Everything you need to know about Alibaba’s APIs

3 min reading
APIs , e-Commerce / 25 February 2019
Everything you need to know about Alibaba’s APIs
Everything you need to know about Alibaba’s APIs


Alibaba is the paradigm of a company capable of accelerating growth through technology. In less than one decade it has grown from an intermediary to a benchmark in technological progress. Proof of it are products such as Alipay, now present in the BBVA ecosystem.

The Chinese technological giant Alibaba has forged new ways of doing business beyond the classic online market, and is trying to find a place for itself among the global technological platforms.

The company offers more than 1,500 application programming interfaces (APIs), an essential component of its business that helps simplify the management of online transactions. For example, there are 68 APIs on its website Tmall that help navigate around its basic activity data, from consultations for information about the vendor and sending a receipt, to accessing its inventory, making a purchase or canceling a shipment. Each action is based on its own API and it is the communication between all of them that provides the logical structure of all the actions carried out by users of the website when they visit the store.

Because of the enormous quantity of data generated by the APIs in its electronic stores, the company has created an infrastructure that analyzes this information and that is sold through Alibaba Cloud. It is an alternative to Amazon Web Services, and offers a great variety of products geared to professional developers: computation and cloud storage, databases, web hosting, cybersecurity, etc.

These products are marketed in API format. Thus, if you want to register your own domain, Alibaba provides you with a series of APIs from which you can check the availability of the name, its registration, DNS association, etc.

Alipay, leader in payments

Where Alibaba has made a really disruptive change is in its financial services. In our global environment one in five adults are still excluded from the banking sector. In addition, thanks to the reduced prices of smartphones and a 4G network with coverage of over 73%, an enormous number of people have consolidated their position as mobile internet users. Given these facts, it was inevitable that the revolution in this area should be boosted by the technological sector.

Today the preferred method of payment by consumers of the Asian giant is a smartphone application capable of issuing and receiving payments by generating and reading QR codes, an evolutionary step forward from bar codes. Customers can pay by scanning the QR code issued by the company, or present the code themselves so that the store can deduct the amount of the purchase through a simple reading of their phone screen.

Alipay, the best-known of these apps (it accounts for 24.5% of the market share of all methods of payment), was launched by Alibaba in 2004. It was created as a solution focused on e-commerce, the group’s main economic activity; however, over time its use has extended beyond the Internet, and it is now accepted by restaurants, hypermarkets, hotels, airlines, movie theaters, taxis, the subway and even churches.

Alipay has expanded beyond the frontiers of China hand-in-hand with tourism

Alipay has expanded beyond the frontiers of China hand-in-hand with tourism. In Spain Alipay has brought domestic commerce to the more than a million Chinese tourists who visited us in 2017. In fact, El Corte Inglés has been offering this service to its Chinese customers since 2018.

To make this reality possible, Alipay has an API-based architecture. By making a request via http, the same communication protocol that allows you to read this page, a variety of apps can establish communication with Alipay based on the exchange of requests and delivery of data. In this way, a transaction can be resolved according to basic parameters that identify the customer, associated store, and the transaction made, as soon as the place and price is known.

Alipay was created in response to the market needs of e-commerce, but as a result of cumulative experience, Alibaba currently sees itself as a supplier of technology that can facilitate business in any part of the world. In fact, last year it appeared in GitHub, the leading code storage repository, as the eighth biggest contributor of open code, above Uber and Netflix.

Are you interested in financial APIs? Discover all the APIs we can offer you at BBVA

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