In general terms, there are two different ways of exchanging data (like products) between two systems. The most commonly used one is datafeeds (found in Feeds in Channable). The second method is using APIs. We will highlight the differences in this article.
In a traditional feed-based exchange arrangement, the system or party that is supplying information creates a file with all the required information in it: the datafeed. This file is usually updated on a regular basis to keep up with changes. The party that receives the information regularly accesses the file, usually with the same interval that the feed is generated.
The advantages of this feed based system is that it is easy to implement and does not require the sender (or the receiver in fact) to use special tools or advanced API formats. If you want, you can write a data feed by hand (and many people who don't have feed management tools do so!). Data feeds are commonly used and a reliable and proven technology.
The downsides of this system is that there is no good way to continuously update the receiving party about changes. The receiver has to download and process the entire feed every time. This has the effect of making real-time updates nearly impossible.
APIs / Marketplaces
In addition to the limitations to the updating mechanism, the data that can be sent is limited to the format. Using an API, any type of data that is mutually supported can be sent, and the systems are no longer required to keep reading all data. This allows for more different kinds of data to be sent and more efficient exchanges. APIs allow for a real-time updating mechanism: data can be sent at any time.
Another major advantage is the fact that is much easier to send feedback using an API. When something is wrong with the data that is being sent to the export channel, the export channel (normally merely the receiver) can instantaneously send feedback to the exporting system (in our case, Channable). This information can then be given to the user, allowing them to make the changes required for the export channel to accept the data. In Channable APIs can be found under 'Marketplaces'.
Current state of affairs
Currently, datafeeds are still the most used form of data exchange in affiliate platforms, advertising networks and marketplaces. This is not surprising nor is it necessarily a bad thing. Channable users can even add any datafeed format they like. Google Shopping, Beslist, Facebook, Kelkoo and LeGuide all use datafeeds and reach thousands to millions of users every day.
However, several major products such as Google Adwords, Marktplaats, eBay and Amazon use APIs to connect. We think that the number of companies using APIs will only grow in the future, as APIs enable more advanced and more timely information exchange.
At Channable, we are continuously adding new export channels, be it using data feeds or API connections. If you have any questions regarding APIs / Marketplaces, feel free to contact us.