What is an API?

An application programming interface (API) is a set of protocols and tools for building application software. It is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. Most companies, especially tech companies, have built APIs for their customers or for internal use. 

A few of the popular APIs include the following: 

  • Web APIs, are used to reach web browsers and devices or as their own web services application. 
  • SOAP APIs, are a popular choice in cases of heightened data privacy and security. 
  • Open APIs (or Public APIs) and REST (or RESTful) APIs, are popular choices for ease of use and maximizing bandwidth. 
  • JSON-RPC is a go-to for cases where asynchronous server calls are needed. 
  • Custom APIs, for maximum agility with all the moving parts of software development. 

API Use Cases

APIs make many of the digital tools we routinely use possible. Here are three of many API use cases: 

  • Map APIs are commonly used to customize a map on a web page or mobile application. 
  • Address APIs are commonly used to look up addresses, and postcodes, and locate addresses on the map.
  • Payment APIs are often used by e-commerce companies so they can offer to purchase flexibility to customers, expanding their potential customer base as a result. 
  • Verification APIs are often used to validate email addresses, VAT numbers, and phone numbers on web forms.
  • Weather APIs can enhance the user experience of sports apps, search engines, etc. 

API Benefits

APIs enhance both the development experience and the end-user experience by doing the following: 

  • Connecting disparate software applications for a stronger overall product offering. 
  • Shortening the development cycle through automation. 
  • Reducing resources that would otherwise need to be allocated for in-house work. 
  • Improving brand recognition and trust. 
  • Providing new services to end-users with maximum efficiency. 

Why APIs are important?

●     APIs help developers add new features to their apps easily. Rather than building something from scratch, a developer can access a useful API to save them development time and ensure that key functionality works effectively. 

●     By using APIs, developers help reduce fragmentation across the Internet and improve navigation through an interconnected ecosystem of sites, platforms, and mobile apps. 

●     Finally, APIs can also help stitch the internet and mobile app economy together on behalf of users. They underpin essential online behaviors – such as share buttons or social login options. Even using mapping data in e-commerce apps requires an API, and as such, APIs have become essential to users.