API functionalities, and there are still many out there catering to varying web service architectures. Working with varying languages like JSON, YAML, Markdown, RAML, or WADL, API definitions can be a powerful tool for things like generating interactive documentation or API testing.

While many experienced users understand the subtleties between terminologies in our realm, this does create somewhat of an entry barrier for those who aren’t long-term developers or veteran API evangelists. This is ever important when we discuss common ways Application Programming Interfaces are described.

Today, we’re going to describe some of the most widely used API definitions, seeing how each is used and where they fit into the API provider’s tool box. While we won’t cover every single definition ever created, our list will provide a solid introduction into varying API specification approaches, their chosen description languages, and their significance within the industry.

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