What is an API?
The term API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is based on a set of definitions and protocols intended to integrate systems and facilitate communication between software applications according to a group of rules.
APIs are mechanisms that allow two software components to communicate with each other using definitions and protocols. For example, the meteorology institute's software system contains daily weather data. The weather app on your phone “talks” to this system through the APIs and shows you the daily weather updates on your phone.
APIs allow us to communicate with our applications to implement various functionalities and efficiently handle data traffic. However, testing these services can take a long time when an application is robust and implements different APIs to obtain information.
An API connects software or applications and can be created in various programming languages. The API documentation must be clear and objective to facilitate its implementation.
API architecture is often explained in terms of client and server. The application that sends the request is called the client, and the one that sends the response is called the server. In the weather example, the institute's weather database is the server, and the mobile app is the client.
APIs can work in four ways, depending on when and why they were created.
These APIs use the Simple Object Access Protocol. The client and the server exchange messages using XML.
These APIs are called remote procedure calls. The client completes a function (or procedure) on the server, and the server returns the result to the client.
The WebSocket API is another modern web API development that uses JSON objects to transmit data. The WebSocket API supports bidirectional communication between client and server applications.
These are the most popular and flexible APIs on the web today. The client sends the requests to the server as data. The server uses this input from the client to start internal functions and returns the output data to the client. Let's look at REST APIs in more detail below.
Some of the most popular APIs are listed below:
- Google Maps: Thanks to the standards applied by Google, most websites can use the Google Maps APIs to integrate maps.
- Vulcan: This cross-platform API enables developers to create high-quality, real-time graphical interfaces in applications, enabling faster and more efficient communication between apps and GPUs.
- Skyscanner: This metasearch platform makes it easy for travelers to find better flight fares. In addition, it provides an API for trading partners that supports XML and JSON for data exchange.
- Weather API: A weather information and geolocation service provider with various APIs ranging from weather forecasting to time zone lookups, astronomy, and more.
Innovation with APIs
An API can become an ideal tool to facilitate integration with applications such as:
APIs for payments
Through this type of API, businesses can integrate systems within the company's website or app to expand payment methods for their products and services.
Social networks also offer innovations with APIs to enrich the user experience and incorporate features to obtain information about visitors or create users or profiles on the sites from Facebook and Google accounts, among others.
Some of the most popular APIs we have mentioned allow users to offer specific information and services in a particular location, enhancing the experience.
APIs are classified based on their architecture and their scope of use. Below are the types of APIs that can be developed:
- Private APIs are internal and only used to connect systems and data within the company.
- Public APIs are open to the public and can be used by anyone. There may or may not be some authorization and cost associated with this type of API.
- Partner APIs are accessed only by authorized third-party developers to support business-to-business partnerships.
- Composite APIs combine two or more different APIs to address complex system requirements or behavior.