What is an API and How to Create it?

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APIs

What Is an API?

API Definition

“API is a set of programming code rules that bridges the gap between data transmission from one software to another. An API dictates how machines, computers, and applications communicate with each other. On the one hand, the user interface is for humans, and on the other, the API is for machines.”

API stands for Application Programming Interface. It enables interaction between software applications or mixed-hardware intermediaries via data transmission. 

In simpler terms, an API acts as a messenger that delivers your data upon any request and gathers the response from the other party. 

APIs can simplify app development by saving a lot of time and resources for the developers. They provide flexibility to our product, allowing room for adding any new features seamlessly. 

Product managers can use product management software like Chisel to effectively track and craft great products. 

Because of this, APIs help the business and the IT teams collaborate efficiently. 

In today’s rapidly changing digital markets, businesses may change the whole dynamics of the game by coming up with just one innovation.

You need to be swift and respond quickly to survive in such a case. 

Hence, it becomes essential to update your products with new innovative services.

How Does API Work?

Understanding how API works will help all business users to work faster and accomplish faster without knowing to code. 

When we consider web APIs ( note that businesses mainly use the web APIs, but APIs are not limited), they come between application and web server. 

First, the user will call the API, which will notify the application to take some action. The application will use the API to call the webserver and ask it to do something. 

The application programming interface is the request by the user, and API is the middleman that connects the application and web server. 

Every time you use particular software to connect with another software, you are taking the help of the API to get whatever information you require.

Let’s look at one of the examples of an API below.

The waiter (API) will function as an intermediary between you (users) and the kitchen (webserver). You will order (API call) by telling the waiter, and they, in turn, will request it from the staff. Within some time, you will receive your order.

What we just saw was an abstraction. In software engineering, abstraction refers to the concept that aims to simplify things by mainly focusing on more important details of importance.

In the above example, you don’t have to understand the whole concept of a restaurant and kitchen. You only have to know how to order. Abstractions are present at every level of the web application. 

The end-user doesn’t have to know how the APIs work, and the application doesn’t have to understand how the web server functions. 

What Are the Types of API?

Following are the types of API architectures:

REST API’s

REST stands for representational state transfer and comes under the software design that gives users access to specific data by a predefined set of operations.

The four parts of REST are:

  • Headers 
  • Body
  • HTTP
  • URI

You mainly refer to the REST APIs if you know about JSON (javascript object notation). 

Over 70% of APIs available today use REST. The benefits of REST APIs are. They are:

  • Fast in performance
  • Have reliability
  • Ability to scale without affecting the entire system

SOAP API’s

SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. The SOAP API is more complex than the REST. 

This type of API was born in the 1990s. The SOAP API requires extra information about security and how it sends messages. 

Browser API’s

A browser can create incredible user experiences. These experiences include playing music, displaying animations, and others.

Web developers get the authority over these experiences via the browser API. They may use javascript to manipulate the HTML.

iOS Android APIs 

App developers have a specific set of APIs to build an experience for their audiences on a mobile platform.

Developers can use these APIs to transmit the data to the mobile device’s hardware. They can then use a sensor from that hardware device, including the camera playing videos and so on.

What Are the Benefits of an API?

First, let’s look at the benefits of an API for an enterprise:

  • Businesses can save costs with API since it reduces the development effort. 
  • Internal APIs can enable collaboration and connectivity within the organization.
  • Today an enterprise’s success is defined by its innovation abilities. And APIs can boost an organization’s innovation.
  • With API, you can enhance the customer experience. Developers can develop solutions that meet customer expectations with API.
  • APIs can supercharge the marketing efforts of an enterprise.
  • Enterprises can mine data with the help of API. They can use this data to understand customers’ interactions with your products.
  • APIs can create new revenue opportunities for organizations and helps build new features and products.

You can use product management software to create new features for your products. 

Now we will consider the benefits of an API for a developer:

  • APIs can increase developers’ productivity. 
  • They can implement the existing functionality, and you do not have to create solutions from scratch.

How To Create an API?

To create an application programming interface, you can use various online tools and platforms to get you started. Here we will discuss a few steps you can take if you are a beginner.

Define your requirements

The first step you will take is to determine the requirements of the application programming interface (API). 

There are two types of requirements:

  • Functional 
  • Nonfunctional requirements

Craft your API

Once you have your requirements in place, now you start designing your API

Create your API. When developing your API, keep the following in mind;

  • Give your API a name and description
  • Clearly define operations for the API
  • Specify the models of data for request and responses messages

Test your API

Test your API in a test environment to check if it works under certain conditions. 

Deploy your API

After testing and reviewing your API, deploy your API in production. Developers must gain a proper understanding of the API and its features. 

Monitor your API

After testing and deploying your API, it is time for you to monitor it. You can monitor the following aspects of your API:

  • Metrics such as engagement and consumption
  • Check how the API is affecting your business

Examples of an API

Twitter bots are a great example of API in today’s world. Twitter bots are accounts that tweet (or retweet), follow, or send messages based on software instructions. 

Twitter’s API powers all these bots. 

You can also add new features to the bot, 

These new features can notify you if the bot gets a like or a new follower by programming the bot accordingly using the API.

The most common example of an API is the simple log-in feature of various web applications like Facebook, Google, etc. 

Instead of directly giving entry to anyone to an account, an API first authenticates the credentials. It then only allows the user to view the account.

Another example of API usage in everyday life is during a simple travel booking. 

The travel booking sites scrape other sites for the cheapest rates on hotels, flights, etc., by giving us a series of options and then comparing them based on our preferences. 

These websites often use third-party APIs to collect flight/hotel information from the providers. 

Similarly, suppose you use these websites to book something. In that case, they use APIs to connect with the provider to confirm your booking.

FAQs

Q: What is an API key?

A: An API key is a unique code passed to an API to identify the calling party. 

Q: Why are API keys used?

A: You can use the API keys to track and control how an API functions. Doing so helps in preventing any abuse or illegal use of the API.

Q: What is API integration?

A: API integration refers to the connection between applications. The exchange of data is completed only after communication between both APIs.

Product management software like Chisel also seamlessly integrates between product and engineering systems

Q: Do all websites have an API?

A: No, not all websites have an API. 

All websites do not have an API because not every website is willing to or has the resources needed to have an API. 

For example, small e-commerce sites that sell their products on sites such as Amazon have their APIs may decide to skip the creation of an API.

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