Thousands of acronyms plague the world around us, and it becomes harder and harder to keep track of them all. Whether it is for business (B2B, EOD), or plainly social (LOL , OMG), chances are you’ve heard the acronym API tossed around in recent years. But what exactly are APIs?
In simple terms, API, or Application Programming Interface, is a connection that allows you to make software. Whether or not you know it, APIs are transforming the world around you. This article aims to explain what APIs are to the non-technical person, and how they impact business in our everyday lives.
The Restaurant Metaphor for APIs
APIs are a set of requirements for one application to connect to another application, but how exactly does it work?
APIs allow developers to access a library of an app’s existing code information by using a key. When a developer requests information, this is commonly known as an API call, and when the API returns that information to you, it is known as a response.
Once the developer is able to accomplish this, he is able to integrate the data he receives into a format of his own!
Okay, if that still sounded a little too technical, try to envision APIs as a restaurant.
Imagine you decided to eat out tonight at your favorite Italian place. You order your favorite spaghetti and meatballs, hoping it comes out perfectly.
Okay, now imagine you’re a software developer, and you place an order as the API call.
You, as the developer, are putting in an order for a structured format of data, and the meal you receive is the response to that request.
Almost as good as those spaghetti and meatballs…
The menu itself is simply acting as the API’s set of guidelines as it processes what you ordered and responds.
How APIs Shape the Technology Around US
Now, you are probably thinking there is no way major companies are handing out their valuable code and technology.
But, you might be shocked that almost every major tech company–think Facebook and Dropbox, just to name a couple– is giving away insights into their code and platforms, and this is what actually makes APIs so brilliant.
Companies are not giving away access, but instead, certain requirements and pieces of code on how you can connect one of your own applications. Take Yelp and Google Maps for example.
Google Maps has an API available for developers to help them plot their own locations. A mobile app such as Yelp uses this API to pinpoint restaurants, instead of having to create an entire mapping system on their own.
“Eventually every application and website will be running on at least one API at some point in the future.”
3 Ways APIs are Important for Business
1. APIs are huge time-savers
Have you ever logged into an application or a website using your Facebook account?
It’s yet another example of how an API saves you the time of creating an account, and saves the company from creating a system from scratch.
2. Businesses are creating apps that rely on APIs
One of the most famous companies built on a foundation of APIs is the ride-sharing app Uber.
Without its API connection to Twilio, the messaging platform, or GoogleMaps, the company would have never existed.
3. APIs help businesses
“The truly amazing thing is APIs help businesses like us focus on what we are good at.”
APIs can allow businesses, from startups to giant corporations, to focus on their core competencies without having to do work that has already been done.
Even though Uber relied heavily on APIs to get off the ground, Uber has now created their own API for developers to build off of.
The Future of Software
As you can see, we already rely on APIs so much without us knowing. Whether you use an app to view current traffic or to check the weather, these apps frequently rely on APIs to pull this data.
With all this codependence, it opens up realms of opportunities for applications to become integrated. It also allows developers and technology to advance much faster, as the web and applications share data with one another. A fellow Seamgen employee perfectly put it as..
“It sparks innovation and creativity, allowing for new ways we build on progress already made in a world too often hung up on intellectual property rights.”
With there currently being over 15,000 public APIs available now today and that number expected to quadruple in the next four years, the opportunities for innovation are going to be endless.
We should not fear the future of APIs, but rather embrace the road, and let’s see where it takes us.
Thanks for Reading!
If you are interested in learning more about APIs and how you can do it yourself, the website CodeAcademy has a free online course to teach you the basics!
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