A few decades ago, to eat a cuisine, you will go to a nearby restaurant, check the menu, and place an order. Then, you will wait for your order for long hours. If it’s a popular restaurant, you stand in queue just to enter for hours. You might get a very disastrous experience inside, and you cannot complain about it except to your close friends. Such was the era before the internet or more precisely before APIs.
What is API?
What is API (Application Programming Interface), and how does it help with the above-mentioned activities? APIs are integrated and embedded in most of the apps you use without even you noticing.
For instance, when you crave food, you look for food online. You might check restaurants nearby on google or look for food delivery services. If you have favorites, you head straight to their website. Well, some of us might still go, walk down a few streets to go to their favorite diner. But for the most tech-savvy, they will browse restaurants according to the food they want to eat. Any app you use to search these services have APIs embedded in them, helping you search for the desired food.
Say, you are looking for Chinese cuisine in the food delivery app. The app will send requests to nearby restaurants for their menu. To make your experience even better, you might be able to get discounts and offers, another API that will help you keep your budget under control. Before that, your location itself is fed to the app via an API. Based on your location, the app will screen restaurants. Then it will filter based on your choices, your budget, and whatnot. Oof! A lot of work for a single app with a small bit size to handle. Well, it’s possible because of API.
API is a messenger between software. It is an interface that allows the software to exchange information or tasks. For instance, a food delivery app has an embedded API of maps. It allows to check the user’s location and show them relevant results.
Suppose the app didn’t have an API integration of maps in it, you might get a result for LA or Boston or even a town not in the US. Without location tracking, an app cannot know your exact location and feed you relevant results.
How does API work?
An API sends a request to another application in simple command sets. If the server allows the task to be complete or agrees with the client’s demands, the API brings the resource. Otherwise, it returns an error message.
Let’s go with the food delivery example again to understand it better. Suppose you are looking for Mexican cuisine. You put up a query in the app. The app will generate an API call or a request to the surrounding restaurants to check for the said dish. According to your query, it will show the results. Otherwise, it will return you an error message.
But what if multiple people are sending multiple queries to the app. How will it handle? It’s not a what-if. It’s the general situation when multiple users are putting up multiple queries. To handle this, API generates an API key. It is an identifier in the form of a series of letters and numbers. In this way, the API handles multiple requests and returns solutions to various queries.
What are the different uses of API?
API is used in various ways to facilitate the use of apps. Its main purpose is to link between two software and facilitate the process. Some of the different uses of API are –
Data sharing: Have you heard about Bezos’s mandate? In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos made it compulsory for its employees to share data via API. The employees would share sensitive data inside the company using their own private and secure channels. It’s one example of data sharing.
More common examples are getting information from a third party. You might have seen flight booking apps take flight information from third-party sources. Payment gateways are third-party sources that share some information to facilitate payment in any e-commerce site or any marketplace website.
You send a query and get information when the app sends an API call to a third party. It returns the result when the third party approves and provides information.
API integration: Apps use API integration to make the user experience smoother. Instead of sending requests every time, the applications are integrated within the app. For example, maps in trucking and delivery services. Tracking the progress of the parcel delivery is an important aspect to maintain a secure channel. A user will use this feature plenty of times to be assured of their delivery. An integrated app makes it easier for users to access the feature.
Some other app integration examples are Google Analytics, cloud services, etc.
Embedded content: Have you ever noticed a message like “embedded link broken” while reading blogs and articles? In place of that error message, there should have been a video, image, or GIF, or any type of media file. But you cannot access it because of some errors.
API allows you to embed content. YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and other similar posts can be embedded with permission from the user.
Internal Systems: To simplify the processes in big enterprises, they break the processes into many smaller parts. It’s the same case for software infrastructure. The software communicates through API within the internal system, maintaining the processes aligned and efficient.
Different types of API
There are four different types of APIs based on the user and the scope.
- Private APIs
- Partner APIs
- Open APIs
- Composite APIs
Private APIs are intended for internal use. It is mostly used within the company. Like the example of Bezo’s mandate, the employees used private APIs.
Partner APIs are shared externally, but it can be controlled by who has the access to the information and how it is used.
Open APIs are APIs available for general use. These are free or available for a subscription fee. For instance, with Facebook open API you can open an account for various websites, games, or apps. Many apps give the option of accessing accounts using your existing Facebook or Google account. These are examples of open API.
What if you have to send multiple requests to a single software? It is bothersome to generate multiple APIs. Not to mention, it is inefficient. Composite API helps you send multiple requests at a time and get results just as soon. An example of this is Salesforce composite resources, where you do multiple operations like read, create, update and delete Salesforce data in a single callout.
How to benefit from API?
The various API functions open up many possibilities to integrate applications while maintaining the small size of the app. Users have limited space in their phones and limited data availability. If the app size is too big or data consumption is too high, most will opt-out. By integrating applications, apps can do much better and provide even better user experiences.
Improve the efficiency in your workspace
You can improve the efficiency of your team and your organization. By using private APIs to share data among the system can streamline the processes without having to worry about compromising any sensitive data.
Add revenue to your business
If you have developed an API, you can make it public and profit through it. Many companies have made their APIs public. Some examples of profitable APIs are FT press, Longman dictionary.
Increase your consumer base
You can be a software development company, mobile app development company, or provide some highly innovative solution. Your main business may sound more lucrative than offering an API solution for free or a fee. However, API can open up new pathways for you. You can broaden your business reach with these solutions. Amazon Web Services is a popular cloud service. Its main service is still e-commerce, but AWS brings a big chunk of revenue.
Room for innovation
Why develop a solution that is already present? If you are a chef, you will make every dish yourself, but you won’t grow even your veggies just because you can. It’s inefficient and not worthy of your time. Not to mention, you can do a lot of innovative developments when not focussing on existing technology. Most app companies do not develop solutions to facilitate GPS tracking or a safe, secure channel for payment themselves. You can utilize these channels and focus on things that matter.
App for your business and APIs
Like many businesses, you are also looking towards a mobile solution, and then you stumbled upon APIs. APIs make your web and mobile apps smoother. It lets you add many features in a small size without making your apps crash. Ranolia Ventures, an app development company in USA, make high-quality app solutions to help your business scale. Hire developers from us to improve your existing apps or build an app from scratch. Our expert developers with years of experience in relevant and latest technology stacks will help you bring the worth you desire for your business.