If you work in a field that uses technology to power your work in some way, you've likely heard about APIs. Do you know what that means or what it does for you? For example, APIs are used for sales teams to pass information among automation platforms like CRMs and email, marketing teams for digital advertising data analysis, and executives who need custom business analytics dashboards. This is a critical technology that powers our day-to-day work. Let's take a peek under the hood.
What exactly is an API?
API stands for application programming interface. They are the protocols by which websites, applications, and devices communicate with other websites, applications, and devices. It's important to note that there are no universal rules about APIs or how they work. They essentially boil down to a set of rules around how data will be organized that many engineers have agreed upon around the world. Many APIs do not necessarily conform to these conventions, but they are fundamentally a set of guidelines or best-practices.
How are APIs used?
- APIs are behind most web applications.
- APIs make mobile applications possible.
- APIs connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices and wearables to the internet.
In essence, APIs are an essential tool that enables people to leverage the vast amount of available data on the web when providing their own unique service or product.
For instance, I want to develop my own event-scheduling app, and embed each event's location within a map of some kind. To accomplish this, I have two choices in implementing this functionality:
- Develop my own map application to use it within my event-scheduling application or
- Utilize one of the several map applications already available such as Google Maps, Bing Maps, Waze Maps, or Map.me, to name a few.
The process by which I would leverage these existing applications and all the map data they have meticulously amassed over several years is by interacting with their respective APIs.
One of the significant value propositions for APIs is that they facilitate this type of technological collaboration, allowing engineers and organizations to be much more productive and not have to re-invent countless wheels each time they endeavor to build a new application. This type of collaboration is one of the core components of Web 2.0, and APIs are at the heart of that.
Without APIs, building technology would take much longer because we would always need to recreate the wheel. The next time you use a web application, you can now thank that API behind the scenes!
If you need help developing a web application, mobile application, or building an integration, please reach out to us! We would love to chat. Email email@example.com.