If you have recently gone through a technical website or follow technical blogs and newsletters, you must have heard the term API. Sounds important. However, what does API development mean, and should you care about it? Read on to know.
API or Application Programming Interfaces is a set of programming codes transmitted from one software product to another.
In the simplest terms, API is the method through which two technologies talk to each other.
When we communicate with other humans, we use verbal and visual communication. Furthermore, when communicating with the computer, we interact with graphics present on the screen and elements such as keyboard, mouse, etc.
When two or more software or elements need to interact, they do not use a graphical interface. They communicate, that is, share data and functionalities, using machine-readable interfaces.
When two technologies are communicating with one another, they must have a language between them. To understand this language, here are some basic terms that you should be aware of.
HTTP methods communicate with the API to understand what you are trying to do with the data. There are four types of HTTP methods.
Request and response refer to different HTTP methods. When you make a call to the API to GET data, you are making a request. The response will be the output that API brings to you.
When requesting an API, you need a specific API key. These keys are used as authentication to check who is accessing the API.
Another term that is essential while making requests to the API. If you want to add additional information with the request or response, you can provide a header.
JSON can be considered as the language that two applications within an API use to communicate. As there is no user interface with API, the developer needs to understand the request and response between two applications.
Consequently, JSON is designed to be both human and machine-readable. Thus, it makes it easier for the developer to monitor the data flow between two applications.
APIs are divided into four types based on their availability. In other words, API can be a private, partner, and open type based on their release policies.
Also known as developer-facing, public, or external APIs, these are available for third-party developers. When executed correctly, an open API program can facilitate an increase in brand awareness. Moreover, it is also beneficial in getting an additional source of income.
The most common application of partner API is allowing software integration between two parties. They are promoted openly. However, these APIs are only shared with business partners who are in agreement with the publisher.
When a company agrees to let partners access the data, it benefits from the extra revenue streams. Consequently, there is a comprehensive onboarding process so that the parties can gain access to the API.
The APIs designed to improve the services within an organization is referred to as internal or private API. The apps can be publicly available. However, the interface of these apps is accessible only for those who are working directly with or under the API publisher. The developers housed in the organization can use the API to integrate the application and IT systems of the organization.
These are the types of APIs that combine different services and data APIs. They serve the purpose of expediting the execution process and enhance the app performance. Composite APIs are built with existing API functions to perform multiple tasks in a single cell.
You might not be aware of it, but you are currently using API almost everywhere. From shopping online to playing a game on your smartphone, you are interacting with API. Here are some real-world examples of how API integration works.
Did you ever have a random question that you needed an answer to immediately? Then, you must have visited the open question-answer community of Quora. It is the perfect example of an internal API. They do not offer access to their API to external developers.
Furthermore, the API is used to keep the data in mobile and web apps in sync. Thus, Quora can use the same database and code to support their desktop app, mobile app, and website. Consequently, the internal API used ensures that Quora can allow different developers to build and manage different apps with the same data.
Developers can use any data, such as trends, hashtags, statistics, etc., from Twitter. It is an open API that works to attract more users to Twitter.For instance, one can use the Twitter API to let users share content on Twitter without leaving their site. Click To Tweet
Thus, Twitter gets more content and users. Twitter also uses API to see various tweets related to your search keyword, display a tweet you retweeted to your followers, etc.
If you have Google Maps to search a restaurant or store, you must have seen it show you reviews, contact information, business hours, rush times, and much more. Google API is responsible for these features.
We hope that now you have a clearer understanding of what an API is. Furthermore, let’s dive into why API is essential for your business.
By now, we have established APIs and interfaces for computers to share data and functionality. However, the question arises: how do these interfaces work? Here is a step-by-step explanation.
First, any API needs a data source. A data source can be anywhere where the developer stores their data, including MySQL, Redis, MongoDB, and even a spreadsheet. The data source is integrated through API. However, if, in any case, one needs the data source to be “read-only”, then they can independently update the data.
Now, when the user needs to use the API, they will make a request. They can use different HTTP methods such as GET, DELETE, POST, etc. Along with the method, the request will also include a path, such as a URL. Finally, you will need to have a payload in the request. It can be a form or JSON data, for instance. Most APIs will provide the rules to be followed while making a request.
