Application Programming Interface, or simply API, is an intermediary between different software and its primary purpose is communication between them. API delivers your query to the provider and then gives its response back to you.
API is an essential part of the digital world because this middleman between software helps to save a lot of time for developers. In this article, you’ll find an explanation of what an API is and how it works.
API is a tool that allows different software components to exchange data. API is the code that manages the access point (or points) for the server. The end-user doesn’t notice these exchanges on a website or an app.
Let’s provide you an API example to help you understand clearly what it is. Imagine that you’re the owner of a training app. One day, you got the idea to provide your users with an ability to listen to music on your app while they exercise. For this idea to be implemented sooner, you can look for an opportunity to use an API where your website’s server communicates directly to the music streaming app’s server. Your app can request to integrate a playlist directly to your training app and provide all the required music for your users.
In this case, your developers can save a lot of time by integrating required music streaming platforms rather than working hard by doing nitty-gritty work and, for example, collecting the world’s biggest playlist.
Most applications or websites nowadays use at least some third-party APIs. It’s just easier to use existing solutions rather than come up with new ideas that require a lot of effort and time.
Simply put, the software sends a request to the other system to access the data or provide a required service. A request can only access a system’s API layer (also called an endpoint). Usually, with a query, there is a requirement to provide an API key additionally.
An API key is a unique identifier used to authenticate requests to an API. Usually, an API key contains a string of letters and numbers that identify the website or app making the request.
It’s not a surprise that there are different types of APIs, and we outlined the essential ones, defined by their access type:
1. Public APIs. These APIs are accessible for every developer who needs to get some sort of data or use it as third-party software. Usually, these APIs may require registration or an API key. In any case, the purpose of these APIs is to make data or services available to any developer.
2. Partner APIs. Let’s think of a previous example of a training app and a required playlist on it. If you need services from other companies, you usually make a partnership with them by promising that it’s worth collaborating. For example, you can offer them additional traffic to their website (or application). In exchange, they provide you with an API that you can integrate into your app. It doesn’t mean that their API will be available for other developers. There is usually a long process with a specific validation to access your partner’s API.
3. Private APIs. These APIs aren’t accessible for external users as they’re used in companies’ internal systems. Their primary purpose is to facilitate and improve internal development teams’ work.