Different things, as well as living creatures, have different ways through which they communicate with each other. However, did you know that applications also have a way of communicating with each other?
Software applications use an intermediary to communicate and share information. This intermediary is known as an API (Applications Programming Interface). We use different APIs in our daily activities even without knowing.
For instance, you might be leaving for school in the morning and launch a taxi-hailing app on your mobile device to request a taxi. The app locates you and then you supply it with your drop-off location.
Here, the app is using an API to communicate with other apps such as Google Maps for location services. This would not be possible without APIs.
What is an API and How Do Software Programmers Create Them?
An Applications Programming Interface can be defined as a set of functions that make it possible for applications to communicate and share data with other applications, microservices, and operating systems.
The process of developing an API depends on several things, key among them the functionalities of the API and the kind of data that the API will need to access. This is because the sole purpose of an API is to ensure that a user’s request is delivered to another application or system and a response sent back to the user.
Just like APIs are used in the commercial software development industry, you can also use them in your high school class when building projects. For instance, you might be developing a library management system for your school to ensure that the school management knows which student has school books.
Since the school already has a system with the details of all their students, you can use an API on your library management system to obtain the details of any student who wants to borrow a book. This ensures that you do not have to build the system completely from scratch, making it easy for students to build their own applications.
When using an API, you do not need to worry about its source code or even struggle to understand how the API works. All you need to do is ensure that it has all the functionality that you need.
How Do APIs Work?
APIs can be seen as the connecting blocks between the server and the application that a person is using. When using an application, you ask it for something or provide it with instructions to do something on your behalf.
The application, on the other hand, interprets your instructions and uses an API to communicate with the server. The API tells the server what it needs. The server then gets what the API wants, and through the API, a response is sent back to the application you are using.
We can explain this in simpler terms. When you walk into a hotel, you take a table, have a look at the menu, and then select something that you want. You then look for a waiter to place your order through them.
Here, the waiter acts as the middleman between you and the cooks since you are not interacting directly with them (the cooks). The waiter takes your order and sends it to the cooks. The cooks prepare what you want and then through the waiter, it is sent back to you.
Similarly, an API acts as the middleman between the server and the application you are using. Just like you do not know what is happening in the kitchen, an API does not know what is going on in the server. Just like you order a pizza and get exactly that, an API delivers exactly what you had requested through the application you are using.
Types of APIs
There are different types of APIs, classified by release policy and use cases. You need to understand all of these API types when developing an API to make sure that you come up with exactly what you are looking for.
According to the API release policy, we have public APIs, private APIs, and partner APIs. Public APIs are available for use by third-party developers. Private APIs are important for use within an organization.
They are mainly used when integrating applications and other systems that are used by employees within the organization.
Partner APIs, on the other hand, are developed for use by an organization and its partners. These partners might be organizations and other businesses that work together in their daily operations.
According to use cases, we have database APIs, remote APIs, and operating system APIs. Remote APIs are designed to communicate through the use of a network. These APIs’ design standards are based on the web since the internet is the basic communications network.
Database APIs are developed to aid the communication between database management systems and other applications while operating system APIs come with different operating systems such as Windows and Linux.
APIs are playing a major role in the advancement of technology especially when it comes to software development. Today, developers can build applications within a short time since they can use APIs to implement different functionalities into their applications.
Applications need a way to communicate for them to function, something that has been made possible by APIs.