Application Programming Interface (API)
What is an API?
API is an acronym for application programming interface, a programming code that bridges computer programs together. In simple terms, it is any kind of software interface that helps two different programs communicate.
APIs have increased connectivity between a range of programs and have shaped diverse online solutions and applications from every industry and in any language. What’s more, APIs are paving the way for new business and driving progress through integration.
In fact, many of us use APIs on a daily basis without even realizing it. For example, when you check the weather forecast on your phone, there is an API connecting your phone application to the weather network. When you log into Facebook or Instagram via Google, you’re using an API. From financial institutions like banks and credit card providers to online streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, third party API solutions are improving our collective online experience.
Examples of APIs
Here is an everyday example to help illustrate how APIs work:
Think of yourself visiting your local grocery store to pick up a few fruits and vegetables. When you enter the store, you are able to easily select and purchase an extensive variety of produce from all over the globe and eat it immediately. You do not interact with the growers, pickers, packers, or suppliers, instead you simply purchase directly from the store.
You can imagine the grocery store as an API, a “go-between” that streamlines the entire process, end to end, and simplifies your experience. The grocer acts as the connector between you and the producers so that you can purchase your bananas and carrots with ease.
Here are two real life examples of application programming interfaces:
PayPal is an API that is seamlessly used across the globe. With PayPal, users can make purchases on an eComm store, transfer money or bid on auction sites like eBay in any currency. As an API, PayPal connects bank information directly to online vendors, all while keeping sensitive information secure.
Booking.com uses third-party APIs to gather extensive flight and hotel availability details, collecting all the data in one convenient place, so their users can choose the best option for travel. Not only do Booking.com’s APIs generate the aggregated list of travel and accommodation details, but they also confirm availability with the airlines themselves, in real time.
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Why are APIs useful?
APIs are beneficial for both businesses and consumers as they can consolidate processes, increase communication and enable the exchange of data, ultimately improving overall customer experience.
If you are a small business owner, as you create a website for your company, you may want to empower your customers and improve their experience by integrating third party applications. For example, imagine you are a private massage therapist and your clients can not only book your services directly online, but also automatically sync with their Google calendars. Using an API, your website’s server and Google’s server communicate with one another by sending and receiving responses.
Your client does not see any of these communications between the systems, rather they simply receive an alert to their calendar with an appointment. APIs do all the heavy lifting between these two systems. You can explore a wide selection of third party integrations to improve your site from the Wix App Market.
APIs are also extremely useful for developers, who do not need to start from scratch each time they write a new program. Instead, they are able to create a connection between two different programs using an API. For further information on how to access APIs for developers, here is a Velo API overview that can maximize your site’s functionality.
Types of APIs
Here are the four types of web application programming interfaces:
Open APIs refer to any kind of open source interfaces that both developers and users can have access to. This type of API can also be referred to as a public API, which, as the name implies, is shared freely and published openly online for anyone to use.
Partner APIs are not open to the public, and require specific permissions in order to access or integrate them. These types of APIs are more strategic and serve to connect B2B and B2C ventures.
Internal APIs, also known as private APIs, are not open to any external users. These types of APIs remain exclusive to a specific business and are only used to improve internal communications and development, such as payroll or HR systems.
Composite APIs are a combination of at least two or more APIs. What makes this type of API unique is that it can access several systems in one call. Composite APIs are able to gather requests from multiple sources into an organized sequence, in one single API call.