APIs are the basis of connectivity. API stands for application programming interface, which in computer programming, is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools used to build application software. In simple terms, an API is the messenger that allows communication or interaction between applications (in general, all types of software), data and devices.
Thanks to the Internet, the world is at our fingertips. We can post or buy anything from anywhere just with a couple of clicks How does it happen? How do different devices and applications connect with each other to allow us make a reservation, place orders or book a fly? We can do all those things thanks to the Application Programming Interface also known as API. They make possible the interactivity.
In simple words, the API is the messenger that take requests and tell the system what you want and then bring the response back to you. Think about a very familiar scene on your daily life: you are in a restaurant with different options to order from and the kitchen is the system where your orders will get prepared. The link between those areas is the waiter; he takes your request, tells the system (the kitchen) what to do and delivers the response to you, in this case, a menu option. Now, let us apply this logic to a real API example. Think about when you book a fly. Frstly, you need to interact with the airline website to see if there are seats available for the desired date. The site will show you several options such as departure and return cities, dates, cabin classes and other variables. All the request are sent to the airline database and the response comes back straight away. If you prefer to use an online travel service that aggregate information from many different airlines, to get all the data you request, the travel service interact with the different airlines’ APIs. These tools get the required information from the airlines’ systems and send it back to the travel service that shows it to you, so you can choose seats, meal preferences or baggage options. Therefore, APIs are the unsung heroes that make possible for you to use travel sites. The same applies for all interactions between applications, data and devices. They all have APIs that create connectivity and allow users to get the information they need in order to buy a product or book a service. Thus, whenever you think about and API, think about a waiter running up and forward between applications, databases and devices, delivering data and creating the connectivity that make our world work.
Why you should use an API?
APIs can be essential to the success of an e-commerce business because they can help online retailers to obtain more insights into their customers in order to offer them products tailored to their needs at exactly the right time. APIs can play a big role in improving any business model, with a whole range of advantages such as the following:
Improve customer experience
APIs create new and more effective ways for companies to engage with customers because they enable better access to data and better connectivity between apps and users. APIs also enable customers to take more control over their own experience, so they can choose from a range of communications preferences and handle many tasks in self-service mode.
An API’s core functionality is all about connectivity. The true value of the API comes from its ability to connect users. They play a big role in improving processes and collaboration at companies because they enable more sophisticated designs of workflows that can bring into place more data and apps. By enabling collaboration across systems and people. APIs help business improving productivity and efficiency.
API integration platforms allow businesses to communicate information between multiple APIs. For example, a business may have an e-commerce API set up, as well as an internal operations API, and a marketing API. The information from all of these API can get integrated using an API integration management platform.
For instance, our platform, DataScope, allow our clients to access data stored on our platform, through an API. By using DataScope you can integrate your apps with more than 3,000 other software to automate different processes and you can export the results to diverse platforms. For example, you can integrate our app with Google Drive so that every time an account user answers a mobile form from the DataScope app, a PDF document is generated and saved into any desired folder in Drive or Dropbox. By doing that, users do not need to download data from DataScope and then manually upload that to Drive. APIs and API management platforms are helping tie it all together.
What is API architecture?
API architecture refers to the process of developing a software interface that diplays backend data and application functionality for use in new applications.
When it comes to API architecture, there are a number of styles and all have a place in the API ecosystem. Defining “architectural styles” widely, here is a list of the most popular styles:
REST API: REST is an acronym for REpresentational State Transfer. It relies on a few guiding principles such as a client-server structure, simple, uniform interfaces to communicate across systems, stateless operations, and more.
SOAP API: SOAP is an acronym for Simple Object Access Protocol. These APIs are more structured than others are; they are reliable but can be slower.
Webhooks: are event-based, and are automated messages sent from one system to another, anytime an event occurs.
gRPC API: The RPC in gRPC stands for Remote Procedure Call. In gRPC, a client can call on a server just as if it is a local object, and this ease communication between applications.
Server-sent event API: Also known as SSE, it is a technology that relies on data being pushed from the server, which allows a client to receive updates automatically via a HTTP connection.
WebSocket API: They rely on the WebSocket computer communications protocol. These APIs offer a standard way for servers to send information and data to clients, even when the client is not demanding data.
AMQP API: AMQP is an abbreviation for Advanced Message Queuing Protocol. This protocol follows open standards, and works at the application layer. It is best suited for message-oriented middleware, and like other protocols, AMQP edicts how messaging providers and clients communicate with each other.
GraphQL API: GraphQL is an acronym for Graph Query Language and defines how one API asks another API for a specific piece of information.
