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Whether you’re a burgeoning app developer looking to make your mark on the market, or the average consumer conducting a bit of shopping online, the chances are that whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve encountered and used application program interfaces (or APIs). APIs are crucial parts of every functioning bit of software you use in your daily life, from the streaming services you patronize to your smart car, but few know what they are or how they function.
That may be due to their versatility as a program: APIs serve a variety of functions depending on their intended purpose, making it easier for applications to communicate and interact with one another. Standard APIs you may not have known about that you might use include weather app widgets on your phone, login screens that allow users to log in through various services, and payment screens that connect to Paypal and other similar services. Whether you’re a data scientist looking for more information on how to track weather-based patterns or an entrepreneur looking to create more secure ways for customers to make payments, the use of APIs is imperative to reaching those specific goals.
Think of APIs as the connective tissue in your device’s skeleton, knitting together a bunch of coexisting, collaborating services to bring you the streamlined experience you want and need. Without APIs, your services would all need to be used independently of one another, which would be incredibly inconvenient for most users.
However, APIs aren’t just a necessary part of any functioning device: they have other benefits that extend beyond the obvious. Here are three functions that APIs serve to better our lives from behind the scenes, bringing us together in new, ever-developing ways.
1. Maximizing Collaboration Between Services
Think of your average API as a contract between two services, an agreement through which two services can communicate with one another and use each other’s data on specific terms. Through APIs, this task, which could be drawn out and arduous, is actually simple and requires no further oversight: the programs interact with each other without having to ask permission constantly, and how they interact is predetermined with lines neither program can cross. As a result, thanks to APIs, literally thousands of programs with one affiliation or another can all act as one seamless body of information.
As mentioned above, without this unique quality, most programs would have to be used alongside each other independently, making their use clunky and slow-going. Putting aside what a negative experience that would be for the consumer, think about businesses who use APIs to simplify their operations; Social media sites use APIs to create bots that auto-moderate their pages, banks use APIs to keep track of client funds, and retail companies use APIs to track orders and packages. There are APIs out there designed to meet every need, and they all work together to keep our society functioning.
2. Opportunities for Innovation
APIs provide a slew of resources for would-be entrepreneurs, allowing them to connect their brand new tech to a veritable smorgasbord of existing software. In addition to providing assets for new developers, the widespread availability of APIs also allows for early partnerships to form between established companies and greener small businesses, making it more likely that said business finds itself on firm footing.
Some companies, for example GrabzIt (an online website screenshot tool) allows their customers to try out their service for free with limited features which then pulls in the customers as they will want to know more. This isn’t just good for the economy but good for the tech sector as well, as it encourages new developers to step into the ring and shoot for the stars, knowing they have an entire institution at their back.
3. Extra Layers of Security
While APIs do open your tech up to sharing information with third-party software, it’s crucial to remember that agreement only extends to predetermined bits of information with a predetermined partner. For everything else, including malware installed by hackers or programs that were constructed with malintent, APIs can provide an extra wall of security protecting against unwanted incursions. While this doesn’t apply to all APIs, APIs that monitor your browser’s traffic and require it to be authenticated will undoubtedly serve to improve your device’s security.
API’s: Operating in the Background
For beginning app developers, having a knowledge of how APIs work and a backlog of APIs that may have a positive impact on your user experience once integrated can be critical to whether your app succeeds or fails. For consumers, knowing what APIs are and determining which programs get access to your precious data can be vital in keeping your system operational and safe. APIs are the unsung heroes of the programming world, as few know about them; yet, they are central to everything that is done in the digital sphere.
Now that you know about them and how they work, what are you going to do next?