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What is a Chat API and how it enables in-app chat?

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Do you want your app or website to stand out from the crowd?

Of course you do - it’s a silly question!

These days, people are too busy to pay attention to your app or website unless it offers them exactly what they need or engages them somehow.

Do you know that one of the most effective ways to engage people online is by offering messaging features? Sounds too simple to be true, right? But it is true. Just take a look at the best performing apps in most categories and you’re sure to find chat features embedded within the app.

Want to know the best news? There’s an easy way to get messaging and in-app chat features embedded into your app or website - Chat API.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to Chat API technology - what they are, the benefits, how to choose the right one for you, and how to get them up and running as quickly as possible.

What is a Chat API?

Let’s start with a basic API definition. API stands for application programming interface and it is an interface that allows you to embed or integrate features of other services into your application, no matter whether the services are to be used via web, mobile, desktop or backend.

A Chat API provides messaging and chat features in a stable and seamlessly-integrated way that allows you to get real-time chat inside your app and can be scaled to suit your demands. In other words, Chat APIs eliminate the need to build a real-time chat feature from scratch and can handle anything from one-to-one conversations to large group chat.

The great thing about using a Chat API is that it opens up new communication channels for your following, customers, or community. People are very familiar with live chat these days and, as mentioned earlier, the majority of people now expect it.

In-app chat features are commonly present in things like video games, ecommerce websites, social media, dating apps, team-work apps such as Slack, etc.

Chat APIs can make any app more useful or engaging by connecting people directly, such as social, collaboration, banking apps, taxi or ride hailing apps, healthcare providers, live-streams, plus other services. More on this later in this article in the use cases section.

How do Chat APIs work?

It is best to think of the Chat API as a set of modular building blocks that are hosted in the cloud and pieced together to enable real-time messaging in an app or on a website.

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Chat APIs are developed and provided by Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) companies through the cloud. Here at Sceyt, we have developed a high-performance Chat API and SDKs (Software Development Kits) that are easy to embed into any mobile or web app and have first-class API documentation. Modern Chat API providers such as Sceyt provide UI Kits to further accelerate the integration processes, so your developers don’t waste time on building complex UI elements for your chat user interface.

An advanced Chat API, such as the one offered by Sceyt, includes a host of in-app chat features such as instant messaging, thread replies, user mentions, reactions, file sharing (audio, video, etc), webhooks, plus many more. All of these features can be integrated within the app architecture and enabled or disabled within minutes. This back-end ‘plug and play’ approach saves a lot of time compared to coding all the functions from scratch.

What’s the difference between an SDK and an API?

Before we move on to look at some of the benefits of Chat APIs, let’s first spend a few moments clearing up a common query - what’s the best solution, a Chat API or SDK?

In fact, there is no battle of Chat API vs SDK. They are two different things entirely, although they are related.

An API is a set of interfaces developed by the service provider with appropriate specifications that allow developers to build features into an app quickly and efficiently. An SDK is a development kit that allows developers to quickly apply new functionality to the app and enable the relevant features. An SDK can implement API interfaces using the specifications and provide an easy way to developers to integrate a particular functionality with ease.

What are the benefits of Chat APIs?

Now we know what a Chat API is, what they do, and a basic idea of how they work - the next question to address is - why would you want to use Chat API?

There are numerous benefits to using a Chat API to get in-app chat and messaging over building chat functionality from scratch. In no particular order, here are the main benefits:

Reduced time - In today’s digital world, time is a precious commodity. The faster you can get an app to market, the better. Using a Chat API allows you to embed in-app chat features in hours, rather than weeks or months. It’s the perfect solution for businesses that want to stay agile and dynamic, rather than stalling and delaying the software deployment.

Reduced cost - Paying for a third-party cloud-hosted Chat API from a dedicated provider is far cheaper than paying for a developer to create chat features and update them as the app changes with time. Over the long-run you will cut down on a considerable amount of expenses.

Scalability - Chat APIs allow you to expand your chat offering and capabilities (or scale them down) depending on your needs. This flexibility of scaling means that you can accelerate growth simply by adding a higher allowance of monthly active users (MAU), as you can with Chat APIs such as Sceyt.

Reduce risk and uncertainty - Whenever you develop your own features within an app there is a chance something could go wrong. Maybe the deployment will cause bugs and crashes, leading to a poor user experience and bad reviews. Using a Chat API overcomes (or significantly reduces) this risk, as the technology is robustly tested and proven to work. Sceyt’s Chat API provides a seamless and stable chat integration, which means you don’t have to deal with the uncertainty of testing and deploying your own chat features.

Easier for developers - Your app or web developers will thank you for choosing a Chat API as it gives them a valuable ‘abstraction layer’, which means they can use it with confidence, without necessarily having to understand every detail of the chat infrastructure and how it works. It saves your developer a lot of time and potential frustration as it will ‘work out of the box’.

