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What is a Chat API?

A Chat API is a collection of programmable building blocks that can be used to provide realtime chat features to an application or website.

In-app chat APIs are usually offered as a service by a third-party PaaS cloud provider and can be easily embedded in an application by following the respective API documentation or with the use of a Chat SDK (Software Development Kit).

Chat API Use Cases

Companies make use of a Chat API to engage new customers in the sales process or to enhance relationships with existing customers by offering direct live support. An organization may also create an internal collaborative chat environment for employees in order to improve productivity across different departments.

Another use case that has become popular is to provide mass audience participation during live events in the form of a streaming chat window (e.g. for spectators of competitive eSports).

Considerations for Chat APIs

Important considerations when selecting a Chat API include:

  • The types of technologies used (e.g. HTTP, Push/Streaming, Ajax, WebSocket, REST, XMPP).
  • The types of authentication available (e.g. Email / OAuth / Two-Factor / Single Sign-On).
  • The types of devices and platforms supported (e.g. Web browser / Android / iOS).
  • The types of chat functionality required (e.g. 1-on-1, private group chat, open public chat, voice & video).

Some Chat APIs offer support for advanced features such as anti-spam, chatbot integration, customizable themes, moderation tools, chat history, typing indicators and read receipts, webhooks, and announcements. These can be added as needed, depending on the use case.

Chat API vs. Messaging API

A Chat API is differentiated from a Messaging API in that Chat APIs usually provide live instant messaging only, whereas Messaging APIs may encompass instant messaging in addition to traditional messaging such as SMS and MMS.

Related Terms

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