APIs or Application Programming Interfaces have taken the world the storm and have played a major part in the digital transformation in the IT, commercial, and energy sectors. And while many people come across the term pretty frequently, it is often viewed as a buzzword. Lots of people remain confused over what and API exactly is or what they do.
It is important to understand that APIs are more than an abstract concept and that many aspects of the modern world rely on them to function properly. This article will look at APIs and how they work and explain the inner workings without getting overly technical.
What are APIs?
An API is an intermediary software or middleman between two applications. In other words, they let two different applications communicate with each other. Put simply, an Application Programming Interface is the messenger that relays your request to another application and then delivers their response back to you.
Another way to view APIs is this: they are a set of rules that determine how two devices talk to each other. APIs can be used internally, like within a business, or externally to connect different services.
The simplest example of an API is between your device and cloud software. The cloud software interacts with your webserver to store the data you want it to. In other words, it integrates with the data from your device.
APIs are like building blocks for programmers. They allow programmers to create complex processes over and over again by reusing codes instead of starting from scratch every single time. This is crucial because APIs enable speed and flexibility, which is what the world is demanding right now.
How Do APIs Function?
As I mentioned earlier, the API works as a middleman to deliver requests between programs. Most web APIs are placed between a server and a particular application. The user utilizes an API call that requests the application to perform an action, and in turn, the application will use an API to ask the webserver to do something.
The API is the negotiator between the application and the web server, and the API call is known as the request. Whenever you use software to communicate with other software or other online web servers, you have to use APIs to request the data you need.
Online shopping is a great example of APIs in action. When you want to buy something from an online retailer, an API will request the necessary data from the program and deliver it to you. This includes prices, pictures, brands, and even sales and discounts.
APIs also take the shoppers’ data and convert them into business intelligence, therefore collecting data to improve services and predict what the customers want or need. They are also used when you want to pay for something online. The software will send an API call or request to your credit card company or PayPal when you pay for things online. This is why APIs and data integration are crucial when doing anything online nowadays.
Types of APIs
There are different types of APIs that you can use to connect different software components together. Understanding the difference between them is important when deciding the path for possible integration and development between various software platforms.
- Representational State Transfer (REST): This is a frequently used API that is not reliant on a certain protocol. It provides a flexible integration option that lets developers use a standardized set of processes to meet their goals. The architectural style is straightforward and the interface is user-friendly and it streamlines the connection between the client and server.
- Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP): This kind of API links various platforms with HTTP and XML. The general structure is much stricter than that of REST and a rigid protocol is used to define it. Because it is harder to achieve flexible integration using this framework, developers usually stick to REST instead of SOAP. However, it does allow for stricter security measures without any customized coding and has its own uses.
APIs are crucial in this era of technological development because they make integration easy, fast, and agile. Digital transformation has led to an increased need for constant connectivity and APIs deliver that in no time at all. APIs are the middlemen that make all of our online interactions possible, from logging onto a social media app to buying a pair of shoes on eBay. And it is this necessity that makes understanding APIs and how they work more important than ever.