APIs: A Brief Explanation

In the tech world, API is an acronym that gets thrown around a lot. While it sounds complex and sophisticated, we actually interact with APIs every single day. Whether you’re using a rideshare app or checking the weather forecast on your mobile device, APIs are hard at work. Let’s take a look at what exactly APIs are and how they operate.

What exactly is an API?

API stands for application programming interface. In simplest terms, APIs allow for components of two independent software platforms to communicate and interact with each other. For example, a mobile payment app like Venmo interacts with and communicates with your bank to initiate transfers and payments. APIs act as a middleman between a user and a server by making requests and responding. If you request to transfer your wallet amount to your bank account in the Venmo app, an API will make this request of your online bank account in order to initiate the transfer.

Are there different types of APIs?

There are many different types of APIs that serve different functions. APIs can differ by audience in terms of public or private use, architecture, and protocols. REST (Representational State Transfer) is an architectural style and is the most commonly used web API. REST APIs allow for two systems to communicate via HTTP technology. Other protocols and architectures include SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), RPC (Remote Procedure Call), and GraphQL.

Why should you care about APIs?

APIs are the building blocks of a good and efficient software design. They also allow developers to avoid writing specific and complex code every time they need data to travel between two systems. APIs provide a better, more streamlined user experience and enable better business opportunities as they promote easy collaboration with business partners.

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