What are APIs?
A non-technical and technical explanation
Imagine you’d like to eat a pizza. Instead of searching for the recipe, going to the store, and buying all ingredients, you go to your favorite restaurant. The waiter gives you a menu and tells you about the approximate waiting time. Later, you just tell the waiter what you have chosen from the list.
In this process, the waiter is the middleman and acts as an API. They collect your request and proceed with it to the kitchen. The kitchen staff knows what to prepare so the waiter delivers you the order.
The biggest advantage of this solution is that you don’t have to know how the pizza is made. Instead, you just enjoy its taste and the service. Now, let’s introduce a more technical description.
API is the fundamental part of most online applications that work today. It’s a set of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software. API has a set of rules and specifies how each component should interact with another. It also lets your application contact another application. API makes it easy to get data between web applications, in a format according to the API type.
If you wonder how APIs make developers’ and businesses’ lives easier, read how popular APIs work and the benefits and risks associated with APIs.
3 popular APIs for the web in 2021
You use APIs every day. For example, a set of APIs provide you with an option to copy and paste pieces of text. Developers use popular services’ APIs to integrate their application or service with popular vendors.
If you want to integrate YouTube videos into your website, your developers will use YouTube APIs for that. What’s important, YouTube APIs also include analytics data, so you’ll be able to track video performance embedded on your website.
Google Maps APIs
Slack APIs let you connect other tools to your business communicator. With APIs, you get an opportunity to get unlimited benefits of this tool on your website.
What are the benefits of APIs?
Companies create APIs to improve teams’ efficiency and business agility. Below you’ll read about APIs benefits and API types dedicated to different user groups.
APIs makes IT teams collaboration easier
APIs help make adjustments in the systems and applications. For example, when it comes to data migration and information transfer, APIs will do the job. The application programming interface helps when a developer wants to add some functionalities to an application without modifying the code.
Another benefit of using APIs is tightly connected with microservice architecture. Usually, components in such an environment are built in different technologies. Because of the differences in technology stacks, communication between components might be hard and inefficient. APIs help components communicate despite the differences in stacks.
APIs let you share data internally and externally
There are different types of APIs. Each type has its goal and sharing options. Below, you’ll find the 3 main types of APIs.
With this type of API, you can get certain data without having a license or specific rights. Open API doesn’t have any restrictions and is publicly available.
Those APIs are more restricted than Public APIs. Usually, they are open to your company’s clients and partners (everyone that gets specific rights or a product license).
This type of APIs is for the internal use of your company. The company doesn’t share it with any third-party. Internal APIs serve for increasing connectivity of the product or internal application.
Web service APIs – REST and SOAP
Is there any difference between web service and APIs listed above? Yes. All the web services are APIs, but not all APIs are web services.
Web service communicates two different software applications over a network. It uses a URL on the WWW to provide access to its services. REST and SOAP are the most popular web service APIs.
REST APIs (called REST web service)
REST APIs aren’t a protocol but a set of architectural principles. It uses HTTP and supports TLS encryption. TLS encryption ensures both server to server and server to client encryption. REST APIs are more popular than SOAP APIs because they use a JSON file easily transferable over web browsers. Although it’s convenient, JSON has low security.
SOAP APIs (called SOAP web service)
SOAP APIs use protocols known as WS Security and use XML as a format. To verify authentication and make authorization, SOAP APIs use XML encryption, XML signatures, and SAML tokens. SOAP APIs have strict rules to follow and are more secure than REST APIs. The drawback is that XML format is less convenient than REST APIs.
Web service APIs are very useful but sometimes might be risky, too. Especially if you want to use web service APIs to transfer personally identifiable information (PII). If you work with personal or sensitive data, improve your organization’s cybersecurity.
APIs might expose data to an unauthorized entity so you should take care of every security hole that comes up.
If you use APIs in accordance with security guidance, you achieve a strong discipline for secure data governance. Also, APIs help you automate tasks and promote consistency in an organization. If you’re looking for a technology partner to work on APIs and other developments in your organization, contact us.