API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is also known as web services. It allows different applications to send data (or information) between each other. It lets software communicate with one another. When two applications interact with each other, they need to send and receive data, API makes it possible behind the scenes, and gives users a seamless experience.
It not only lets apps share data amongst themselves but also eliminates the need to build a similar program from scratch.
How does API work?
Let us try to understand API working with a real-world example. You are looking to travel next month, and so you open the ABC app to book your flight tickets. When you open the app, you have to provide details like your travel date, the city you want to travel to, etc. Once you click the search button, within seconds, a list of flights will appear.
What happens at the backend? The platform (app) sends a request to the airline's database and gets relevant data via API.
Types of API
There are different types of APIs, and they vary according to their access granting policies setup. The most frequently used types are:
- Private APIs - It is deployed in software used within an organization. The interface is available only to the people working in the organization, even if the app can be used outside.
- Partnership APIs - It is used for software integration between two companies.
- Public APIs - They are used to build brand awareness and created where features are made public without any restrictions. In some cases, public APIs are made commercial where the users need to pay to use the service.
- Composite API - The existing API functions are combined to perform many tasks at one time.
What are the benefits of using APIs?
The benefits of using APIs are as below -
- Streamline work - Since APIs come with a uniform set of protocols, it helps you streamline how you work. It allows you to test functionality and features and validate the results smoothly.
- Save time - Developers can reuse software components via APIs, and they don't have to repeat what someone has already done. It saves a lot of time that can be used for other development work.
- Better user experience - It does not matter how good your team is, they cannot build everything from scratch your product wants. By using external APIs, you can customize your product and increase the user's experience at a limited cost.
The two primary terms associated with APIs: REST or SOAP
There are a lot of terms associated with APIs. However, we are only going to talk about the two - REST and SOAP. These are two different structures to standardize communication and data exchanges between web services.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer. It is easier to use and has fewer coding requirements. Recently, REST APIs have grown in popularity within Web Services. APIs that use REST can perform requests over HTTP and receive responses. For example, if you open Instagram and look for the newest meme, it uses the REST API to give you the response.
SOAP is a Simple Object Access Protocol. Because SOAP relies on XML-based systems and programming, its data tends to be large and more expensive. Applications that interact with financial institutions are known to use cases.
A better term that describes the API economy is "the connected era" – referring to its ability to work with many different types of solutions. Ultimately, the success or failure of a business in the connected era depends increasingly on the quality of connectivity among applications and the integration of resulting data.