Have you used PayPal to buy something on a third-party website? Maybe looked at a business’s location on its website through Google Maps? Logged into a website using your Facebook? Or maybe you’ve browsed a list of tweets outside of Twitter.
Congratulations, you’ve used an API. And most likely, you’ve interacted with hundreds of others without realizing it.
API stands for application programming interface and is a set of tools and rules that allow programs or applications to communicate with each other.
But how exactly are they useful for businesses? Should you use them, and should you consider developing them?
What Is an API?
The core concept behind an API is that it’s a way for software to interact with each other by requesting data or services from different software. This lets programs share information and functionality without having that code itself.
APIs allow programs to borrow the data or service from a different program so they can provide more extensive or complete functionality to the user without having to contain that code themselves.
While the concept has floated around since before the internet, APIs became prominent at the turn of the century. Salesforce, eBay, and Amazon all created APIs that took the internet by storm. Now there are estimated to be 10s of thousands of APIs used across most industries.
How do they work?
The API acts as an intermediary between web-based applications.
It works in a few steps. First, a user inputs a request (maybe buy or login). Then the API forwards that request to a different program. That program then sends the information to the API, which returns it to the first application.
The API provides a standardized mode of communication so that the two applications can share information without needing to understand the underlying code. Of course, the information and the exact process vary depending on the request and the two programs, but the underlying concept remains the same.
APIs are hugely beneficial for applications since they allow more access to data, increased functionality, and improved UX without needing to expand the application itself.
Types of APIs & Their Benefits for Developers & Businesses
While the function of each API is distinct to the application, there are still some ways to break down the types of APIs. They are commonly divided into four categories: open, partner, internal, and composite.
This type of API (also known as a public or external API) is available to anyone who requests access. These have no restrictions or require a simple sign-up since they’re intended for the general public.
While they may be unrestricted regarding who can sign up, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re free. While some are totally complimentary, others may offer a free tier with a limited number of requests or be subscription based.
The benefits for businesses using a free and open API are that they are cost-effective and easy to implement. As for the company offering the API, they are given exposure and advertisement when others use the service.
The downside of these types of APIs is that since you aren’t paying for them, you don’t have any control over the quality or continuity of the service, especially if it’s from a smaller company. If you’re offering an open API, you have little control over how your service is used, and they’re less secure since practically anyone can access them.
Partner APIs are also for external use, but only for those with a business relationship with the company. These types of APIs can be exclusive between two companies, or they can be more widely available in a B2B context. They generally focus more strongly on security elements since access is more limited.
These APIs also offer more control over their usage and create a more reciprocal relationship between the businesses that use them. Payment APIs and ones that deal more with personal data generally fall under this category.
Internal or private APIs are not intended for public use. Instead, they’re useful programs designed for use within a business or organization. So developers within the business can use them for applications, but no one outside has access to them.
They’re very beneficial for businesses since you don’t have to worry as much about security because of how limited access is. In addition, these APIs can speed up data transfer and communication across teams and departments.
Internal APIs are also useful because they can be tailored to your business’s needs and skip some of the UX necessary for external applications.
A composite API combines multiple APIs into one, allowing the API to retrieve information or access functionality from several sources. Then, the information is funneled back to form a unified response to the request. For example, if an API was intended to retrieve information about weather and traffic, creating a composite API would be the best method since that information is available from different sources.
The principal benefit of a composite API is that it is faster and lighter than trying to use multiple APIs on their own. You can also create a more advanced and streamlined API with more functionality.
Take Advantage of APIs
Creating or using APIs expands the possibilities of applications. You aren’t confined to only the services or data you have access to, which leads to a better experience for you and your customers. Using an existing API can offer more functionality and enhance your application. And by creating an API, you can advertise, partner with businesses, or improve your internal operations.
If you’re interested in creating an API, Confianz can help. Our team can help you expand your reach and take advantage of APIs’ benefits. We work with a wide range of technologies so that we can choose what is the right solution for you. Hire web developers from our Charlotte web design agency to create web designs that takes your business to the next level. Our team of web designers and developers will work with you on building the perfect corporate website for you.
Confianz Global is a software solutions company headquartered in Charlotte, NC, United States focused on ERP Implementation (Odoo Implementation & Acumatica Implementation), Custom Mobile App development (Android & iOS), AI, Mobility, Web and Machine Learning.
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