524 Views | 4 hours ago | Published On: August 12,2022 - Last Updated: February 22,2024
Application Programming Interfaces or APIs simplify software development and innovation by enabling applications to exchange data and functionality quickly and securely.
An application programming interface, or API, enables companies to open their applications’ data and functionality to external third-party developers, business partners, and internal departments. This allows services and products to communicate and leverage each other’s data and functionality through a documented interface.
Developers don’t need to know how an API is implemented; they use the interface to communicate with other products and services. API use has surged over the past decade to the degree that many of the most popular web applications today would not be possible without APIs.
An API is a set of defined rules that explain how computers or applications communicate with one another. APIs sit between an application and the web server, acting as an intermediary layer that processes data transfer between systems.
While the data transfer will differ depending on the web service being used, this process of requests and responses all happens through an API. Whereas a user interface is designed for humans, APIs are designed for use by a computer or application.
APIs offer security by design because their position as middlemen facilitates the abstraction of functionality between two systems --- the API endpoint decouples the consuming application from the infrastructure providing the service. The API calls usually include authorization credentials to reduce the risk of attacks on the server. An API gateway can limit access to minimize security threats. Also, during the exchange, HTTP headers, cookies, or query string parameters provide additional security layers to the data.
For example, consider an API offered by a payment processing service. Customers can enter their card details on the front end of an application for an e-commerce store. The payment processor does not require access to the user’s bank account; the API creates a unique token for this transaction and includes it in the API call to the server. This ensures a higher level of security against potential hacking threats.
Whether managing existing tools or designing new ones, you can use an application programming interface to simplify the process. Some of the main benefits of APIs include the following:
Through this integration, companies can automate workflows and improve workplace collaboration. Without APIs, many enterprises would lack connectivity and suffer from informational silos that compromise productivity and performance.
As APIs allow companies to open up access to their resources while maintaining security and control, they have become a valuable aspect of modern business. Here are some common examples of APIs (application programming interfaces) you may encounter:
Universal Logins: A famous API example is the function that enables people to log in to websites by using their Facebook, Twitter, or Google profile login details.
This convenient feature allows any website to leverage an API from one of the most popular services to quickly authenticate the user, saving them the time and hassle of setting up a new profile for every website service or new membership.
Third-Party Payment Processing: The now-ubiquitous “Pay with PayPal” function on e-commerce websites works through an API. This allows people to pay for products online without exposing sensitive data or granting access to unauthorized individuals.
Travel Booking Comparisons: Travel booking sites aggregate thousands of flights, showcasing the cheapest options for every date and destination. This service is made possible through APIs that provide application users access to the latest information about availability from hotels and airlines.
With an autonomous exchange of data and requests, APIs dramatically reduce the time and effort to check for available flights or accommodation.
Google Maps: One of the most common examples of a good API is the Google Maps service. In addition to the core APIs that display static or interactive maps, the app utilizes other APIs and features to provide users with directions or points of interest.
Through geolocation and multiple data layers, you can communicate with the Maps API when plotting travel routes or tracking items on the move, such as a delivery vehicle.
Twitter: Each Tweet contains descriptive core attributes, including an author, a unique ID, a message, a timestamp when it was posted, and geolocation metadata. Twitter makes public Tweets and replies available to developers and allows developers to post Tweets via the company’s API.