If you’ve ever read tech blog posts, then you’ve probably come across the abbreviation API. It sounds techie; but what does this abbreviation mean, and why should you bother to understand it?
Let’s begin with simple logic: human communication. You can express your thoughts, feelings, ideas, needs, and wants through language (written or spoken), signs, symbols, gestures, or facial expressions. However, interaction with apps, websites, and computers requires user interface elements – a screen with a menu and graphical elements, a keyboard, and a mouse.
Software and its elements don’t need a user interface to communicate with each other. Instead, they exchange data and functionalities through machine-readable interfaces – application programming interfaces (API).
So What Is An (API) Application Programming Interface?
The acronym of API is Application Programming Interface.
API is a set of functions and processes that enable applications that access data and features of other applications and operating systems.
Thus, it simplifies software development and innovation by allowing applications to exchange data or information and functionality quickly and securely.
API allows a company to access its application’s data and functionality to external third-party developers, internal units, and business partners. This enables products and services to communicate and control each other’s data and functionality through a documented interface.
Good API makes it easier for developers by providing all the building blocks to develop a computer program. Also, it is a set of rules that define how an application can connect and communicate with each other.
Finally, API is a set of programming codes that enables data transmission from one software to another.
What is JSON, and why is it used?
JSON is a standardized, minimal, or readable format usually used to transmit data (e.g., sending data or information from the server to the client) as text between servers and web applications as an alternative to XML.
APIs and Databases use JSON often, and it is simple for both humans and machines to read.
Also, it represents objects as names or value pairs like a Python dictionary.
As discussed earlier, JSON is one of the common choices of readable format that can transfer data between computers that exchange tons of data each day. It is much easier to read and also faster for computers to process.
In addition, you can use JSON to overcome the cross-domain problems because it has a technique that uses a callback function to send the JSON data back to your domain.
JSON can send back and forth in HTTP requests because it’s incredibly lightweight and responds due to the small file size. It is easier to read than XML since it’s more precise and has no tags to worry about.
Almost all the major languages have built-in functionality to parse JSON strings into objects in that language, making JSON significantly easier inside a programming language. However, this capability makes JSON so useful and creates an opportunity for previously challenging works to work on.
What is an API Request?
The API request is an intermediary that transfers the client’s data or requests to the server and then returns a response to the client. It occurs when a software developer adds an endpoint to a URL and requests the server.
API request enables you to regain information from a data source or to send information. It is run on a web server and exposes endpoints to support the client application’s operation to provide their functionality. Each API request uses an HTTP method.
The primary methods are GET, POST, PATCH, PUT, and DELETE.
To help the client developer understand your API’s input and output method, you can document your API and provide proper error messages for invalid requests
This is the touch-point of interaction between an API and another computer system. It provides the areas where APIs access the resources they need. It is used to request data from a server and then receiving a response after that.
It is known as the communication channel that APIs use to send information and specify where a given resource resides.
API endpoint performs an integral role in defining where data can be accessed and guarantees the proper functioning of software interacting with it.
API method is a response that defines what the clients should do to submit a request before they can access the service at the backend and also define the response that the clients receive in return.
For API method input, you can choose method request parameters for the client to provide the required information at run time.
For API method output, you decide the method response status code and applicable body as targets to map the backend response information before returning to the client.
However, to help the client developer understand your API’s input and output method, you can document your API and provide proper error messages for invalid requests.
The requested data is also known as the “body,” and it is data or information that will either be sent back or returned by a server.
The body of a request will sometimes require specific data before it can be delivered. A typical example of this is if you are editing a single product, the “ProductID” would be required before any changes can be made.
Web services are software, cloud technology, or applications that provide standardized internet protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, or TCO, to communicate and exchange data systems – usually XML throughout the internet.
They are XML-centered data exchange systems that use the internet for application-to-application (A2A) communication and interfacing. These processes involve messages, documents, programs, and objects.
The critical element of web services is that programs or applications can be written in different languages and still communicate and exchange data via internet services between clients and servers.
Representational State Transfer (REST)
REST API stands for representational states transfer. It is a set of design standards that are widely used to communicate between systems and applications.
It defines stateless communications, uses self-describing formats such as JSON or XML, and transfers data through HTTPS or FTO. REST is a software architectural style for distributed hypermedia systems used in developing web services. Distributed file systems send and receive information via representational state transfer (REST).
An operating system is also referred to as OS. It is software installed on a computer’s hard drive that allows the computer hardware to interact and communicate directly with the computer software.
Without an OS, computer and software programs would be rendered useless.
With the earlier computers, the computer user interacted with them using a command-line user interface, which required memorization of commands. But today, almost all computers use a graphical user interface (GUI) operating system that is simple to use and operate.
It’s a program that, after being initially installed into the computer by a boot program, it manages all other programs such as software in a computer. The users can operate a computer directly with the OS through a user interface like a graphical user interface (GUI).
Twitter bots are another example of API, and they are accounts that follow, tweet, retweet automatically, and send direct messages based on software instructions.
Everyday Examples of APIs
APIs play a vital role in today’s economy more than ever. It allows users to share essential data and expose practical business functionality between computers, applications, and people.
However, the following are the most common examples of application programming interfaces (API) that we use in our everyday lives. Starting from logging in to a Facebook account to paying for goods or services online with PayPal, there is no doubt you would have experienced how API integrations work somewhere.