MQTT APIs: MQTT is an abbreviation for Message Queuing Telemetry Transport that is well-suited for the Internet of Things (IoT), in part because it is extremely lightweight. MQTT allows devices to publish and/or subscribe to messages.
EDI: EDI is an abbreviation for Electronic Data Interchange. EDI allows businesses to communicate electronically with others.
What is an API call?
Are you still not getting the concept? Imagine you have just downloaded an app. Before you start using it, you will be required to fill in your email or a password. The moment you hit the “enter button” to submit your details, you have made an API call.
What is an API Key?
An application programming interface key (API key) is a unique code that is passed in to an API to identify the calling application or user that is making the request. This code acts as both a unique identifier and a secret token for authentication, and works as a ticket for an event, which depending on the category, allow users access to different spaces and benefits.
Types de API
It is essential to understand which type of API will work best for your project based on various factors such as the intended use, types or users, and the systems and datasets required to connect.
Web APIs are APIs that can be accessed using the HTTP protocol. These APIs include the ones used to communicate with the browser. They may be services such as web notifications and web storage.
Also known as external or public APIs, they are available to developers and other users with minimal restrictions. These APIs might require registration, and use of an API key, or may be completely open. They are designed for external users to access data or services.
They are used in collaboration with your strategic business partners. Partner APIs are not available to the public. Just like internal APIs, they are only accessible to a predefined group of users via authentication and authorization mechanisms. However, partner APIs work outside company boundaries, so they require additional security measures.
Internal APIs are designed to be used within a company and hidden from external users. Therefore, they have security and access control, an audit trail of system access, and a standard interface for connecting multiple services.
These APIs allow developers to access several endpoints in one call. They are especially useful in micro-service architectures, where a user may need information from several services to perform a single task. Using composite APIs can reduce server load and improve application performance, because one call can return all the data a user needs.
Benefits of using APIs
APIs has the potential to transform business processes by improving communication and enable companies to grow their businesses faster than ever before.
APIs can streamline processes. Information, coming from all directions, precisely packaged into one accessible tool can enables your business to become more efficient and more productive.
At Amazon, the API Manifesto, which compelled all teams to expose their data and communicate with each other through service interfaces, had a huge impact on the business. Once the company embraced Bezos’s mandate, it was able to operate its systems much more efficiently. It also enabled the launch of the public-facing Amazon Web Services, which allowed Amazon’s web store to expand.
Business process automation
APIs can be key to business process automation. APIs are software intermediaries that allow two applications to talk to each other. Over the years, the “modern” API has taken on some characteristics that makes it extraordinarily valuable. Today, APIs can be key for business process automation because they enable companies to provide controlled access to a defined scope of data or functionality. Additionally, APIs are not restricted by limitations on where the data resides (e.g. cloud, on-premise, etc.) and insulate companies from the complexities of the system that houses the data.
APIs allow companies for faster innovation. They offer two-fold benefits: the company can create better products while standing out from the competition. They can also make monetization easier.
Companies that want to go a step further in innovation, need to leverage application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect to existing systems, extract data from them and create new functionality on top of them.
APIs lead to a reduction in development effort and faster time to market. Developers understand that much of the functionality they need to build into an application already exists elsewhere. Therefore, they do not spend precious time and resources on reinventing the wheel. Rather than that, they rely on cost-effective APIs from third-party platforms or on APIs they have already created. Consequently, they can focus on delivering the unique functionality of their applications to help businesses saving money and resources.
Improved digital experiences
Since your developers will be empowered to build solutions across any channel through APIs, this will create better and more engaging experiences for any audience, whether that be for customers, partners or your employees. APIs can help enabling the delivery of services such as personalization, data collection and integration. Additionally, as APIs continue to grow in number and in popularity, the capabilities available will only improve and expand.
These business benefits make it evident that APIs are becoming a major component companies should implement to achieve digital success.
Examples of APIs we use in our everyday lives
One common API usage example is weather data. Rich weather snippets seem to be commonplace, found on all platforms or even from your smart home device. Weather APIs allow you to connect to large databases of weather forecast and historical information. Thanks to them, we have access to mobile applications that provide hour-by-hour forecasts, severe weather alerts, and other relevant weather information.
There are many APIs at work within the travel and booking industry. Have you ever wondered how travel booking sites are able to add thousands of flights and destinations and show the cheapest option? Usually, the answer is by using third-party APIs to collect flight and hotel availabilities from providers. Furthermore, if you book one of those services, travel booking sites will use APIs to confirm the trip.
Without using APIs, booking service’s employees would have to manually email the airline or hotel to find out their availability.
Breaking news The Breaking News API is a RESTful API that provides financial news data such as real-time news feeds, company news (about a specific organization), and company details (by company ticker symbol).