What is API?
API (Application Programming Interface) is the powerful way programmers and certain applications communicate. APIs consist of protocols, routines multiple assets to assist in building software applications. Furthermore, they are designed to tell how programs communicate and send data. In essence, the interface allows two applications to find and interact with each other.
Application programming interfaces aren’t a new concept. In fact, you’ve used them every day for years. Whenever you copy and paste information from a window or program to another, API is in play. On the internet, the interface is also constantly in use such as when a youtube video or google map is embedded on a website. The Google Map and Youtube APIs allow for the function and integration of their tools on the host website or app.
How Does API Work?
API is necessary every time application data is going to be accessed. You must use a very precise language as the application only allows you to access certain amounts of data. The language is unique to each particular application. The API is the middleman between the application and the programmer. It accepts the request for data and retrieves it from the application if it is allowed.
An Example in Action
Using a keyword search tool is a good example of an Application Programming Interface in action. The tool must access Google and Bing’s search API to retrieve information and load results. This specific tool is useful as it provides data such as the optimal keywords your business should focus on targeting. By using the precise language to request from the application, the tool is able to retrieve the allowed information from the search engines.
Words of Advice
Although API’s are a great tool, there are a few things you should note. First, even though an API is available, it may not always be. An example of this is when Twitter severely limited 3rd party use of its API. This led to many applications and websites depending on the interface to essential cease to exist. Even Google has closed down services that were or unprofitable such as Google Reader. Even though it is safe to say most companies providing valuable API will continue doing so, it may be a good idea to research alternatives for essential aspects of your business just in case.