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What is Salesforce API?
December 3, 2023
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What is Salesforce API?

A deep dive into what Salesforce API is, its use cases, and a glimpse into its future.

I. Introduction

Building strong, lasting relationships with your customers is one of the most important aspects of running a business today. But achieving this is not a piece of cake. You need to develop a multifaceted approach to handling data flows and ensure all departments make the most use of it. Data silos don’t make the task easier: lack of alignment between marketing, sales, and commerce campaigns can damage internal collaboration leading to setbacks in company growth.

One tool can do all the magic when it comes to efficient data management. Yes, we mean Salesforce. This cloud-based suite of tools supports Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and business development activities. Its versatility and wide range of features made it popular among businesses of all sizes. One of its key strengths is API.

Salesforce API provides access to over 200 services, including CRM, data analytics, and custom applications, opening unlimited opportunities for businesses to innovate and streamline operations. User-friendly interface, powerful features, and easy scalability - all these make Salesforce a robust and dependable development tool for companies all over the world.

II. Basics of APIs

To understand the value of Salesforce API, let’s first dwell on API itself. API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of protocols, tools, and standards that enables communication between two software applications. It acts as a bridge between these applications, allowing them to share resources, data, and functionalities.

APIs are essential in modern software technology for various reasons.

  • First of all, APIs offer a standardized way to access and manipulate data. Developers use APIs to integrate their software applications with third-party applications and services. This way, they can create new and innovative products. For example, APIs from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn APIs allow developers to create apps that tap into their databases, user profiles, and friend lists.
  • Secondly, APIs enable mobile applications to communicate with other software applications. Mobile devices are an integral part of our lives, and APIs enable them to access various services and functions from their mobile devices. For instance, mobile apps can use APIs to access GPS data, social media profiles, banking services, and many other functions, allowing us to perform tasks on the go.
  • Third, APIs are even more vital for software development. They enable the reuse of existing code so developers can leverage existing APIs to quickly build new products instead of creating an app from scratch. Furthermore, a standardized way of accessing and manipulating data allows for creating more efficient code and reducing development time and costs.

Now, let’s move on to the Salesforce API.

III. What is Salesforce API?

Salesforce API was created to allow full access to Salesforce platform functionalities. It enables communication between different software systems and applications, facilitating the integration of Salesforce with other third-party apps. This way, users can easily access data, metadata, and other resources stored on the Salesforce platform. Salesforce interfaces have varying data retrieval and manipulation strategies, catering to different use cases.

So, what makes Salesforce API so vital for Salesforce's full functionality?

It enables developers to access and manipulate data and metadata stored on the platform, providing access to key business insights and empowering them to build custom solutions that enhance user experience and streamline business processes.

Developers can use Salesforce API to create custom integrations between Salesforce and other third-party software applications, such as marketing automation software or accounting tools. By doing so, they can automate tasks and data entry, ensure data accuracy, and reduce the risk of errors and duplications. The integration can also improve productivity and efficiency and enhance the overall user experience.

Salesforce API enables the development of custom mobile and web applications that leverage the Salesforce platform as a backend. These apps can provide real-time access to customer data and insights, enabling sales reps, marketing teams, and customer service personnel to make timely and informed decisions. Developers can use Salesforce API to create powerful UI for streamlined data entry and retrieval processes, improving user productivity and engagement.

IV. Types of Salesforce APIs

Now that the role of Salesforce APIs is clear, let’s explore the various types and purposes they serve.


REST (Representational State Transfer) API is one of the most commonly used Salesforce APIs. It is lightweight and easy to use, allowing developers to interact with Salesforce via simple HTTP methods such as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE. REST API also provides real-time access to Salesforce data and metadata, making it perfect for building custom applications and integrations. It supports various formats like JSON, XML, and HTML.


SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) API is designed to work with complex data structures and perform more advanced operations like creating, updating, and deleting records. It uses XML to send and receive data, securing a standardized way of communication between Salesforce and other systems. This API is ideal for voluminous enterprise-level integrations.

Bulk API

Bulk API handles large volumes of data within Salesforce. It allows developers to load or extract large data sets by submitting multiple batches in a single request. Bulk API is optimized for data-intensive operations like migration, transformation, and backup. This API is also useful for processing large data sets in batches rather than processing records one at a time.

Streaming API

Streaming API provides a real-time stream of updates from Salesforce to external systems. It enables developers to subscribe to a particular data set and receive updates as soon as they happen in Salesforce. Streaming API supports both Push and Platform events, allowing developers to choose the best mechanism for their use case. It is ideal for building real-time applications that require continuous updates, such as social media monitoring or financial applications.

Metadata API

Metadata API allows developers to manage and manipulate all metadata (custom objects, fields, page layouts, workflows, etc.) within Salesforce. It allows developers to create, retrieve, update, and delete metadata components, making it a powerful tool for customizing and automating Salesforce environments. This API is handy for deployment scenarios where developers employ changes across different Salesforce environments.

Chatter API

Chatter API provides a way to integrate the Salesforce Chatter collaboration platform with external applications, allowing developers to create, retrieve, and update posts, comments, likes, and more. This API also provides access to Chatter feeds and groups, making building custom collaboration tools on top of Salesforce easy. Chatter API is ideal for creating social apps that require real-time collaboration and communication.

V. Use Cases of Salesforce APIs

Each Salesforce API serves a specific purpose, and understanding them can help you leverage the tool to its fullest.

