What Does API Mean?
An application programming interface (API) are rules, protocols and definitions that help two applications communicate. It is the part of an application that can be accessed by other applications. The API details how a developer should access services from another application or operating system (O/S) as well as how they would expose data across different channels and contexts. It defines a range of acceptable inputs and the associated outputs. APIs are often used by business partners, third party developers and internal departments.
Effectively, the API consists of two related components:
- Specification on how data is exchanged between the applications.
- Software interface written as per that specification.
API architecture takes on a client-server relationship. The application requesting information is known as the client while the one providing the data is the server.
Any information can be shared with an API. For example, your favorite weather app doesn’t generate its own weather information. Instead it uses APIs to talk to a central repository of weather data typically run by a national weather service, weather bureau or other government-affiliated agency. Each time you check the weather, the data you see is from that third party source. The API allows application users to complete an action without the need to leave your application or website.
APIs are a key pillar of software development and greatly reduce the need to reinvent the wheel. All but the most simple applications rely on APIs to tap into the capabilities available in other applications. Well designed APIs allow for the composure of distinct, logical components. APIs save time and break down barriers that hinder innovation and collaboration.
The main benefits of APIs are:
- Better workplace and industry collaboration through shared data.
- Faster innovation allows companies to make new connections, offer new services and access new markets.
- Monetization by selling access of valuable data to third party applications.
- System security by separating the data request from the core infrastructure of the server application.
- Improved privacy by giving end-users the right to provide or deny access to confidential information such as their location.