Which API should I use 1

(Application Programming Interface) - Definition and Benefits

Programming interfaces (APIs for short) facilitate data transfer between systems billions of times a day and serve as important access points that connect companies with customers, contractors and employees. APIs are to be understood as important tools for companies. You will streamline organizational processes and ensure, among other things. for higher process efficiency and brand awareness and reduce the response time.

But what is an API? What does the abbreviation stand for and what types of programming interfaces are there? You will find everything you need to know in our guide.

What is an API - definition

An application programming interface (API) is a set of commands, functions, protocols, and objects that programmers can use to create software or interact with an external system. It provides developers with standard commands for performing common operations so that code does not have to be written from scratch.

The API - also known as the programming station - enables applications to communicate with one another. The API is not the database or even the server, but the code that regulates the access points for the server and enables communication.

Thus, the data exchange between different systems is accelerated and simplified many times over.

Meaning of API - example

Imagine building something with Lego. Instead of having to make or carve a new building block yourself every time, you can simply take a block from a prepared range and use it in your project. Each building block can be put together with other building blocks, thus accelerating the construction project. Essentially, APIs work the same way. They optimize and increase efficiency wherever they are used.

APIs explained using application examples

APIs are everywhere and most of us have to deal with them on a daily basis without even realizing it. Every time we post an update on Facebook, compare flight prices on a travel website or do an online banking transaction on our smartphone, there are APIs behind it. In fact, most of us use hundreds, if not thousands, of APIs every day. The following three examples show the different functions of APIs:

  1. Weather forecast - global data exchange through several APIs
    To better understand how APIs work and scope, let's look at an example from The Weather Company and its associated mobile app. The company collects and stores weather data from millions of sources around the globe using numerous APIs. Further APIs allow the developers of the weather service provider to create the smartphone widget that users need to call up the weather forecast. And yet other APIs ensure that files can be exchanged with the server via the smartphone: If you enter your location, you will receive a weather forecast in return.

  2. In e-commerce - transmission of inventory data in real time
    In e-commerce, retailers use APIs to keep track of their inventory and provide customers with information about product availability.

  3. Service provider - simplification of customer contact
    Medical service providers use APIs for their online portals, where patients can make appointments or search for specific services. Authorities use APIs to register voters and manage directories, while nonprofits use APIs to connect with donors.

These are just three examples that illustrate the diverse possibilities of the complex network of APIs.

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API - emergence and further development

APIs have been around since 2000. Among the earliest and most popular APIs are the two APIs that eBay and Salesforce introduced around this time:

  • Ebay wanted to offer its users easier access to its site and to facilitate mass uploads of advertisements.
  • Salesforce was looking for a solution that would allow more users to connect their existing data to their Salesforce platform.

Two years later, Amazon Web Services appeared on the scene. Since then, the number of APIs available has grown exponentially. But the number of APIs isn't the only thing that has changed in recent years. With the development of Open Source APIs and REST APIs, the rules have been rewritten - both for the Internet and for software development. The trend towards cloud-native technologies promises even more dramatic changes in the future.

What APIs are there?

There are basically three different API types, the difference is in their accessibility:

  1. Internal API
  2. Partner / Customer API
  3. Public / Open Source API

Thousands of APIs are in use today, and new ones are added with every new software release or update. Some APIs are available to the public, while others are used strictly internally or only to a limited extent by two or more partners. The three basic types of access are explained below.

Internal API - protected access

Internal APIs, also called private APIs, are hidden from external users and are only disclosed by internal systems. These non-public APIs are not intended for use outside the company, but rather for internal use - for example to increase productivity. For example, they are used by companies to achieve greater efficiency in various areas such as product development, human resources and customer service.

Partner / Customer APIs - restricted access

Partner APIs are APIs that are provided for strategic business partners. They are available to a limited extent - special authorization is required to access them. Partner APIs are used to communicate across company boundaries. They are usually accessible through a public API developer portal.

Open Source API - publicly available to third parties

An open source API, also known as a public API, is a programming interface that is made publicly available to software developers. Open APIs are published on the Internet and freely exchanged so that the owner of a network-accessible service can give consumers universal access.

APIs and API integration can be found everywhere: in every industry and every sector. Today, publicly available API options - called open source APIs - give developers more flexibility and access to proprietary software and web services. The use of open source APIs for your own company has clear advantages:

  • Open concept and agility: An open source application integration solution is ideal for ensuring that corporate infrastructure remains flexible, future-proof, and not dependent on a single proprietary technology.

  • Data exchange and innovation: The rapid advances in computing power and the high availability of data have opened up new opportunities to derive clear business value from information. Increasingly, data is primarily shared via APIs.

  • Cost savings: An open source solution to enterprise application integration needs is far more cost effective than proprietary software, both in terms of upfront investment and ongoing costs.

  • Valuable insights: APIs offer more options in terms of interactions and data collection. In this way, companies gain more knowledge about their customers and processes and can better tailor their products and services to the individual needs of their users.

  • Community support: The developer communities around mature, active open source projects are an excellent source of know-how, tips and application enhancements.

What does an API look like? - Structure of the REST API explained

APIs can differ in terms of their architecture type (REST, SOAP, RPC, etc.). Recent developments in the history of APIs include the advent of REST architecture and the trend towards cloud-based API design. In recent years, the REST API has become the preferred standard for developing applications. REST APIs - short for Representational State Transfer - were specially developed and designed by Roy Fielding for web services. In other words: They help computers and other devices communicate over the Internet.

REST APIs are based on a unique architecture that prioritizes the following properties:

  • Performance - how components interact affects performance
  • Scalability - can support numerous components
  • Simplicity - between interacting interfaces
  • Modifiability - of components to meet requirements that are constantly changing
  • Transparency - clear communication between components
  • Portability - of data-rich code
  • Reliability - guarantees failure safety at system level

Rapid further development of the APIs through Cloud & IoT

The trends towards cloud technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) also have an impact on API technology. Advances in programming, network speed and security have allowed all of API technology to evolve at a rapid pace.

Every day an unimaginably large amount of data is created, searched for, sold, bought, analyzed and used. Much of this data comes from the IoT - the network of devices, clothing, applications, vehicles and components connected to the Internet. And as the IoT grows, so does the amount of data available.

Thanks to cloud storage, data warehouses and data lakes, companies can create and manage virtually infinite amounts of data. APIs capture and manage this large amount of data and help interpret it.

Integrating the API correctly: the first steps

The increasing use of APIs as well as the trend towards open source, REST and cloud-native API technologies mean for companies that they need a comprehensive API solution in order to stay competitive and at the cutting edge of technology. Talend Open Studio for ESB is a free, user-friendly open source solution for integrating APIs and creating service-oriented architectures.

For even more control over your API integrations, Talend's Data Services Platform offers a comprehensive toolkit that developers can use to improve scalability, simplify mapping and security. It is also ideally suited for the administration, processing and profiling of all your company data. Learn how Talend can help you get the most out of APIs with a free demo of the Data Services Platform.