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.
APIs implemented in our applications are essential to our development because they communicate data that adds value to our services. However, if our application is robust, the number of APIs that will be implemented will be too high, which will make testing lengthy and use many team resources. For this reason, automating API tests is helpful to constantly review the status of our APIs and our application on the backend side.
The most important objectives of automated tests on APIs are:
- Save time testing APIs.
- Carry out automated executions according to the desired periodicity to find and report possible failures.
- Review execution times that could affect the overall application.
The main benefit of these tests on software products is that they will increase quality; a product is only helpful if it works correctly and is available when required.
The following are other advantages:
- Greater precision: Automation removes human error from the testing process. With automated tests, the typical errors caused by developers when performing manual tests are eliminated. Each time an automated test is run, it is done precisely, always running the same operations, which provides a more accurate and reliable result. During the development cycle, tests must be executed each time the software is modified and can be performed automatically each time changes are made. Running tests automatically whenever a change is made ensures quality in software development.
- Time and cost reduction: Automated tests have a shorter execution time, but their initial implementation cost is high. However, saving time cushions this initial investment, making them much more economically profitable. A company can use automated tests to significantly reduce the time and associated costs.
- Increased reuse: Automated tests can be repeated to detect errors or non-optimized processes that can be corrected. Updates or new versions can be delivered without additional development costs and much faster (even several per week, when initially it took months).
- Higher team productivity: Work teams benefit from test automation by not having to spend valuable time performing manual tests. Their motivation and involvement when dedicating themselves to other, more complex tasks will make them more productive, increasing the value of their software.
- Applications: Access to APIs guarantees greater flexibility in information transfer processes.
- Scope: It is possible to create layers of applications to distribute information to different audiences.
- Personalization: Adapting protocols, functions, and commands according to specific requirements creates differentiated user experiences.
- Efficiency: APIs allow data to be distributed more efficiently by publishing content automatically and simultaneously on multiple channels.
- Adaptability: APIs can adapt to changes through data migration and service flexibility.
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.
All APIs must be protected by proper authentication and monitoring. The two main ways to secure REST APIs are as follows:
- Authentication tokens: Used to authorize users to make the API call. Authentication tokens verify that users are whom they say they are and that they have access rights for that API call. For example, when you log in to the email server, the client uses authentication tokens for secure access.
- API keys: API keys verify the program or application making the API call. They identify the application and ensure it has the necessary access rights to make the API call. API keys are not as secure as tokens, but they allow you to monitor the API to collect data about its usage. You may have noticed a long string of characters and numbers in your browser's URL when you visit different websites. This string is an API key that the website uses to make internal API calls.
At IO Connect Services, we understand that APIs are a valuable means for the innovation and efficiency of your web applications and for connecting your infrastructure through the development of cloud-native applications. Whether you require public APIs that provide unique business value by simplifying and extending your connections with partners or private APIs to facilitate the integration of different applications and systems used by a company, we have the experience and skills to provide that plus to your business.