What is an API and how does it work?

What is an API and how does it work?

By carolc

These acronyms are becoming more and more present, which refer to the rules and processes necessary for communication and connection between applications.

The world of web programming is quite diverse and immensely broad and each programming professional seeks to apply best practices in their field, which depends well on the platform on which it works. Every programmer has created an API, at least once in his career.

What is API?

API (Application Programming Interface) is a formal specification of how one module in one software communicates or interacts with another. That is, APIs are a set of commands, functions, and computer protocols that allow developers to create specific programs for certain operating systems. APIs greatly simplify the work of a program builder because you don’t have to write codes from scratch. These allow the computer to use predefined functions to interact with the operating system or another program, making it easier to work and time to develop new applications.

The API are the interfaces that face software, users don’t distinguish that, they just check that they work. With APIs, apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Candy Crush can communicate with each other without the user having to intervene or even notice.

Each API is designed in a specific programming language and with different specifications that define it. APIs can include specifications for data and routine structures, object classes, or variables, from which the use of that interface is based. In addition, it is common for each of them to have complete and effective documentation (a set of tutorials, manuals and best practice rules for that programming interface).

What the APIs are for?

Today this terminology has evolved a lot, thanks to web services, and derived in Rest APIs, better API calls.

An API can be used to communicate with a BD, OS or communication protocol. In recent years the examples that are best known are the APIs of online platforms such as WordPress or Google Maps and of course, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinKedin, etc. This benefits Social Media Marketing, because they can be more restorable, simple and profitable.

One of the most commonly used APIs is when you try to sign in to Facebook or Google. These allow a page to reuse the already created registration of a user of this platform to access that application, trying to give the customer a satisfactory experience, granting quick access, and the benefit of the owner of the application, increasing the number of records on the page.

Who develops API’s?

In theory, any software developer has the knowledge to create an API. Since this is a set of instructions and specifications that allow two other programs to communicate with each other, that is, a binding program.

However, this depends a lot on the complexity of the project. Often the main API already exists and the developer only has to adapt it to a CRM, for example, as in the case of the WhatsApp Business API. In other cases, it needs to be developed from scratch and this requires more knowledge and skill, especially when looking for a clean and functional code.

The best thing to do, then, is to find a developer who already has experience with developing and handling APIs as needed.

Why are APIs important?

Scalability. As software companies grow, their staff soon discovers that they have more ideas than time and resources to develop them.

By creating APIs, enterprises enable third-party developers to build applications that can improve the utilization and adoption of the primary platform. In this way, a company can create an ecosystem that becomes dependent on its API data, a dynamic that often leads to additional revenue opportunities.

How to use an API?

To understand the value that an API may have, you should fully understand the information it contains and how we might have access to it. To find out what a particular API can give you, you can do one of two things:

  • Ask a web developer to explore an API and discuss it with you.
  • Do an investigation on your own. If you don’t have access or budget to access a web developer, this is an interesting option. Don’t panic: many online services have helpful documentation about APIs.

Web API Types

A big category of this integration solution is the Web APIs. This method uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to access data on the World Wide Web. Clearly, there are certain subcategories of web APIs that don’t match when it comes to security, policy, and client-server relationship.

Open APIs

Also known as external or public, open APIs have relaxed security measures, allowing developers and external users to easily access data. Typically, some systems tend to remain fully transparent, while some others may require a simple registration or API key.

Partner API

As the open method, these APIs are designed to encourage communication between companies and all external users. However, this method uses more security to grant access to data to specific business partners.

Internal APIs

Also known as private, internal APIs are hidden from third parties and used to improve communication within an organization. With this method, enterprises can optimize data exchange between departments and all business locations.


Composite API design can support multiple integration systems and combine all data. This increased functionality makes composite APIs the ideal method in microservices, where multiple services are needed to execute an operation.

API protocols

  • Client Server
  • Cache
  • Layered
  • Uniform interface
  • Jason RPC
  • Soap

When looking for an integration solution, companies need to delve into the different types of APIs. A company needs to determine which line(s) of communication they want to improve and which set of protocols interacts well with their existing systems. Successful implementation of the API can promote data transparency and performance.

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