What Is an API Application Programming Interface?

However, modern APIs vary in their architectures and use of data formats. They are typically built for HTTP, resulting in developer-friendly interfaces that are easily accessible and widely understood by applications written in Java, Ruby, Python and many other languages. In contrast to a user interface, which connects a computer to a person, an application programming interface connects computers or pieces of software to each other.

api meaning

An interface is a means of interacting with a system’s internals. Generally, the interface’s job is to simplify and concentrate internal capabilities into a form that is useful for the client. What is different about APIs and UIs is that they interface with different types of clients. A Web API or Web Service API is an application processing interface between a web server and web browser.


The world was introduced to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android in 2007. The ability to carry the web in our pockets radically changed how we live—and spurred a massive investment in mobile applications that are powered by APIs. Here, we’ll give a high-level overview of the history of APIs and how they work before reviewing the different types of APIs and how they are used. We’ll also discuss some common benefits and use cases for APIs—and offer a few real-world API examples that can help you get started.

api meaning

The API describes and prescribes the “expected behavior” (a specification) while the library is an “actual implementation” of this set of rules. RESTful systems support messaging in different formats, such as plain text, HTML, YAML, XML and JSON, while SOAP only allows XML. Each has their strengths, and the “right choice,” might depend on use case. However, the ability to support multiple formats for storing and exchanging data is one of the reasons REST is a prevailing choice for building public APIs. REST APIs—also known as RESTful APIs—are APIs that adhere to certain REST architectural constraints. REST APIs use HTTP requests such as GET, PUT, HEAD and DELETE to interact with resources.

Ping API

REST API is a special type of Web API that uses the standard architectural style explained above. REST defines a set of functions like GET, PUT, DELETE, etc. that clients can use to access server data. Also known as an API request, an API call is a message sent to a server asking the API to perform an action or provide information.

It is sometimes said that a good component is a “black box,” meaning that the component does its work without revealing how the work is done. The black box represents the ideal of the separation of concerns; it stands in contrast to the white box, where clients have to know what is happening inside the component to use it. In a white box scenario, both knowledge and complexity spread, or leak.

How to write API documentation?

New features, such as content delivery, augmented reality and novel applications of wearable technology, are created in large part though these APIs. GraphQL is a query language that was developed specifically for APIs. It prioritizes giving clients exactly the data they request and no more. It is designed to make APIs fast, flexible, and developer-friendly. As an alternative to REST, GraphQL gives front-end developers the ability to query multiple databases, microservices, and APIs with a single GraphQL endpoint.

  • With an autonomous exchange of data and requests, APIs dramatically reduce the time and effort involved in checking for available flights or accommodation.
  • When an app must access files through an API, operating systems such as iOS, macOS, Windows and Linux use permissions for that access.
  • Well-designed documentation promotes a better API experience for users and generally makes for more successful APIs.
  • For example, if you’ve ever seen a Google Maps object embedded on a website, that website is using the Google Maps API to embed that map.
  • Learn about five different approaches to becoming API-first, then pick your favorite to remain competitive in today’s digital landscape.

Well-documented APIs that offer a range of functions and use cases tend to be more popular in a service-oriented architecture. Authentication tokens check that the users are who they claim to be and that they have access rights for that particular API call. For example, when you log in to your email server, your email client uses authentication tokens for secure access.

Phase 5: APIs for connected devices

Application Programming Interface management is an important part of modern software development. It is worth investing in API infrastructure, including tools, gateway, and microservices architecture for both internal and external users. For mobile and web applications, AppSync also provides local data access when devices go offline. Once deployed, AWS AppSync automatically scales GraphQL API execution engine up and down to meet API request volumes.

But Apple’s operating system developers have done all this hard work so the developers can just use the camera API to embed a camera, and then get on with building their app. And, when Apple improves the camera API, all the apps that rely on it will take advantage of that improvement automatically. Discord is a social platform that facilitates voice, video, and message-based communication, as well as media and file sharing. The Discord team has published collections that help developers build Discord apps to customize their Discord servers.

Improving organizational security and governance

Interested in learning more about APIs from an industry leader while earning credentials for your resume? Consider enrolling in a beginner-friendly, self-paced online course like Meta’s Back End Developer Professional Certificate. You’ll acquire and apply your skills to build a portfolio not only using APIs, but also programming systems like Python syntax, Linux commands, Git, SQL, Cloud Hosting, Version Control, JSON, and XML. GraphQL is a query language and API runtime that Facebook developed internally in 2012 before it became open source in 2015. GraphQL and REST are both stateless, use a client/server model and use HTTP. GraphQL solves for some limitations of REST, for example, providing the ability to more accurately target wanted resources with a single request.

DoorDash is a food ordering and delivery platform, and DoorDash Drive enables you to use DoorDash’s on-demand logistics platform and fleet of Dashers to deliver your goods quickly and easily. The DoorDash team has published collections that make it easy to get started with the DoorDash APIs. APIs are essential to the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, which includes devices such what is api in simple words as smart watches, fitness trackers, doorbells, and home appliances. Without APIs, these devices would not be able to connect to the cloud—or to one another—which would render them useless. One of the most common reasons developers turn to APIs is to integrate one system with another. While APIs are self-explanatory, API documentation acts as a guide to improve usability.

So, once you are in the code, you can start to see that APIs are everywhere. If you want to use a component’s functionality, you can access it through the component’s API. API management is the practice of establishing efficient, standardized processes for working with APIs. Organizations who prioritize API management typically leverage an API platform like Postman, which can help them design, develop, test, secure, deploy, and monitor APIs at scale. This improves collaboration by reducing redundant work, increases visibility into API-related projects, and supports greater organizational alignment.

api meaning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *