Even if you’re unfamiliar with what an Application Programming Interface actually is, there’s no doubt you have used various APIs in your daily life. In fact, the modern business world wouldn’t be able to function the way it does without an assortment of APIs helping to carry the workload.
What is an API?
So, what exactly is an API? In summary, an API is the bridge that allows different software to interact with each other. They lead to connections being fostered between technologies, and these connections are made to improve user experience.
If you’d like a non-technical description, say you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant. You want to make your order, but how do you communicate this to the kitchen? The answer: a waiter. The waiter takes your order, takes it to the kitchen, and then brings out the meal to your table. Well, an API is essentially a waiter, a middleman of sorts that facilitates communication between your table and the kitchen.
Underneath the surface, an API is a complex piece of technology that takes the shape of a large block of code. Yet on the surface, all that’s seen is a user-friendly solution that is easy to understand and utilize. For companies, they’ll often incorporate multiple APIs – all accessed from an API management platform – to improve their efficiency and productivity.
For more of an idea about what APIs are all about, below are four common examples:
1. Login with other platforms
There’s no doubt you will have encountered it in the past. You go to create a new account on a website, but rather than having to create a secular account, you can simply log in with details from another platform you use. These platforms can be Google or Facebook as just two examples.
Well, connecting the likes of Google to another website’s login section requires a facilitator – aka an API.
2. Weather snippets
When you do a quick search for information on the local weather, it’s understandable for you to think that Google has sourced and provided this info on its own. Yet this isn’t the case. Google uses other software to gain this weather information, and an API is used as the bridge to get this information to the user after their search query.
3. Paying with PayPal
PayPal is a common payment solution found at online retailers. Rather than being directly embedded on a retailer’s site, however, all of your personal payment info remains with PayPal – the seller won’t see your card or bank details. PayPal is one of the most prevalent APIs in existence, as it facilitates financial transactions between users and retailers.
4. Travel booking
Everyone has used a travel website like Expedia or Trivago at some point. As a result, everyone has experienced one of the most beneficial API uses around. These sites pull information such as prices, flight times, hotel availability, etc., from various sources. They then package all of this info and present it to users, ensuring they don’t have to look elsewhere for certain details about their prospective trip.