  • The REST API is commonly used for building custom integrations, mobile applications, and third-party integrations. An excellent example of using REST API is integrating Salesforce with marketing automation systems, such as Marketo or Eloqua. Using REST API, marketers can easily access and update Salesforce data for lead and opportunity management.
  • The key advantage of SOAP API is its support for more complex transactions, such as multiple object updates in a single call. That is why SOAP API is widely applied for enterprise-level integrations requiring more data integrity, security, and transactional consistency. A good example is integrating Salesforce with on-premise or legacy systems, such as SAP or Oracle ERP.
  • The Bulk API assists in data migration, warehousing, and synchronization between external systems and Salesforce. A real-world use case of Bulk API is synchronizing customer information between Salesforce and other marketing databases, such as Marketo or HubSpot.
  • The Streaming API helps build real-time integrations, such as event-driven marketing campaigns or real-time customer service. It is used to build a real-time lead scoring system that analyzes lead activity and triggers alerts to sales reps when a high-quality lead is identified.
  • The Metadata API is used primarily for deployment, migration, and change management of Salesforce customizations across different environments. The Metadata API is generally utilized by Salesforce administrators, developers, and ISVs. One real-world use case of Metadata API is deploying customizations to a Salesforce sandbox environment for testing or development purposes.
  • The Chatter API is commonly used for building social collaboration applications, such as employee engagement platforms or project management tools. This includes integrating Salesforce with external social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn to enable social listening and engagement with customers.

VI. Working with Salesforce APIs

Connecting to Salesforce APIs is straightforward and can be accomplished in simple steps. First, you must obtain an API token from your Salesforce account to authenticate your API requests. You can generate it by navigating to Setup > Personal Information > Reset My Security Token. Keep in mind that this token will expire in a set number of days, so you must regenerate it periodically.

Next, you will need to choose which Salesforce API to use. Your choice will depend on your specific needs, so research each one to determine the best for you.

Once you have your API token and chosen your API, it is time to start making API requests. Different endpoints and parameters will be required depending on the API you selected. You can access the documentation for any Salesforce API by navigating to Setup > Develop > APIs.

Note that Salesforce limits API usage to prevent system overload. These limits include a maximum number of API requests per day and per minute, but they can be increased by purchasing additional resources.

VII. Salesforce API and Integration

Salesforce has become an indispensable tool for businesses of all sizes. However, to maximize its benefits, businesses need to integrate it with other systems they use. This is where APIs come into play, enabling such integrations and providing businesses with unprecedented flexibility and control. For instance, using Salesforce API, businesses can integrate Salesforce with other platforms, such as marketing automation systems and customer support tools. This merger helps critical business functions work in harmony.

With the help of Salesforce API, businesses can program custom integrations that use Salesforce data in any way they see fit. They can also automate complex workflows that span across multiple platforms, saving time and reducing errors. Salesforce API also enables businesses to access Salesforce data from mobile and web applications, facilitating real-time data exchange.

VIII. Security Considerations with Salesforce API

Security comes first in cloud-based solutions. Salesforce implements various security protocols to ensure secure API access and protect sensitive data. OAuth is one of the most commonly used.

OAuth is an open standard for authentication and authorization that enables third-party applications to access resources on behalf of a user without requiring the user's credentials to be shared with the third party. In Salesforce, OAuth is used to authenticate and authorize API access from external applications. After the user grants permission to an external application, OAuth generates an access token that the application uses for subsequent API requests. The user can revoke this token at any time, providing an additional layer of security.

OAuth uses various authentication methods, including client and user credentials, to provide secure API access. In addition, Salesforce also offers support for advanced authentication mechanisms such as two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). These mechanisms add an extra layer of security to prevent unauthorized access to Salesforce APIs.

IX. Learning and Using Salesforce APIs

Here are some resources that can come in handy for learning Salesforce APIs:

  • Salesforce Trailhead: a comprehensive online learning platform that provides a wide range of courses, modules, and learning paths to guide developers to learn and improve their Salesforce API skills. It offers content that caters to both beginners and experts in Salesforce development.
  • Salesforce Documentation: extensive and detailed API documentation that includes various guides, references, and code snippets. These documents are easily accessible and provide a valuable resource for developers who want to understand Salesforce APIs better.
  • Salesforce Developer Community: an online forum community with vast resources for Salesforce developers. It is a hub where learners can ask questions, share knowledge, and connect for guidance and support.
  • Apex Documentation: a programming language used to develop applications in Salesforce. To best utilize Salesforce APIs, understanding the Apex language is crucial.
  • Salesforce Workshops and Events: activities centered around the platform and its APIs. Developers can gain crucial insights and strengthen their knowledge of Salesforce APIs by attending these events.

Learning Salesforce APIs involves more than simply learning the syntax; it also requires studying best practices for integration, security, and performance, all of which are things that come from experience. Thus, developer experience is important for delivering the best possible UX and leads to continued growth and success within the industry.

X. Future of Salesforce APIs

Salesforce is known for its innovative approach toward CRM, providing customers with advanced features and tools to better manage customer interactions. Salesforce's API ecosystem is crucial to its success. APIs allow third-party developers to integrate with Salesforce and build custom applications that extend the functionality of the platform.

Earlier this year, Salesforce released the Choice Lookup component as a beta functionality. You can present your options in a lookup fashion using the input component. The Choice Lookup component has become available to all users in the Summer '23 release. Starting this Summer, you may add to the Data Table component a search bar. Selecting the "Show search bar" option will add a search bar. In addition, Salesforce has increased the cap on the number of rows that can be displayed in a table at once from 200 to 1500.

In the future, we can expect Salesforce to continue to enhance its API ecosystem, providing more advanced tools to help developers build custom applications. The company is expected to focus on providing AI capabilities within its APIs, enabling developers to integrate with Salesforce's Einstein AI platform. We can also expect Salesforce to introduce more integrations with popular cloud services like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

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