What is an API?
APIs are the latest most talked about term in tech, as everyone from Google to Facebook and Apple are using them to deliver their latest solutions to the public and to connect people to businesses through innovative platforms.
As internet traffic is increasingly distributed towards apps and devices, it is very interesting to see how APIs are driving internet traffic, and where this trend is heading. To state the obvious, APIs have a profound effect on current businesses.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. This means that APIs are building blocks on which developers can create new programs and serve as intermediaries for applications to communicate and connect with other applications. An API creates a hook for colleagues or third-party developers to access data and services to build applications. It is a form of contract that connects providers and consumers in an efficient way.
For example, Amazon opened its infrastructure as Amazon Web Services (AWS), through multiple APIs, and now serves more bandwidth through the AWS than through any of its storefronts. Twitter is one of the businesses that is almost exclusively based on an API and a network of developer applications. APIs also allow Netflix to support various devices enabling its users to consume movies in an affordable and efficient manner.
APIs are online products that can change to meet a business’ needs. The primary audience for any API is the developer who will use it to create applications.
Public or private APIs
There are two types of APIs, private and public. According to APIs: A Strategy Guide (2012), private APIs are more prevalent, but as one can see with Facebook and Twitter, these companies use their own APIs extensively to drive their websites, mobile apps and other products. But beyond the visible ones, APIs are “private and imperceptible, internal to companies, used by staff and by partners with contractual agreements.” APIs then can be public and available to almost anyone, but also private and used internally or by a partner.
They are big now
APIs are now a big deal because of the way they help people collaborate and because of the fact that developers can use open source software without needing to ask for permission. Additionally, as we mentioned, they are responsible for the explosion of activity witnessed with Twitter and Netflix. As Amazon, Google, Twitter and so many others know, APIs drive and power traffic. In the words of tech blogger Robert Scoble, now is the “get rid of web pages and glue APIs and people together” era.