With technology and business getting closer day by day, with applications and data getting intermingled with each other, newer avenues to developing interfaces between those are inevitable.
At such a time, comes a simple term but with lots of deeper meanings and useful features for the development world – Application programming interface (API) holds a highly significant post in the coding cycle of most developers.
APIs are like the backbone of the entire gamut of IT solutions and services. You may not be able to see them explicitly, but you cannot work without them. They are indispensable.
What Is Application Programming Interface (API)?
An Application programming interface (API) is a computing interface exposed by a particular software program, library, operating system or internet service, to allow third parties to use the functionality of that software application. – Wikipedia.
- Application – the set of programs/tools that perform certain special functionalities
- Programming – the language utilized by applications to relate with each other
- Interface – the periphery shared by the two programs/tools to connect within themselves
Basically, API allows your product/service to communicate/talk with other products/services without sharing the knowledge of their implementation. This leads to highly secure information along with much-needed functionality sharing.
It offers a lot of flexibility and security in collaborating interaction between two teams.
This is what happens: As you use a mobile app, it connects to the Internet and sends data to the server. The server gets the data, does necessary actions and sends it back to your device. The app then does the data interpretation and gives you your needed information. All these happen through an API.
In Simple Words, API Means
- A toolset of definitions and protocols that programmers can use in building and integrating software applications
- A set of programs/instructions that help in quick development with reusable components
- Programs that offer all the basic building blocks, take your request, inform the system on what to do and return with a response
- A useful mechanism that empowers two pieces of software to exchange information in a standard format
- A set of routines, protocols to create software apps for interaction with each other and ensuring a systematic and easy system operation
- The code that governs the access point for the server
Two popular technical names in the world of APIs are REST API and SOAP.
REST is Representational State Transfer that looks at a software architecture showing a complete set of constraints for web services.
SOAP is the Simple Object Access Protocol that adds on higher standards than REST, for e.g. security standards.
APIs could be of different types based on the basic purpose of building it – Web service, hardware, Class-based, Library-based, Web socket, etc.
Live Examples Of API
- Google Maps API to allow developers to embed Google Maps on web pages
- iOS API to help developers develop the detect touch screen facility
- Amazon API to give developers access to product selection functionality
- YouTube API to allow developers to integrate videos into websites and other apps
- Facebook API to allow users to check on the weather, send instant messages, etc.
Some of the popularly known APIs in different categories like communication, location, entertainment, business, social services, etc. are:
- Gmail API
- Google Analytics API
- Twitter API
- Instagram API
- Amazon S3
- Agile CRM
Why Is API Development So Crucial And Indispensable?
Much has been said and written about APIs and the added revenue, increased collaboration, business partnership, and brand promotion it brings long. But, on a basic note, let us first understand why API development is so important to today’s business economy and the future:
In earlier times, at the time of software development, developers were given stringent building blocks and limited interfaces. Along with other security restrictions, this gave a lot of limited freedom to developers to explore further, build innovative solutions and create novel software. Getting an out-of-the-box solution was getting difficult.
There was a need for sophisticated integrations, especially for B2B and B2C communities, to be built between various components to seamlessly transfer the data between them.
This is where APIs came to the rescue then and are still the saviors today and shall remain so. Well-versioned and well-controlled APIs turned out to be a great window for developers to enhance their creativity and bring in newer avenues for software development.
Key Features Of API
- APIs are available for all types of devices – desktops, mobile devices, etc.
- APIs could be of different types – for operating systems, websites or applications
- Allows applications to communicate with each other
- Lets you open access to your resources with strict security and control measures
- Empowers users to search for data based on multiple criteria
- Shares paging information with the end-users along with the frequency
- Sorts the data at the time of updates
- Reduces processing time, increases response time and security levels
- Search for data based on different criteria
- Provides for JSON support (REST), API to be RESTful
- Authorization via OAuth
How Does API Work?
Integration of APIs is an ideal way to enhance novel features in online businesses and thereby maximize revenue and business growth. Good APIs save on time, cost and efforts along with enriched quality output. This is how an API works:
Best Practices For Enhanced API Development
- Proper versioning of API should be done
- App Throttling is a good practice for traffic overflow handling and saving it from DoS attacks
- Regard the API gateway as Enforcer that permits only authorized access and message encryption
- Permit RESTful API to overrule the HTTP procedure and build RESTful endpoints
- Ensure accurate, extensive and simplistic documentation for developers to understand easily
- Avoid using XML since it is outdated and tough to understand
- Ensure backward compatibility while building the latest API version
- Alignment of API design and development with organizational goals
- Offer best of SDKs and libraries while API development, along with reusable code and procedures
The Future Of API Development
- DevOps and ChatOps
Modern-day DevOps and ChatOps all depend upon API development to increase collaboration between various software components. The future is sure to see more of the integration between these technologies.
- Increased Business Agility
With the utilization of APIs on an increasing spree, there is much the developer community and thereby, B2B and B2C companies will benefit from it. The future shows great development and progress in the business agility.
A known name in the technological universe, Microservices is known to all. And the future forecasts it as a major trend in API development since it offers developers increased freedom, flexibility for API integration.
- Big Data with APIs
Big Data is the latest buzzword today. And with APIs, Big Data will get a great push. Users will be able to leverage the huge bulk of data, without diving much deeper, thanks to Open API. Reporting and analytics become much easier and faster.
- Enterprise API Development
The future is going towards API development for the enterprise. This includes a much wider scope and vision, not limited to the numerous APIs that are being used within smaller components. Tomorrow shall witness API design and development on a much larger scale, keeping in mind the complexities and needs of the enterprise.
- API Integration – Private and Partner
The private API and partner API types will have more focus on the future. Private APIs reduce development efforts and resources needed for integrating IT solutions. This increases productivity and widens the market reach.
Partner APIs offer larger access to the organization. There is a collaboration between business stakeholders and developers while creating solutions.
Serverless is the happening future for API development since it empowers APIs to be effective, streamlined and productive. Serverless architecture comes up as a promising trend for the future of API.
- Open APIs
Public APIs are also in vogue today and have a bright future. The main reason being it allows access without the typical authentication and authorization procedures. This makes third party integration easy, secure and faster. Developers get access to the API all the time, leading to faster execution of work.
- Increased Focus on API Design
Till now, the most common term used was API development. As is, we know and understand the importance of design in any software development life cycle. API will follow the same. API design will be given more importance as API development kicks off, in any organization. And with greater API design, the development phase is bound to be a success.
- Higher Security Focus
API will be viewed with higher security concerns. Newer parameters of security will be ascertained while API design and development, to ensure the utmost accurate and safe information flow.
- AI and ML-based API Development
AI and ML – two big shot technologies will be heavily involved in a variety of API development. Natural language processing, BI, embedded analytics, etc. will be seen at the forefront.
On a Parting Note
The evolving world of API development is an interesting watch! As the year folds by, we watch the potential of APIs touch upon multiple elements in organizations, far and wide. Multiple technologies will leverage the API magic. Be it developers, designers, B2B and B2C communities, API development has a lot to offer.