We always hear about APIs in the field of web development. But what exactly does this term mean? How does an API work? What are the advantages of using an API? … Here are some simple explanations that will help you understand.
API: simple definition
The computer term API means Application Programming Interface in English or Interface de programmation applicative in French. Specifically, an API exposes the functionality or data of an application. This data or functionality can then be used by other developers to create a new application. However, it is a simple interface that allows you to use the features of the application without knowing how they were created. In general, authentication is required to access an application’s API. In any case, this key is essential to protect the application in question.
How does an API work?
As already explained, an API exposes data. These data are presented in JSON or XML format. These are called endpoints. A developer can therefore copy this structured data and display it later on another site. In addition, the API also exposes services. For example, to send thousands of emails at once, the configuration of a mail server is required. Nevertheless, an API can take care of sending these mails automatically.
Here is another concrete example. A person buys a show ticket on a website using his credit card. The site will send the information about the customer to another application for verification. The latter application will then send back the green light or the refusal to issue the concert ticket.
Today, the use of APIs is also a modern method of creating applications. On the other hand, access to an API is subject to a fee. Therefore, you can make a business out of it if you are a developer.
Advantages of using APIs
The use of an API facilitates the creation of a new application. The developer does not need to write lines of code from the beginning. He can use an API and make only a few modifications if necessary. This is a huge time saver for a developer.
In case you have a problem in your development, someone may have already solved it in the past. So you will need to use an API to interact with solutions. This makes your job even easier.
APIs are generally easy to use. Indeed, you may have already seen that there is documentation. You can use them as a kind of manual.
All in all, you’ve seen everything there is to know about APIs. If you want further explanations, consult an application developer.