This article intends to make APIs simpler and more relatable! Do let us know which part you find interesting :)

Introduction to APIs

Modern-day tech connects people and information in many ways—access different applications from various devices, mobile phones, gaming systems, cars, etc. API stands for an application programming interface. It means making a business service or enterprise asset available to those developing an app. Google Maps APIs are great for navigation, Facebook APIs for gaming/sharing content, and Amazon APIs for product information, and these are just a few examples of APIs.

APIs can drive innovation in the age of digital everything. Developers have different choices for APIs as they build apps with user experiences that are innovative and enriching. Developers can use APIs to build an app that compares the prices of the same hotel from different travel companies. For example, developers can use APIs from Expedia, Skyscanner, and other travel companies to build an app that displays how much each travel company will charge for a hotel room.

The user can then decide which hotel to book as accurately comparing offers can be a headache. That's why online booking sites such as Trivago provide a solution with APIs. The user can check which offer is the best through a third-party website, saving him from doing the research independently. These APIs, in turn, provide a better experience for users like us because we don't need to do all the work.

APIs are a lot like the phone lines you use to call someone. Over the internet, applications can send information to each other without user interaction. Let's say you want to book a hotel room. Your travel company sends your credit card information to the hotel's reservation system when you book it online. This blocks the room for you, and nobody else can use it.

The process for booking a room with a travel portal involves the API of the travel site and the hotel itself. Then the payment application interacts with a remote banking application to validate the credit card and process the payment. If the payment goes through, you've reserved your hotel room! As a customer, you never see how this information is transmitted to the hotel. You only need to enter your reservation and payment information into one website and click "submit."

But if we look behind the scenes, APIs are at work. An API “exposes” some of your business functions to the outside world in a limited fashion, making it easy for other applications to share your services, assets, and data without sharing  the code. APIs are a type of bridge to the inner workings of an application. It defines how the program will interact with other applications and resources, saving time and preventing legal issues.

Types of APIs

A widely used way of categorizing APIs is into public and private. When we say "public," it's available to all. Private APIs that are just for a specific group.  Private APIs can be a useful tool for internal use within an organization. They can also be used for integrating with B2B partners. An API for partner integrations is also known as a Partner API. Internal APIs can be used to build mobile apps for the company's use or to streamline internal application integrations.  Public APIs are a way for people outside of your organization to create apps. Internal developers can access them within an organization and the broader developer community that wants to build apps using them.

Public APIs can support an organization's core business by opening up to new app developers, which is always a good thing. Open developers can use their imaginations to develop some pretty cool apps that use public APIs. The company also benefits from more people using its products and services because of the created apps.

What is an API contract?

The API contract is an agreement between the provider of the service and the consumer. This can include the definition and terms of service, agreements about uptime and availability, licensing agreements for the use of the service, pricing and support models, and more.

What is an API key?

API keys act as a form of authentication. They can be sent to the API in a variety of ways, such as a query string (a set of data passed from one computer to another via the internet), a request header (data sent at the beginning of an HTTP request), or as a cookie (data stored on a user's computer). When companies create their API, they can use these keys to limit who can access it, keep track of who is using it, and block or throttle users if they exceed the allotted limits.

What is an API call?

Whenever a program uses a function that is not part of the main code, it makes an API call. It’s usually when a program is asking an outside application or server to perform a task. For example, if a program needs to open a new file window, it will ask the operating system to open one.

The API value chain

APIs are the digital gateway to your business. An API is a set of programming instructions that other developers can access and manage your business assets. To understand the API value chain, you need to identify the actors involved at each step.

Your business has an asset that other companies might find helpful. You decide to put it out there for people to use, and this is the start of our API Value Chain. The asset can be data or any business functionality you want to share. For example, the asset could be product information, customer information, Twitter feeds, postal tracking information, payment, and banking services.

The following questions might help understand the value of the asset:  

What business asset is being exposed as an API, and what is the value to its owner?

What benefits would the provider get by creating a channel for using the assets via API?

Who are the asset’s potential users, and how would the end-users get access to the assets?

What benefits would the end-user get by using the asset? Of what potential value could these assets be to the others?

How easily can the end-user access and use it?

The value of the asset determines the success of the API. Exposing the assets to others should also benefit the owner.

Once you’ve identified an asset, the next step is to create an API for it. API providers are responsible for designing a user-friendly API so that it can be used easily. In most cases, the asset owner is themselves the API provider. This means that the API benefits the owner directly.  

Sometimes, an asset owner may have a deal with another organization to create an API. In these cases, the rewards are split up between the owner and the API provider.

App developers first assess the APIs and choose which ones will be best for a given app. They then use these APIs to create apps.

There are two types of apps created by developers - the mobile or web-based app. The end-user should have access to these apps to add value to the business.

The end-user is the final actor in the API value chain. They are the ones who use your app. They might use it on their smartphones, tablets, desktops, cars, or other connected devices like kiosks.

Why do companies build APIs?

APIs are the backbone of digital business. The asset being exposed as an API is important and should depend on the kind of business you're running. The data, business logic, or presentation can all be exposed via an API, and each type of business model requires a different approach.

Businesses can build APIs for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  1. Growing new business/marketing opportunities
  2. Opening up new marketing channels
  3. Improving customer reach and loyalty
  4. Accelerating time to market

As APIs help businesses grow, there are many different business models you could adopt. The model to choose from depends on what you're trying to achieve. For instance, if your goal is to make money, you may be more interested in a paid model. However, if your goal is to make it easier for other developers to use your API, a free or developer-paid model might be better.

APIs and Quickwork

APIs are merely one tool that is necessary for this new era to help businesses improve their customer experience and streamline their operations. As the demand for better customer experiences and more applications grows, so does the need for better business practices to support them.

With growing demands, a move towards automation is necessary. The best way to start is by working on small, successful projects to scale and optimize for other processes and parts of the company.

With the help of Quickwork, you will be able to access our prebuilt workflows, which include AI-powered automation capabilities to make processes smarter. This will allow you to accelerate innovation and create more intelligent techniques.

Get started with Quickwork today!

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