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What is the difference between Service Provider Interface (SPI) and Application Programming Interface (API)?

More specifically, for Java libraries, what makes them an API and/or SPI?

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  • The API is the type of classes/interfaces/methods/... that you call and apply to obtain an aim, and
  • the SPI is the kind of classes/interfaces/methods/... that you reach and perform to reach an object.

Put otherwise, the API shows you what a particular class/method does for you, and the SPI shows you what you must do to conform.

Usually, API and SPI are separate. For example, in JDBC the Driver class is a portion of the SPI: If you completely want to use JDBC, you don't require to use it immediately, but everyone who completes a JDBC driver must implement that class.

Sometimes all overlap, however. The Connection interface is both SPI and API: You apply it routinely while you use a JDBC driver and it needs to be performed by the developer of the JDBC driver.

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