How does the sharing of online press articles in Twitter and Google+ work ? How does a mobile app synchronize with a website? How is it that wherever you are navigating, Google Maps pops up?
Thank the magic of API for this!
Behind this small, friendly acronym, which stands for Application Programming Interface, is a very practical and nifty tool that allows for the exchange of data between services.
How does this work?
The API is an interface composed of a series of methods that a website makes available to developers, allowing them to use functionalities or access certain data from the website. This interface ensures simplified communication between different types of clients (websites, computers, mobile apps, CRM software, etc.) and a server on which it is executed upon the client’s request.
Practically speaking, this communication is done in the same way regardless of who the client by applying a set of rules that defines a common programming language between the two parties.
As such, developers are the ones who use APIs, making it a closed world for end users. A third party developer can use an API provided, for example, by Twitter to query its database and build an app or a service. Let’s look at the example of a business software. You can use the Salesforce API to design a business app and use the data from this software.
This is also the avowed aim of companies providing open APIs: attracting developers so that they can build thousands of apps based on their services. There are therefore more than 500,000 apps based on Facebook.
A specific framework
APIs are however governed by rules. First, a developer must be registered with a supplier and comply with a user agreement. He can access only part of the functionalities and/or data. Next, all APIs cannot be freely accessed. Tiered restrictions can be set by the supplier, like a maximum number of queries per second and a maximum number per month.
There is currently a change in strategy under way for the future: fees are being applied more and more to APIs, the fallout of which should increasingly develop Open Source. It also seems that the future will see the arrival of more composite apps as a result of the increase in several APIs in order to continue to offer richer services.
To finish, one of the major difficulties of working with APIs is connecting them. Indeed, their different data formats make interconnections complicated.
Our team has encountered this scenario several times and it is only just the beginning.
This article has provided you with an overview of what motivated us to design Mobapi