Despite being a part of software development for more than a decade, APIs have begun experiencing an increase in usage and popularity in the past couple of years. With increasing innovations and technology, relevancy of APIs has never been so needed. From thousands of mobiles apps to the multitude of internet connected devices, the ability to transfer data securely and seamlessly is in high demand.
What is an API?
An essential part of designing software, APIs are prevalent at almost every level of the software stack. An API (Application Programming Interfaces) is a set of protocols, tools, and routines used for building software applications. Initially used on desktops and laptops only, APIs make the movement of information between programs possible. An API specification has the potential to take many forms, including data structure, object classes, remote calls, variables, routines and more. API’s are used in not only web-based systems but also in operating systems, database systems, computer hardware, and software libraries.
With internet capable devices being developed every day, transferring data seamlessly between apps and programs is a quintessential aspect of software creation. Essentially, the API is the building block of applications for developers that makes it possible for independent systems to interface with each other. Using a set of defined methods to communicate among components, developers use APIs to make the development of apps quicker and easier.
Why are APIs Important to Developers?
APIs Offer New Functions to Already Existing Apps
No matter the type of application or software a developer is creating, integrating APIs into the creative process is key. Rather than developing new programs with specific functions to your application, a developer can instead use functions of already created programs. This gets rid of unnecessary steps, provides access to new techniques, and cuts down on the amount of coding.
Here are some popular third-party APIs that are commonly used with websites and apps:
- Twitter API – Allows websites and apps twitter functionality, like displaying latest tweets.
- Google Maps API – Allows google map functions, such as location and direction embedding.
- Twilio API – Provides a framework for sending SMS/MMS, building voice and video call functionality and more.
- YouTube API – Allows developers to embed YouTube videos, build playlists, search YouTube and more.
- Facebook suite of APIs – Enables the developer to use different Facebook functions that will benefit your app, for example, the Facebook login, in-app payments, targeted ad campaigns and more.
APIs Provide a Client Library
Provided by a majority of APIs, client libraries reduce the amount of time spent on writing code, setting up authorization and setting up authentication requirements. For example, client libraries generally contain a set of code that the developer can add to their software application. These chunks of code do basic application processes that allow easier API interaction. This saves the developer time when writing code needed to allow interactions between the app and the API.
APIs Increase Efficiency
Instantly transferring data allows increased efficiency for developers. By automating and streamlining internal processes, developers can quickly create and finish applications. Instead of writing code for separate devices and applications, APIs can be integrated to allow for functions that would have taken exponentially longer if the new code were to be needed.
APIs Provide Simplification
By abstracting underlying implementation and exposing only objects and actions, APIs simplify programming for developers. For example: While at the surface a graphical interface might provide an interactable button that performs the function of fetching and highlighting emails, an API will also provide a file for input/output for the developer. The API contains the code for the function of copying a file from one location to another without requiring the developer to understand the file system operations. Essentially, APIs allow a developer to use complex functionalities and code without needing to fully understand the operating system.
Why are APIs Important?
A well-designed software application, even if written entirely from scratch, uses internal APIs to keep code organized and make components reusable. Without the creation of APIs, the majority of software would not exist today. Not only do they give developers access to data that was previously unattainable, but they provide the mechanics of other APIs that software depends on. Whether you are creating an e-commerce app that needs an API that helps track the shipment of products, or the Google Maps API to embed locations, APIs are constantly improving the way technology communicates. With so many APIs equipped with a multitude of functions, developers can now reach new heights in a fraction of the time.