1. Weather Snippets
The primary API usage example people use daily is weather data. Rich weather snippets are commonplace and found on all platforms such as Google Search, Apple’s Weather, and even your Smartphone device.
For example, if you search for “weather + [your location’s name]” on Google, you will discover a dedicated box at the top of your search result “called a rich snippet” with the present weather condition and forecast.
Google is not yet in the business of weather data, so they practically source this information from a third party. Google uses APIs, which sends them the current weather information to reformat it easily.
2. Log-in Using XYZ
Another typical example of API usage is the log-in-using Google, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media network functionality you use on different websites. It is simple to use, but have you thought of how it works?
Instead of logging in to your Twitter, Facebook, or other social media accounts, applications with this functionality exploit these platforms’ APIs to authenticate the user with each login.
3. Pay with PayPal
Have you ever used PayPal to pay for goods or services directly within an online store before? That’s an example of API. Like logging in using a social media network, the pay with PayPal functionality is developed with APIs to ensure that the end program can only do what it expects to do without being exposed to sensitive data or gaining access to unintended permissions.
4. Twitter Bots
Twitter bots can also be called zombies, and they are automated Twitter accounts usually controlled by bots software. Twitter bots are another example of API, and they are accounts that follow, tweet, retweet automatically, and send direct messages based on software instructions.
All of these bots are powered by Twitter APIs. Apart from enabling you to execute simple actions such as tweeting a particular sentence or following a user, the Twitter API can also communicate and interact with bots when something specific occurs on the platform.
5. Travel Booking
Ever wondered how a travel booking company could aggregate thousands of flights and destinations and even display the cheapest packages on their websites? The answer, of course, is using third-party APIs to collect flight and hotel availability from providers.
So also, if you make a booking through one of these companies, they will use APIs to confirm your trip with the provider they sourced it from.
Why Do Ecommerce Sites Use APIs
API offers a wide range of benefits to eCommerce sites in different ways. For example, it makes it easy for online buyers to find products, create more awareness about the company’s brand, and expand its potential by selling products on different online marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Alibaba, Rakuten, etc.
1. Increased Security
Security is improved when eCommerce sites use API. Anytime you send information, you aren’t directly linked to the server; it is API that delivers your information, and the server sends it back to you. This mitigates the risk of someone accessing your data or the backend of a server.
Without APIs, you will have to reach out to a store and ask their representative to look at their inventory and get you the list of items they have and their prices before you can order online. But with APIs, you can easily see their stocks, prices, and stock level online.
APIs allow scalability and flexibility when you want to enlarge your e-commerce store’s catalog, data, or security needs. Your online store can grow very fast when you don’t have to factor in a new code for every single product or user.
Why does your business need a custom API solution?
Businesses struggling to operate more than one API solution should consider implementing an API integration platform to improve the functionality of existing systems.
API acts as an intermediary that connects multiple systems to achieve the client’s request. For example, APIs can connect their systems that handle financial operations, allowing the business user to access all data on sales, orders, stock levels, and billing one interface.
It can also be used for external processes like transferring during an online transaction. It transmits buyer information to a verification service unit and gives a confirmation alert back to the buyer.
Businesses need API solutions because the API platform allows a grander scale of communication between the multiple APIs and their respective subsystems.
As a result, it offers an efficient way to connect applications, exchange information, and enable business owners to have a broader scope.
1. Connect to Cloud-Based and Traditional Applications
There are many cloud-premise applications on the online marketplace today. Research shows that as of 2019, we have more than 90% of businesses operating on the cloud.
Meaning that for companies to interconnect their existing software, they must implement a cloud integration system—application programming interface (API) integration platforms standard for integrating web-based software and a legacy system like ESBs.
Legacy systems are the old models’ on-premise software that can’t connect to other processes that are beyond the firewall. Nonetheless, API integration platforms have the potential access to connect to these traditional models so companies can keep their existing services.
2. Meet and Exceed Other Integration Solutions
Almost all the tasks in a company require multiple processes to complete. Let’s take a look at inventory management; for example, inventory management is the sales data, stock level, purchase orders, economic order quantity (EOQ), and demand forecasting.
Many systems claim to be an all-in-one solution, but this software doesn’t build to a business’s needs.
Instead, many companies are collaborating with software developers to assemble their personalized software.
Application programming interface (API) integration platforms can easily aggregate all systems to join tools, functions, and data. This reduces any repetitive features that may populate from overlapping sources.
3. Save Time and Labor Costs
Without an application programming interface (API) integration platform, features and data integration require employees to combine information from all existing systems manually.
This process consumes time, and it requires companies to pay a lot of money as labor costs. But with an API integration platform, companies can focus more on their resources and capital on other efforts like business expansion.
As application programming interface integration systems have gained popularity over the years, companies have also discovered that API solutions further improve the systems’ functions.
This has access to real-time information from all keys; the API integration platform allows businesses to have a broader scope of their business operations.
APIs are an integral part of the modern development ecosystem. Having spent a little time studying it, you can widely use API to expand your business or application capabilities.
Also, a business can be much easier if you use API solutions and the right technology.
However, API clearly improve the way companies do business and how companies think of moving their business forward.