What Is an API?

An Application Programming Interface (API) is an interface into an application that allows other applications to make programmatic requests. An API allows a user to access an application's objects and processes without using the application interface. This gives the user the power to connect or integrate multiple programs together to create a more customized and powerful solution.

ExactTarget provides three API solutions:

Together with content syndication, triggered sends, and other functionality, ExactTarget's API offerings are collectively referred to as AMP.

The two APIs have some overlapping functionality but each can do some things the other cannot. Customers can use either or both of the APIs to achieve their business goals.

Web Service API

Web Service APIs use an XML-based extensible message envelope format called Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to transmit data over HTTP and HTTPS. The definition of the Web Services API is available in a Web Service Description Language (WSDL) file.

Web Service API, also referred to as SOAP API, is available in limited release, which means that customers must specifically request to use it and be approved by ExactTarget. Nevertheless, the ExactTarget Web Service API is an anchor feature of the product and considered a core part of our offering. The ExactTarget Web Services are flexible and can be used with most of the popular programming languages, such as asp.net, PHP, ColdFusion, Java, and C#.

The Web Service API provides robust security over the XML API and a standardized approach that is easy to learn for people who are already familiar with Web Service. It offers fast performance and a great deal of flexibility for diverse business needs. However, the Web Services API is more difficult to get started with a higher learning curve for those who were not already familiar with Web Service.


The ExactTarget XML API is generally available to all customers. Customers invoke XML API calls by making calls to the appropriate endpoint:

There are six ExactTarget API classes of objects that you can act on with the XML API:

  • Subscriber
  • List
  • Email
  • Job
  • Tracking
  • Image

The following code is an example of a XML API call:

        <search_type />
        <search_value />
        <list_name>my List</list_name>


<exacttarget> The root element of ExactTarget XML API calls.
<authorization> This element contains information that demonstrates to the to the ExactTarget system that the action being requested is allowed to be taken and also allows the system to identify which account to perform the action on.
<username> This element contains the customer's API username. A customer who uses the API creates a special user in ExactTarget that the API uses to log in. This user's password does not expire.
<password> This element contains the customer's API user password.
<system> This element contains the details of the call.
<system_name> This element contains the object to be operated on. In this case, the call is operating on a list.
<action> This element contains the action to take. In this case the call is adding something.
<search_type> This element is not relevant to this call but is required so it is empty.
<search_value> This element is not relevant to this call but is required so it is empty.
<list_name> Contains the name of the list that is being operated on.

The XML API is very simple to use and can integrate with any language or platform. You don't need any software to program with this API because all you need is to send information to the web site.

However, the XML API can be too simple to address the more complex needs of our customers. There is no validation of your calls, and you cannot customize the information that is returned by your calls. The XML API can have slow performance for certain processes.

Why Use the API

Customers use the API to integrate their marketing, analytics, and other business software with the ExactTarget software to create a more powerful and customized business solution. For example, marketers integrate ExactTarget with their CRM software to create a single point-of-access for their marketing efforts. They can send ExactTarget emails to their CRM contacts from within their CRM program because the ExactTarget API allows the code in the CRM system to perform the operation of sending an email.

Customers can also use the API to automate some procedures. For example, triggered emails (messages that are sent in response to a subscriber action, such as submitting a registration form or completing an online purchase) depend heavily on the API. A client creates code in their website to identify when an event occurs that should trigger an email and then uses the ExactTarget API calls to send the appropriate email.

Last updated by ryan.williams at 15:08, 9 Feb 2015