Posted by: Marie
We use them every day without even knowing what they are.
The Application Programming Interface, or API, have become the cornerstone of modern programming, connecting the whole world.
That’s why we’re going to come back to the API definition, and show you how they’ve become indispensable.
Application Programming Interface: what is it?
An API is a programming interface that links an application to a database.
In simpler terms, the API is the messenger that takes your request, sends it to a database, and returns the answer to you.
We can see it as a waiter in a restaurant:
- You can make a choice in the menu (the application).
- The kitchen is where your order will be processed (the database).
- And in between is the waiter (the API) who will transmit your order to the kitchen, and return your dish to you (answer/result).
It is therefore the Application Programming Interface that makes it possible to use all our applications everyday. And what also makes the world so connected and accessible.
Types of APIs:
- Public APIs:
A company may decide to provide its own API.
This will allow its service to interact with a third party service.
The aim is to disseminate its service as widely as possible.
This is precisely the position adopted by Google Maps, Facebook and Twitter for the integration of the corresponding gadgets into a website for example.
Open APIs are published free of charge by companies to help developers add functionality to their platforms.
This encourages developers in certain specialized sectors to innovate and find new ways to use their products.
Public APIs therefore usually include a « self-service » aspect, with user self-registration.
In theory, it is a win-win arrangement.
- Private APIs:
Private APIs run on an enterprise server and their access is restricted to a restricted audience (usually employees).
They are used in a closed system where users are listed in a database and their identity is known.
These APIs allow organizations to keep track of their data, and shared information that can sometimes be of a sensitive nature.
A company may also need one (or more) APIs internally: between business units, between subsidiaries, and more generally for interfacing data and systems between them.
A closed API can also be an excellent sandbox in which to deploy initial trials and testing.
Application Programming Interface Uses:
- By encouraging developers to integrate third-party services into its application, Slack has been able to attract even more users through the integration of these said services.
- Facebook’s API allows millions of users to connect to third-party applications in two clicks via « Facebook Connect ».
Facebook has thus established itself as an essential technological brick in the technical ecosystem, exceeding the strict limits expected of a social interaction platform.
- Thanks to the daily transport of 10 million passengers, the SNCF group collects and shares a lot of data: planned and real-time timetables, station equipment and services, train regularity, station accessibility, etc.
The APIs offered by the group are a vector for innovation on the new challenges of mobility: routing, optimizing and making the most of travel time, managing train congestion, adapting to passengers’ needs, etc.
- Hootsuite, the social network management tool, allows you to manage all your accounts on a single platform by connecting to the various APIs. A gain in simplicity and time.
- The Google Maps API allows you to add geolocation services to any application.
This greatly simplifies development, improves the user experience, and allows Google to reach more users.
APIs really does act as a small revolution in the world of web development.
It simplifies everyday life and the work of developers, while driving innovation.
That’s why we talk more and more about « API first » development.
It enables to break free from « device agnostic » development by focusing efforts on the accessibility of an entry point to the data and functionalities of a service.
As a result, design and user experience, although also very important, are no longer the main driver of service adoption.
Its consumption and interfacing with other services also become one of the main driver.
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