Finally, the API will process the request made by the user. It will then retrieve the required data from the data source. This output is called response. You must have seen the response when trying to access websites such as 404 – Not Found, 500 – Server Error, etc. The response format is predetermined so that the developers know what to expect when they make a request.
The steps above form the most fundamental process of working an API.
You now have understood the buzz around API. However, is it something you need? There are various reasons why you might need API development in your organization. For instance, here are some of the cases in which you need API integration.
Consequently, if you find that your business needs API development, here is how it can benefit it.
With API integration, your website’s users, businesses, etc., can personalize their sessions. They get the option to include information and services that they find most beneficial to them.
For instance, you want to upload a piece of content to different parts of your website. API can propagate it without human intervention, thereby reducing manual work. Moreover, you can enable and update workflows using API. Thus, within a few steps, you can enhance the productivity of your organization.
Depending upon the type of API you are using, you can set the level of security. Thus, with different authentication methods, you can ensure that only the authorized users have access to the data that the API generates.
With API integration, you get a smooth user experience with relevant information for the users. Furthermore, it enables you to embed the content throughout your sites or applications with ease.
APIs allow one to create a new presentation layer. For instance, you can create an app, website, etc., to provide your services to a new audience in a specific context. People who seldom visit websites can get the information through different channels such as an app.
Before understanding the difference between API and microservices, one must understand what microservices are. These are architectural patterns used to organize loosely related services. The services are employed independently and fulfil a specific purpose.
APIs are an essential part of microservice architecture. The microservices in the architecture will have their own API to communicate with different components. However, APIs can be used without being a part of a microservice architecture. Thus, people tend to believe that they are used to achieving the same goal.
The table below comprises the difference between the two.
|Purpose||Allows two elements of the software to communicate||A method to build applications by organizing loosely joined services.|
|Characteristics||It is specialized for different applications, lightweight, and fast.||Decentralized functionality, modular, and scalable.|
|Use Cases||It is used with microservice architecture so that different components can communicate with one another. Also, it is used to introduce specific features in the application.||It is used as an alternative to monolithic architecture to build applications.|
During API development, some factors should be paid attention to. These are necessary for the security of the data and the functioning of the services.
Developers will need to understand how to use your API. With proper documentation, you can define the requests that need to be followed, the format and type of data, and the response that the API provides.
Furthermore, API does not follow a visual nature, which makes documentation an absolute necessity.
The very aim is that other parties can use it to integrate their software with yours. If they cannot understand how to use it, your API will be left meaningless.
Along with proper documentation, one needs to focus on standardization and consistency. For instance, parameters like data formats, error messages, endpoint naming, etc., should be consistent and predictable.
While making the API easier to use, you also need to ensure that it is secure. Token-based authentication is the preferred authentication method. However, the authentication need not be complex or lengthy.
While working with an API, users need to interact with tremendous amounts of data. With the feature of sorting, users can receive all the pages of data in order. Moreover, they should also have the ability to modify the parameters of sorting.
When your API is accessible to the public, it is better to prevent users from using it too much. With rate limiting, you can prohibit users from exploiting the API. Thus, you can ensure that the app does not crash and no data is lost as they make multiple requests.
There is more to API development than developing an interface to a data source. Here are the primary costs for building an API.
The largest cost of developing an API is the developer cost. Based on the features of the API, the experience and proficiency of the developer, the final price will vary. Get to know in detail the parameters included in the developer’s cost.
The cost of API development also depends upon the time taken in the process. The aspects on which it depends include research, database design, prototype development, API key and role-based access controls, interactive documentation, and MVP completion.
Considering the role of API from the perspective of business collaboration, these interfaces work behind the scenes to enable technological connectivity. Data is always in demand. You can enhance your user’s experience by integrating this additional data with API.
Now that you have an in-depth understanding of API, you can connect with our development team and API experts to know more about building a secure API for your business. Join in for a free consultation call to explore your mobile and web app development options.
A. Most online interaction uses API. For example, when you use an application and access any data, you are sending requests to the server. The request is sent through API.
A. Developers use API to bring applications together to execute any predefined process.
A. First, the development team builds the interface of the application after which the developers design API.
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