In the web development industry, the three-letter term «API» rears its head time and again. To put it in simple terms, it is a program that allows two applications to communicate with each other. This API is invisible to the Internet user, yet they actively use it whenever they use web services. What exactly is an API? What is it used for? What are its advantages? In this blog, we’ll be giving you the lowdown. So let’s take a look at this ubiquitous API.
So what exactly is an API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface and is intended to facilitate the design and integration of an application software.
A web developer will use an API to allow a product or service to communicate with other services and does not need to look at the service or product in question to do this. This saves time during development, as it means that the web developer does not have to rework the entire application to add more functionalities or information.
As for the «user», in particular the Internet user, the API allows access to data or functionalities of an application already on the site. It acts as an intermediary between two independent computer systems to allow automatic interaction without the user having to worry about setting up the connection themselves.
The different types of API
Depending on what you want to see or do, the web developer can use one or more different types of API. Yes, there isn’t just one APIs, but a whole string of them. There are four main types of APIs, including :
- The public API, which, as its name suggests, is an API that is open to all developers and third parties. A company that wants to share its applications and data with the public will therefore develop a public API. Even if it is public, users sometimes still have to pay to use it.
- The partner API, which is reserved for external developers and certain consumers. This type of API is set up to simplify business-to-business activities or exchanges between a company and an external partner or freelancer. Partner APIs often include more optimised authorisation and security mechanisms.
- The Internal API or Private API is an API for internal use only. Within a company, it is used to connect data and systems. Since it is not exposed to the public, there is no real authentication and security mechanism involved.
- The composite API which is the result of combining two or more programming interfaces. It is often used to enable a sequence of interdependent or related operations.
Why use APIs?
It is important to understand that only you can decide whether the use of an API is really necessary. The fact it, not everyone will have the same attitude towards data sharing. However, with the sound advice of your web developer, you may well be won over to the cause. By using these so-called APIs, you are contributing to the exchange of knowledge, the heart of technological development. This is the argument that has prompted insurers, bankers and management structures to adopt APIs, as they facilitate the sharing of open banking solutions.
A third party organisation may choose to use a public API to make it easier for other developers to develop an application for online distribution or the marketing of products or services. With this type of API, the Internet user will be able to optimise the purchasing process or shorten the time spent on a site.
Web developers are not the ones who need to be convinced of the advantages of an API, but rather the site owners. At this point in time, you may not be persuaded that APIs are the way to go. However, it is important to keep in mind that using APIs will facilitate the process of manipulating a site, which will improve the user’s browsing experience. For providers who want their services or products or even their ideas to be accessible, APIs are a great alternative.
These APIs also come in useful if you want to make your site or application more dynamic. It is well worth considering, in fact, as some APIs can bring valuable rewards. Even if you use an API, the user accessing your site or program will not be any wiser. All they will see is that your site or program has suddenly become more dynamic. Note that you can ask the web developer to make certain changes so as not to disturb the users.
SMEs and start-ups that want to shore up their image on the web will also find it easier to use APIs. They will allow you to improve your application or website by integrating several functions and services. To give you a more concrete example, you can use specific APIs for the payment or authentication system.
APIs and internetVista
If you are an API user or provider, it is crucial that the API is always accessible. This is why internetVista recommends monitoring the APIs, especially the most critical methods. At the very least, internetvista advises monitoring a test method (or echo). Who can do more can do less, as they say, which is why internetvista can go much further: leverage the whole API and make several methods of the API interact.
Furthermore, internetVista also provides an API so that customers can retrieve the monitoring information and integrate it into their back office, for example.
Conclusion: It is important to understand that using one or more APIs does not undermine your software or your site in any way. Choose them well and you will reap the benefits. Rest assured that the end user will not even be aware of the presence of these programming interfaces. If banks or airlines are relying on these APIs, you should not be afraid to resort to them either. You can also decide what information you want to share and, above all, with whom you want to share it. But above all, if you do adopt them, make sure they are available by keeping a close eye on them.