Software development

What is an Application Programming Interface API?

APIs allow software components to communicate with one another. These can be software components within your own server or with outside servers . In this article, we cover some technical details defining APIs, provide examples of APIs, and suggest possible uses for API integration to your own website.

What exactly IS an API

In contrast, a webhook listens for a specific event, such as a new user account being created or a payment being made, and performs a pre-configured action in response. This eliminates the need for the API client to poll the server, as the server will automatically perform the appropriate action or return the relevant data when the specified event occurs. Application Programming Interface management is an important part of modern software development. It is worth investing in API infrastructure, including tools, gateway, and microservices architecture for both internal and external users. Another API standard to emerge is GraphQL, a query language and server-side runtime that’s an alternative to REST. GraphQL prioritizes giving clients exactly the data they request and no more.


Perhaps you want to access all tweets that mention the #jimmychoo hashtag. You could email Twitter and ask for a spreadsheet of all these tweets. But then you’d have to find a way to import that spreadsheet into your application. APIs are essentially the concierge of the digital world — they enable businesses to speak the same language, and they power the global digital economy. For example, let’s say you’re a stockbroker, knee-deep in the financial markets and trading.

What exactly IS an API

This same principle is used on modern mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, where mobile apps have permissions that can be enforced by controlling access to APIs. For example, if a developer tries to access the camera via the camera API, you can deny the permission request and the app has no way of accessing your device’s camera. An API defines the interfaces by which one piece of software communicates with another at the source level. In layman’s terms, I’ve always said an API is like a translator between two people who speak different languages.

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The server sends a response to the API with the requested information. After receiving a valid request from the product webpage, the API makes a call to the external program or web server, in this case, the third-party payment system. This is one example of how APIs can be used together to quickly add functionality to an application. In this example, one program is you , and one program is the kitchen. The waiter represents the API that is used to receive requests and return something.

  • Webhooks are often referred to as reverse APIs or push APIs, because they put the responsibility of communication on the server, rather than the client.
  • They usually require prior registration to the provider’s service, use of a Key & Secret or OAuth.
  • Maybe a third party uses a public API to develop an app that lets people buy books directly from the distributor, instead of from a store.
  • An application programming interface is a way for two or more computer programs to communicate with each other.

Here, we’ll give a high-level overview of how APIs work before reviewing the different types of APIs and how they are used. We’ll also discuss some common use cases for APIs—and offer a few real-world API examples that can help you get started. At this point, you should have a good idea of what APIs are, how they work, and what you can do with them in your JavaScript code.

What are REST APIs?

For C/C++ applications, it a set header files and dynamic/static libraries. For example, there are API’s for OS , API’s for other applications and for specific libraries , etc. An API is the interface through which you access someone elses code or through which someone else’s code accesses yours. @user wikipedia entry on api is now pretty bad…I write apis and that entry actually confused me. good thing you quoted what you did, as it has somehow gotten much worse apparently.

A typical application doesn’t have direct access to the raw physical hard disk. If you want to embed a web browser to show one or more web pages, for example, you don’t have to program your own web browser from scratch just for your application. You use the database and API integration WKWebView API to embed a WebKit browser object in your application. Learn the real-world applications of REST API, HTTP, Linux, AWS Deployment. The API provides a layer of abstraction and doesn’t have to explain what happens in the internals of an elevator.

Need and Uses of API in the real world

Don’t miss to check out the Web Developer Essentials Track. It’s fully online and free for developers looking to grow their skills and career in software development. This way, your friend’s source code remains private, and you can also make use of it in your own app regardless of the technologies used in both the softwares.

Once you’ve set it up, things move through the door seamlessly from one system to the other. This allows third parties to develop apps that interact with your API and can be a source for innovation. The book distributor can make changes to its internal systems without impacting customers, so long as the behavior of the API doesn’t change. Chris Hoffman is the former Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek.

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In addition, login credentials and passwords are always transmitted through the POST method. For starters, all APIs should have some form of documentation – a file or a webpage explaining exactly how to use it, its response format, and so on. Here’s what your request to the Twitter API should look like on the command line. To authenticate your request, you’ll have to replace the placeholder text $BEARER_TOKEN with your app’s unique bearer token which is available in your developer portal. The YouTube API, among other things, makes it easy to embed YouTube videos on any website.

This was a quick introduction to this foreign acronym that many people do not know about. They may have heard the term in passing and were not clear on what this technology exactly is. We discussed what they are, how they work and even a fee of the different types in use today. In the first section of the course , you’ll learn what an API is and get an overview of how the web works. In the second section , you will start to explore APIs online.

They have additional security mechanisms where appropriate

In simplest terms, an API acts as a middleman between two or more applications, accepting messages and returning a response. When developing a complex application, we write all of the data manipulation code on the server, which is not accessible to the user on the client side. A server is a separate application that is hosted elsewhere.

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