Apps

Messaging API: The Concept, Protocols, and Applications

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What is a Messaging API? A Messaging API is anything that provides an easy implementation of an SMS, MMS, or internet messaging service. It is usually built using one of the existing and popular, but by no means lacking in quality and features, protocols (don’t worry, we will go into a bit of a technical overview later). There are many varieties of Messaging APIs that are used for different circumstances as well. For example, a live chat would definitely have multiple modifications to ensure low latency, while an application that sends a notification to a wide number of users would be designed a little differently with those generalized purposes in mind.

Why should we use Messaging APIs?

There are many benefits of implementing a Messaging API for your applications and your business. From a behind-the-scenes standpoint, Messaging APIs reduce the pressure for developers and ease their process of developing in a language that they feel comfortable with. It can greatly not only speed up the process internally, but it can also end up being more reliable than an in-house solution that is being developed on the fly.

They can be very efficient to implement in communication systems as well as use cases where direct communication and conversations can enhance the experience for users and clients alike. A few examples where you might have experienced Messaging APIs: marketing/promotional content that gets sent to your mobile device, things like delivery updates regarding the status of your shipment, in-game chatting between players in a lobby, support chats with companies regarding their products.

Understanding Real Time APIs- Types & Use Cases

Technical Overview of Different Protocols for Messaging APIs

Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT)

Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) is one of the most popular messaging protocols used today. MQTT typically runs over TCP/IP; however, if you want to get very technical, it can operate on top of other networking protocols so long as they meet the required specifications. It relies on the provision of ordered, lossless package transfer and bi-directional connections in order to function successfully.

Websockets

Websockets can also be used for Messaging APIs. The WebSocket protocol is an independent TCP-based protocol, and it partially relies on HTTP in order to complete its “handshake” for an Upgrade request. This protocol allows you to send messages to a server and receive event-driven responses without having to poll the server for a reply. However, it is very low-level and most communication systems today require more features that allow for more convenient and appropriate conversational methods.

Data Distributed Service (DDS)

Data Distributed Service (DDS) is the protocol that is predominantly used in real-time communication systems, for the reason that it is dependable. The goals of DDS are to enable high-performance, interoperable, real-time, scalable protocol. Most of the data exchanges in this protocol follow a Publish / Subscribe messaging pattern. Publish–subscribe is a messaging pattern where senders of messages, called publishers, do not program the messages to be sent directly to specific receivers, called subscribers, but instead categorize published messages into classes without knowledge of which subscribers.

Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP)

Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) is created as an open standard protocol that allows messaging interoperability between systems, regardless of what platform is used; with AMQP, you can use any combination of AMQP-compliant clients and servers. AMQP is an application layer protocol that lets client applications talk to the server and interact. However, AMQP should not just be considered a protocol used for over-the-wire communication; AMQP defines both the network layer protocol and a high-level architecture for message brokers.

Representational State Transfer (REST)

Representational State Transfer (REST) is a software architecture style that was created to guide the design and development for the World Wide Web; however, these concepts can be applied to APIs, more specifically Messaging APIs, as well. You can use the Messaging REST API to perform simple point-to-point messaging and/or publish messaging. You can publish messages to a topic, send messages to a queue, browse messages on a queue, and destructively get messages from a queue. The information is sent to, and received from, in plain text format which makes it relatively insecure unless encryption protocols are set up on top of the plaintext files that are being communicated between the client and the server.

Server-Sent Events (SSE)

Server-Sent Events (SSE) is a server-push technology enabling a client to receive automatic updates from a server via an HTTP connection. It also allows servers to initiate data transmission once an initial client connection has been established. They are commonly used to send message updates or continuous data streams to a browser client as it was initially designed and built to enhance native and cross-browser streaming. More often than not, the client requests a particular URL in order to receive the event stream, making it evident that the event stream would need to be consistent when changes/updates are made on the server. 

Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP)

Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), while it can be used for a Messaging API, is primarily used in the “Internet of Things” related applications. However, we will include it here for the sake of completeness and comprehensiveness. CoAP defines two types of messages, namely confirmable messages and non-confirmable messages to define its own reliability mechanism (created due to the lack of reliability from the User Datagram Protocol that CoAP relies on. User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a protocol that is primarily used in low-latency and loss-tolerating connections between applications on the internet. UDP is greatly beneficial in speeding up the transmission of data by enabling transfer before an agreement is provided by the receiving party. While CoAP has its similarities with HTTP, it is different due to the lack of agreement prior to transmission that would be required by something like TCP in an HTTP connection.

Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP)

Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) is an open communication protocol designed for instant messaging, presence information, and contact list maintenance. The technology is based on Extensible Markup Language (also, known as XML), and this offers a very snappy exchange of structured data between network entities. Designed to be “extensible” (as mentioned in the name), the protocol can be applied to many other situations that can also benefit from the rather quick data exchanges. Some of these applications can include signalling for VoIP, video, file transfer, gaming and many more.

Web Application Messaging Protocol (WAMP)

WAMP is an open standard WebSocket subprotocol that provides two application messaging patterns in one unified protocol. It has routed Remote Procedure Calls and the Publish & Subscribe. The WAMP protocol is, infact, a community effort and the specification is made available for free under an open license for everyone to use or implement. This is a major point to consider for those who are strongly supportive of the open source community, as it will allow for transparency for the users regarding how your application works and handles requests on the backend. It can bring about a closer knit relationship between your application and the user as they are now aware of how everything works, and it removes any hesitation regarding how their messages are being sent/handled.

Build or Buy – Building In-App Chat From Scratch Vs Buying a Chat API & SDK

Now you understand the fundamentals of a Messaging API, you are probably wondering how to put one together. Just before you fix yourself into building your own, you might want to remember that it can also be worth buying access to pre-developed APIs to save yourself some time and money. We have made a video on this topic too, which is right over here.

If you are considering buying your own, Applozic has a very affordable and high-quality API that you can definitely use as well. If you want to get some insight into some of the technical documentation behind our API, you can visit this at https://docs.applozic.com/docs.

I hope you learned a little something about Messaging APIs, and as always thank you for reading and enjoy the rest of your day!