Enterprise Internal and Private API Documentation

What are internal docs? What are private docs? When should you use them, and how do you create them?

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Internal API documentation enables you to share private API docs with colleagues throughout your organization. Stoplight’s enterprise internal API documentation tool can generate these documents automatically, enabling rapid sharing of your API prototype in a format that humans can easily read and understand.

Enterprise API internal docs enable discussion and comments that help to improve API design while facilitating open communication and collaboration across your organization.

What is internal/private API documentation?

Internal/private API documentation is intended for internal use only. It can be auto-generated using Stoplight’s internal API documentation tool, written and edited manually, and/or annotated by allowing users across your organization to add their own comments.

At its best, internal API documentation is a way to put your enterprise API into plain and easy-to-understand words so that internal stakeholders can provide feedback, opinions and helpful suggestions to improve your enterprise API and make sure you are meeting the needs of your teams.

Internal Documentation vs Private APIs

Internal API documentation is for internal use only. However, you may have internal documentation relating to an external or public API. This allows you to provide the API itself for public use by customers, suppliers and other external stakeholders, while keeping private internal documentation relating to its design or functionality.

Some internal API documentation will relate to internal/private APIs, and in this case, both the API and the documentation should be kept confidential and only seen by authorized individuals inside your organization. You may choose to expose this documentation to selected partners, but again, those individuals and organizations will be within your circle of trust.

Benefits of Internal APIs

Data-driven organizations must deal with ever-increasing amounts of data that is critical to revenue-generating operations. At the same time, a growing workforce can introduce exponential complexity when it comes to accessing, editing and collaborating on files in cloud and silo storage.

Internal APIs are a way to streamline these processes by clearly defining them, giving internal employees the tools they need to efficiently collaborate and transform information to achieve profit-making outcomes.

Private vs Public APIs

As mentioned above, both your documentation and your APIs may be private or public, and many organizations use public APIs to give customers an easy way to interact with the data they hold on file about them.

That said, private APIs can be equally effective, if not more so, as you can continually welcome collaboration via internal API documentation tools and act on constructive feedback to give employees the APIs they need to excel in their roles.

There is a middle ground, and this is where partner APIs can be found. Not completely public, but exposed to selected people and companies outside of your organization, they create a kind of private-public bridge without compromising security.

Types of Internal API Docs

Internal API docs are more than just comments and feedback on the functionality and design of the API.

Some examples of types of internal API docs include:

● References on the basic structure and endpoints of the API.

● Tutorials and guides on how to use the API effectively.

● Case studies and worked examples of best practice API usage.

REST API reference guides can give a plain language description of the objects and arguments required by the API, which human users can check the first time, or every time they access the API.

Best Practice for Enterprise Internal/Private API Documentation

Good enterprise internal/private API documentation depends on knowing the basics, advanced knowledge and best practice for writing API documentation that really works.

To find out more about each of these areas, read our comprehensive API Documentation Guide.