What is an API?

Application Programming Interface or API

The term API is increasingly used and stands for Application Programming Interface. As clearly as the name says, it is an interface that lets individual programs communicate with each other and use each other’s functions. It is comparable to how a Graphical User Interface (GUI) makes it easier for people to use programs, but then for different programs or technologies to interact with each other.

This interface consists of a list of commands, procedures, protocols, and tools:

  • That lets one program send commands to another.
  • That can be used for building software applications.

A very common example of this ability here is how Microsoft Word can communicate with your printer, without any changes having to be made to Microsoft Word itself.

Different kind of APIs

As you can imagine, API’s could be useful in endless ways. There are many different types which could be divided into API for applications or websites and API for operating systems.

The latter exist of a lot of API sets that are used by system hardware and applications. Think a moment about how the clipboard of your pc – how you copy and paste between different screens – acts as an interface between two applications or an API.

API’s are also widely used for programmers to create applications consistent with operating systems and today also more and more with websites. More and more websites are allowing people to build software solutions on top of their products, like Google Maps, Twitter, Youtube, Amazon and so on. But not all API’s are for external use, for example, WordPress settings API which manages your settings on WordPress.

Google Maps

Allows developers to embed Google Maps on webpages using Javascript or Flash. It is very useful for locating your business graphically and redirect to Google maps in order to drive visits. How to implement it can be found here. There are some snippets of code available that helps you to easily set up the API together with generating an API key. Just be aware that Google has a policy regarding the functionalities you’d offer on top of Google Maps.

Instagram

For the Instagram API registration and authentication as a client is of course even more important. There are different ways you could use the Instagram API. Embedding a post or adding a like or share button is one of the multiple straight forward uses. But also Instagram is increasing restrictions and even has a Sandbox mode for developers, in which after a thorough investigation of the intent it gets to be approved to go live after.

Youtube

The Youtube API from Google lets developers implement Youtube functionalities on their websites or applications. This could be embedding and playing videos or live streams as well as managing the data you’ve uploaded or fetch public data for analysis. This way you could, for example, analyze queries based on location or collect comments.

The Youtube API also uses an API key you should request after you’re registered with a Youtube/Google account. The main advantage of this API stays that it doesn’t allow videos to run while a device is sleeping. Therefore, it is quite hard to integrate it as a music player replacement.

Twitter

The micro-blogging service Twitter also offers two API’s. These allow you to access and interact with core Twitter data like all the tweets in update timelines, user information, and status updates. Next, to this, the Twitter Search API allows people to interact with search and trends data. An example of the use of the Twitter API is the trading bot BOTUS, which buys and sells stocks based on Trump’s tweets.

Messenger

The messenger API is having increasing functionalities. It allows you to receive and send messenger messages, build a way to easily show your website in Messenger – Webviews – and customize your messenger profile and messenger code. You could even try and build a chatbot with the API in 10 minutes as stated on their website, to which you can then lead traffic by building plugins to embed on your website.

To conclude, the API can be used in order to customize your website by for instance Google Maps on your website. So that users find easily your store. In order to do so, you have to implement a plugin.