Whether you run a business, own a website, are a professional developer, or simply need data on specific topics for personal or commercial use, APIs can be very beneficial. Read on to find out if you should use one.
What is an API?
An Application Programming Interface is an intermediary software that enables two applications to communicate with each other. That basically means the API is a messenger that delivers your request to the provider you are requesting information from and delivers the response back to you. For example, a website thumbnail api will allow you to create a high quality thumbnail image of any website with minimal effort.
How are APIs used?
Third-party developers can use the raw data from APIs to do things like release phone apps that display the data with custom-presentation. For example, if you are a PHP app developer, you may want to feature content from the Instagram API that updates itself in real-time. You can find out more about how to use the Instagram API with PHP on this page.
APIs like Instagram, Spotify, and Reddit, are designed to make their data available to users and to enable external developers to create products built around their data. Other APIs are part of software packages that are sold to businesses. These can give companies added value because the companies’ software engineers can send data from in-house software programs directly to the cloud, and obtain data from the cloud to the companies’ in-house systems, like internal databases and reporting systems. In simple terms, that means a business can obtain accurate and real-time data from APIs and use that information endlessly for a wide variety of purposes.
How do APIs work?
Generally, APIs define rules that programmers follow to interact with a programming language, a software library, or another software tool. Furthermore, in recent times, APIs are used to describe certain types of web-interface. Web APIs define a set of rules for interacting with a webserver. The most common use of these web APIs is to retrieve data.
Types of APIs
You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “there’s an app for that.” Well, the same applies to APIs. Whatever type of data you need to obtain, for whatever purpose, there’s an API for that. You can obtain APIs for generating memes, obtaining real-time news data, getting movie and TV show data, receiving up-to-date financial data, and finding pictures of cats. There are even APIs for more specific things. For instance, you can use the Lord of the Rings API to gain data about the popular books and movie series, or the Star Wars Translation API to translate English into languages used in the sci-fi franchise, such as Huttese, Mandalorian, and Sith.