What is API and How Does it work?

API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.

APIs consist of two main components:

  • Specification:- Technical specifications that describe data exchange details. They determine how the data will be retrieved.
  • Interface:- Interface ensures the communication between two applications. REST, API, RPC are the most popular API interfaces.

You can think of APIs as a contact. This contact determines how users can contact the software and includes the following:

  • Types of operation user can perform
  • Types of Input data
  • Types of Output data

 

How do APIs Work?

Even though the word “interface” comes last in the definition of an API, it’s no less important. Basically, the interface ensures seamless communication between users and the system. Let’s imagine that the car is a software product. It’s a complex system with many functions. However, its primary aim is to get users from point A to point B.

The wheel and pedals will be your API in the car. With their help, you don’t need to know all the internal processes that happen inside the car. You simply turn your wheel and push the pedals. With their help, the car understands when it needs to accelerate, slow down, and turn. This interface is unified, so when you know how to drive your car, you can easily drive other cars.

So, what does API mean in software development? APIs help developers to extend their project’s functionality. They don’t need to build features from scratch. Instead, engineers use APIs from trusted vendors to reuse features that have already been developed by someone else. This approach lets them accelerate the development process and cut the expenses.

Types of APIs

There are four main types of APIs:

  • Opens APIs: Also known as Public API, there are no restrictions to access these types of APIs because they are publicly available.
  • Partner APIs: A developer needs specific rights or licenses in order to access this type of API because they are not available to the public.
  • Internal APIs: Also known as Private APIs, only internal systems expose this type of API. These are usually designed for internal use within a company. The company uses this type of API among the different internal teams to be able to improve its products and services.
  • Composite APIs:This type of API combines different data and service APIs. It is a sequence of tasks that run synchronously as a result of the execution, and not at the request of a task. Its main uses are to speed up the process of execution and improve the performance of the listeners in the web interfaces.

What is the meaning of API documentation?

API documentation is a set of rules and recommendations that explain how to use the company’s API effectively.

How to write API documentation?

Writing comprehensive API documentation is part of the API management process. API documentation can be auto-generated using tools or written manually. Some best practices include:

  • Writing explanations in simple, easy-to-read English. Documents generated by tools can become wordy and require editing.
  • Using code samples to explain functionality.
  • Maintaining the documentation so it is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Aiming the writing style at beginners
  • Covering all the problems the API can solve for the users.

What is API architecture?

API architecture is a set of principles that developers adhere to during the API development process. Architectures are based on protocols or sets of recommendations that define the logic of data transmission between the app and the server.

How to create an API?

Due diligence and effort are required to build an API that other developers will want to work with and trust. These are the five steps required for high-quality API design:

1. Plan the API

API specifications, like OpenAPI, provide the blueprint for your API design. It is better to think about different use cases in advance and ensure the API adheres to current API development standards.

2. Build the API

 API designers prototype APIs using boilerplate code. Once the prototype is tested, developers can customize it to internal specifications.

3. Test the API

 API testing is the same as software testing and must be done to prevent bugs and defects. API testing tools can be used to strength test the API against cyber attacks.

4. Document the API

While APIs are self-explanatory, API documentation acts as a guide to improve usability. Well-documented APIs that offer a range of functions and use cases tend to be more popular in a service-oriented architecture.

5. Market the API

Just as Amazon is an online marketplace for retail, API marketplaces exist for developers to buy and sell other APIs. Listing your API can allow you to monetize it.

What is API testing?

API testing strategies are similar to other software testing methodologies. The main focus is on validating server responses. API testing includes:

  • Making multiple requests to API endpoints for performance testing.
  • Writing unit tests for checking business logic and functional correctness.
  • Security testing by simulating system attacks.

How to use an API?

The steps to implement a new API include:

  1. Obtaining an API key. This is done by creating a verified account with the API provider.
  2. Set up an HTTP API client. This tool allows you to structure API requests easily using the API keys received.
  3. If you don’t have an API client, you can try to structure the request yourself in your browser by referring to the API documentation.
  4. Once you are comfortable with the new API syntax, you can start using it in your code.

What is an API gateway?

An API Gateway is an API management tool for enterprise clients that use a broad range of back-end services. API gateways typically handle common tasks like user authentication, statistics, and rate management that are applicable across all API calls.

Amazon API Gateway is a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale. It handles all the tasks involved in accepting and processing thousands of concurrent API calls, including traffic management, CORS support, authorization, and access control, throttling, monitoring, and API version management.

What are the benefits of APIs?

APIs are widely used on the internet and are thus widespread in modern business. API usage among platform and infrastructure businesses has increased dramatically due to its ease of use. Furthermore, APIs allow users to link programs such as Salesforce, Eloqua, and Market to improve lead routing. To manage renewals, upsells, and churn, revenue teams must flow lead data between their marketing platform and CRM, and customer support teams must flow data between their helpdesk and the payment processing system.

The best platforms for working with APIs make use of their power and flexibility by letting users port over data from custom fields, which is a real pain point, even for software with out-of-the-box integrations. For example, Marketo and Salesforce offer native integrations, but since every sales organization designates their CRM fields differently, this integration typically isn’t up to the task of keeping up with every custom field. Modern API-based tools, such as the Tray Platform, give users the ability and flexibility to map custom fields between different apps, and even flow data directly between them via API calls. Providing this power saves a ton of time and prevents manual errors, while freeing up users to focus on more-important strategic concerns, such as how to grow customer engagement or win more sales deals.

 

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