It may sound technical – Application Programming Interface – but once an API is in place it’s easy. Among things, APIs play an important part in enabling software programs to interact with each other.
In its simplest definition, API is a particular set of rules, codes, routines, protocols, tools, and specifications software programs use as communication with other software programs. This gives access to the use of services and resources of another software program that implements that API. It is an interface for different software programs, which assists in their communication, just like how an interface enables the communication between computers and humans.
API access provides access to the backend, raw data which, with the assistance of a programmer, you are then able to manipulate into the format you best prefer. Software developers are responsible for designing products that are powered by API. There are API’s created for libraries, operating systems, applications, programs, and many others, to define their “language” and resource request conventions. Routines, object classes, data structures, and protocols are created in the specifications which are used to communicate between the provider’s program via the API to the consumer program.
An API is used in different contexts. It can be considered general, specific, language-dependent, or language-independent. A general API means that a full set of an API is in the library of a programming language like for example a Java API. For it to be specific, it means that the API addresses a specific problem, for example, Google Maps API. The API is language-dependent, which is only available by using the elements and syntax of a particular language. A language-independent API is called from several programming languages that may be provided as remote procedure calls or web services.
To dig deeper, an API describes the way a certain task is performed like in procedural languages. Nowadays, modern programming languages provide documentation associated with an API in digital format that’s easy to consult on a computer.
An API is different from a protocol but an API may be an implementation of a protocol. A protocol defines a typical way of exchanging requests and responses in a common passage while an API provides a library that may be used directly without any transport but an exchange of simple information through function calls. If an API is an implementation of a protocol it is based on certain proxy methods for remote requests that underneath rely on the communication protocol.
API’s are used for different applications, programs, and operating systems and are programmed for different purposes as well. They can be used for the web, multimedia, user interface, and others. APIs are essential to companies like phone service providers which integrate with other systems and take control of their system. Phone companies make it easy to pull raw data from their sites, allowing you to rebrand the data or just view the data in the format of your liking. Even get your reports as an RSS feed! Even download call recordings and link to your in-house account format if you’ve white labeled services. In other words, APIs keep systems of companies providing communications organized and working well.