What Is an API?
If you have talked with a programmer you may have heard them comment about API calls and ‘talking’ to another application via its API. API stands for Application Programming Interface, which allows different applications to communicate, without learning each other’s ‘language’.
The purpose of APIs
APIs make it easier for developers to communicate with other applications, using certain pre-defined methodologies when building applications. An API allows one application to permit another application to use only specific objects or actions in a way that ensures compatibility and integrity between the two.
What can an API do?
A request to gather information from a third-party application may use an API call as the means to communicate, allowing the programmer to gather and use information in a way that is accessible. The API acts as a middleman for the programmer when requesting information from another application, while also letting the programmer know what he can ask for, how to ask the question and how to process the answer.
Take for example when an order is placed on a front-end system, an API can be used to send the order details (delivery address, customer details, etc..) into an internal system that it doesn't natively communicate with. Whether an accounting system, fulfillment software or even directly into a database, it’s possible to streamline the way data is transferred and interpreted when utilising an API.
Why use an API
- API’s provide an enhanced layer of security; through never exposing your data fully to the server, and the server never fully needing to expose itself in return. Instead, each communicates with the API, only sharing that which is necessary.
- An API allows for simplicity and reusability by implementing a standard programming method to interact with the server, allowing the same method to be used for each application.
- APIs are typically developer-friendly, easily accessible, and how to interact with it and what calls to make are usually well documented.
This all allows for an integration to be developed in less time, with rules governing how and what access is provided.
Things to keep in mind
Just as easily as they give access, capabilities given through APIs can be taken away. If an API that you rely on reduces its capabilities, or even an API that you utilise is shut down suddenly, you may find yourself in a tough situation with severely reduced functionality.
It pays to research the APIs you utilise and keep up to date with news and developments.
If you have queries about custom software and about how Advance can help streamline your processes, get in touch.