Improved security - High quality Chat API providers such as Sceyt make sure that their platforms undergo frequent penetration tests. Also known as ethical hacking, penetration (or pen) tests use simulated cyberattacks to ensure that the platform is robustly protected enough to fend off cybercriminals and terrorists. The Sceyt platform is highly secure and passes security audits and certifications such as SOC 2, ISO27001, as well as complying with regulations such as HiPPA, GDPR, PCI, etc.

Cross-platform compatibility - When you add in-app chat features, there’s a good chance that you need it to work across different platforms and operating systems such as Android, iOS, Desktop, and Web apps. Sceyt has a common back-end across multiple platforms, with thorough documentation and SDKs to make integration easier.

Personalised Chatbots - With the help of Webhooks and Chat API it is possible to create personalised chat bots for top-tier customer support. You can be up and running with a customer support chatbot far more quickly than you would if you had to build the chat infrastructure from scratch. You can simply add the Chat API to your app, build in an AI chatbot engine and away you go.

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Chat API use-case examples

As you can see from the previous section, there are numerous advantages to be had by using a Chat API. But where can you use them?

You can use a Chat API whenever you have a mobile app or web app that needs, or would be enhanced by, real-time messaging functionality. However, there are some use cases that are more common than others, which we’ve outlined below.

Reduced timeSocial apps - Social apps, by their very nature, are all about connecting people and creating communities. In-app messaging and live chat functionality are vital ways to connect people, regardless of the focus of the social app. People will always want to talk to each other - it’s human nature. Allowing them to do that within your app in a seamless way is fundamental to the success of any social app.

Collaboration apps - With more and more of the world’s population working remotely and digitally, collaboration apps have gained a lot of ground in recent years. Collaboration apps such as Slack, Trello, and Microsoft Teams all include an in-app messaging feature. The easiest way to enable in-app chat for work collaboration is to use a Chat API.

Healthcare - Healthcare provision requires frequent communication with patients. A Chat API like Sceyt provides HIPAA-compliant messaging and live chat within an app. Security is another big factor when it comes to sharing private information in a healthcare app. Sceyt uses high level encryption to make sure people’s data stays private.

E-Learning - With a real-time chat feature in your e-learning app, students will be able to access one-to-one or group tuition more easily. Lessons, tutorials, and feedback can all be carried out with Sceyt Chat API.

E-Commerce - For e-commerce businesses, conversions are key - and these days, the best way to get your conversion rate up is to engage directly with customers. Enabling customers, or potential customers, to chat directly with a sales-person will help people to make buying decisions, get access to special deals, and get after-sales support and advice.

Live-streaming - Embedding real-time chat into your live streams allows viewers to comment, react, and share the experience with others. In other words, it creates a highly engaging and interactive experience. Using a Chat API to offer live-stream chat can help to build loyalty and trust in your brand as it helps to generate a sense of community.

Gaming - Video gaming is a massive industry and gamers love to connect and chat while, or in-between, playing games such as esports, strategy, role-playing games, etc. You can also use the chat feature to help promote new games or software add-ons.

How to choose the correct Chat API for you?

There are four main things to consider when choosing a Chat API for your app:

1. Chat functionality - what do you want your in-app chat feature to offer or accomplish? Are you after one-to-one messaging, group chats, private conversations, or public conversations? Once you know what you want, you can compare features offered by the various companies.

2. Cross-platform compatibility - If you want your chat features to be available on a variety of platforms, you need to make sure that the Chat API supports them. Sceyt supports web browser apps, Android, and iOS.

3. Low latency and low data usage - Fast message delivery is a key factor when choosing a Chat API. Make sure the Chat API provider ensures low latency communication and uses reduced bandwidth for message delivery. Low network usage and low latency are crucial to deliver messages when there happens to be poor wifi or mobile internet connection.

4. Availability and scalability - Make sure the Chat API provider has availability in different geographical regions that are close to your end users, which will help to reduce the latency. You also need to ensure that it scales in monthly active users (MAU) and the number of members in chat channels.

As well as the two core factors to consider above, there are a wide range of other features available which may or may not be useful, depending on your requirements. Other advanced features may include chatbot integration, moderation tools, in-app chat history, anti-spam protection, read receipts, enabling webhooks, etc. With Sceyt you get straight answers to all the four main factors, and you can add-on most of the extra features as and when you need them, depending on the specific use-case.

Find out what Sceyt can do for you

Hopefully this guide has whetted your appetite for Chat APIs and what they can bring to your business by enhancing your app or apps with real-time live messaging. To discover how Sceyt can deliver a smooth, stress-free Chat API service, get in touch with one of our agents today

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