A Simple Introduction to Application Programming Interface

Are you wondering what is an application programming interface(API)? If you do, then you have come to the right place. Today, I will go through a simple introduction to API. People have similar queries related to APIs, including API in Java, API in Python, and so on.

Last night, I was working on a “How to use Etherscan Ethereum Developers APIs” for one of my clients. It is an interesting topic that required some research. That’s why I went forward and researched about APIs extensively before writing about the topic.

So, what is an application programming interface?

A Simple Introduction to Application Programming Interface

The Internet is composed of thousands of websites, services, and platforms. It is a giant network where inter-dependency is a critical play.

APIs are used to automate tasks within the server. So, if you created a website that lists movies, then you can utilize the OMDb API, which offers a clean way to access all the information on IMDb. 

This way, you do not have to search their database directly. API is also a clean way to share functionality, features, or data with other users. They are open source and can be used by anyone within limits set by the API creator.

From a computer point of view, we can see API as a way for a computer or server to digest new information. It is a mere tool for a computer to understand the incoming information and utilize it to showcase visual data to the user.

We, humans, love visuals. And, you are as a developer who needs to utilize those data and present it into a meaningful, readable way. 

Also, check out Application Programming Interface Wiki

Difference between API and Database

From the above definition, you might get confused between database and API. They might work similarly but are fundamentally different on how requests are handled or executed. Below is an illustrative example of how API interaction and database interaction take place.

Application Programming Interface

What’s the purpose of an API?

As we already mentioned, the core purpose of an API is to provide access to another app, service, or solution functionality. If you are a developer and want to fetch posts, then you can do it with the help of an API. You can fetch posts through a particular username, hashtag, or other parameters that are accepted by API itself.

A more indirect way is to store the tweets into a single file and then load them from the database. But, that would add cost to the overall process — making it inefficient if you need to check for new tweets or update the old ones constantly.

Facebook or other social media platforms know that — and that’s why they offer an API to access system-generated data or information.

Also read, 5 Best JavaScript IDE For Front-End and Web Engineers 2017 – 2018

Who creates or handles the API?

The APIs are created by the service providers themselves. When it comes to tech companies, they handle their own APIs. As APIs are part of any process or solution, it is generally developed by the company itself, rather than an external entity.

Through the design of the APIs, companies can decide which data or information to make public. They also define the parameters and the times an API can be called by a requested. 

API acts as a bridge between different services, and it is an integral part of the web. APIs are not only limited to big companies or platforms. Any developer can provide APIs to enhance the functionality of their app and provide access to others. 

Connected World Through API

API enables the world to communicate with each other. If you have used tracking solutions where you track your package from different delivery providers, then you might have noticed that it can connect to their respective websites and grab the information for you.

AliExpress, for example, has a cleverly built tracking system that can track deliverables throughout the different service providers. The key here is to provide a unifying experience to the end-user.

Booking an airplane is another excellent example of how API has connected the world. Once you input all your requirements on an airplane booking platform — the service then uses the different airplane APIs to grab the current data. It shows you the availability, price, and other key information required to make the decision. Once you choose the flight and book it, the same APIs are responsible for sending the data back to the original servers. It is a network of connectivity that is made possible with the use of API.

Conclusion: The Rise of Modern API

In recent times, APIs are now evolved into Modern APIs. These Modern APIs adhere to certain conditions including the following

  • Using standards for communications
  • Are developer-friendly
  • APIs are thoroughly tested
  • Better security and governance
  • Can be used throughout the development process

So, what do you think about APIs? Comment below and let us know.

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