The world as we know it grows smaller and smaller in this age of connectivity. Connectivity puts the world at our fingertips and makes everything and everyone that much more accessible. Through our computers and mobile devices we can interact with people on the other side of the globe, book flight tickets with a single tap, and purchase anything we can think of. All this is made possible through APIs. An API or Application Programming Interface is a messenger that allows applications, data and devices to ‘talk’ to each other using a predefined set of commands.
Uses of APIs
- APIs are be used to obtain data from third parties. When an action is performed on a mobile phone, APIs connect to the internet and send data to a server. The server then receives the information, interprets it, performs the action based on the user input and sends it back to the phone. The API receives this information and interprets it for the user. Take for example a scenario where you are looking to book flight tickets. Instead of going to a particular airline’s website for your purchase, you might choose to go to an online travel service, such as Expedia. In this instance, Expedia interacts with the airline’s API, pulling availability of tickets based on request information such as travel class, departure and arrival dates, and destination from the airline’s database. Another example is the weather app on your phone. APIs connect the weather app with third parties, such as the Weather Channel, to retrieve weather-related data.
- Apart from retrieving data, APIs also used to hide complexity and perform tasks. An example of this would be the operating systems on our computers and mobile phones. App developers don’t have to worry about setting up a WIFI connection, drawing shapes on the screen to make a user interface or how to talk to various sensors such as the accelerometer or GPS. The operating system, instead, gives developers a number of APIs to simplify this.
- APIs also extend app functionality. Developers use APIs on personal assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant to extend their functionalities. For example, in the case of Google Home, external vendors utilized APIs to integrate with Google Assistant so that Google Home could be used to turn on and off light switches.
- Finally, APIs add an additional layer of security to your smart device. When an app such as the GPS wants to access your location, it does so through an API. These APIs also allow you to revoke the request to use your location. In this way, APIs act as gatekeepers, protecting our personal information and only giving it out to apps we choose.
Types of APIs
- Web APIs: Web APIs are APIs that define endpoints, valid request and response formats, and can be accessed using the HTTP protocol. Web APIs are designed for web servers or web browsers. Web APIs feature varying levels of security and privacy. Multiple web APIs can be combined into a composite API or a collection of data or service APIs.
- Open APIs: Also known as Public API, are publicly available with no restriction.They may require registration, use of an API key, or may be completely open. External developers use them to access data or services.
- Partner APIs: A developer needs specific rights or licenses in order to access this type of API because they are not available to the public. Usually, these kinds of APIs are associated with paid services. An example of this is the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform, which is an API-led integration solution for connecting applications, data, and devices in the cloud and on-premises. Users can quickly design, implement and deploy APIs as well as utilize out-of-the-box connectors for integrations (Read our post on MuleSoft).
- Internal APIs: Also known as Private APIs, Internal APIs are designed for use within a company and to be hidden from external users. Companies utilize Internal APIs to share tools, data and programs among teams and for improved security and access control.
- Composite APIs: This API type combines multiple data or service APIs. Composite API contains list of API calls, to be executed depending on the predefined dependency. They are built using the API orchestration capabilities of an API creation tool. Composite APIs speed up the process of execution and improve the performance of listeners in web interfaces.
Our team of integration experts can develop APIs based on your business requirements. Set up a consultation to find out how.