What is an API and how it works
When interacting with any web page or application, etc., or when conducting searches on a search engine like Google, the Internet makes specific requests to these servers to bring up the most immediate information to initiate the site or from the selected search results. Once the user interacts, this is known as an API.
What is an API
API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is the server component that receives the request, selects the information, and returns a response to the client.
APIs are mechanisms that allow two software components to communicate with each other using a set of definitions and protocols. For example, the weather office’s software system contains daily weather data. The weather app on your phone ‘talks’ to this system via APIs, displaying daily weather updates on your phone.
How APIs Work
APIs enable your product or service to communicate with other products and services without needing to know how they are implemented. This can simplify application development, saving time and money. When you design new tools and products, or manage existing ones, APIs offer flexibility; they simplify design, administration, and usage; and provide opportunities for innovation.
APIs are sometimes thought of as contracts, with documentation representing an agreement between parties: if party 1 sends a structured remote request in a certain way, this is how party 2’s software will respond.
Because APIs simplify how developers integrate new application components into an existing architecture, they help business and IT teams collaborate. Business needs often change quickly in response to constantly evolving digital markets, where new competitors can upend an entire industry with a new app. To stay competitive, it is crucial to support the rapid development and deployment of innovative services. Developing native cloud applications is an identifiable way to increase development speed and relies on connecting a microservices application architecture through APIs.
APIs are a simplified way to connect your own infrastructure through native cloud application development, but they also allow you to share your data with customers and other external users. Public APIs represent a unique business value because they can simplify and expand how you connect with your partners, as well as potentially monetize your data (Google Maps API is a popular example).
The architecture of APIs is generally explained in terms of a client and server. The application that sends the request is called the client, and the application that sends the response is called the server. So, in the weather example, the meteorological office’s weather database is the server, and the mobile app is the client.
There are four different ways in which APIs can function, depending on when and why they were created.
These APIs use the Simple Object Access Protocol. The client and server exchange messages using XML. This is a less flexible API that was more popular in the past.
These APIs are called Remote Procedure Calls. The client performs a function (or procedure) on the server, and the server sends the output back to the client.
The Websocket API is another modern form of web API development that uses JSON objects to pass data. A Websocket API supports two-way communication between client applications and the server. The server can send callback messages to connected clients, making it more efficient than the REST API.
These are the most popular and flexible APIs found on the web today. The client sends requests to the server as data. The server uses this input from the client to initiate internal functions and returns output data to the client. Let’s take a closer look at REST APIs below.
¿What are REST APIs?
REST stands for Representational State Transfer. REST defines a set of functions such as GET, PUT, DELETE, etc., that clients can use to access server data. Clients and servers exchange data using HTTP.
The main feature of REST APIs is their statelessness. This means that servers do not keep client data between requests. Client requests to the server are similar to the URLs you type in your browser to visit a website. The server’s response is just data in plain format, without the typical graphical representation of a web page.
¿What is a Web API?
A web API or web service API is an application processing interface between a web server and a web browser. All web services are APIs, but not all APIs are web services. The REST API is a special type of web API that uses the standard architectural style mentioned above.
Different terms around APIs, such as Java API or service APIs, exist because historically they were created before the World Wide Web. Modern web APIs are REST APIs, and the terms can be used interchangeably.
¿What are API Integrations?
API integrations are software components that automatically update data between clients and servers. Some examples of API integrations are the automatic syncing of data to the cloud from your phone’s image gallery or the automatic adjustment of the time and date on your laptop when you travel to another time zone. Businesses can also use them to efficiently automate many system functions.
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¿What is the Purpose of Integrating APIs in Marketing?
Exposing your APIs to partners or the public can:
- Create new revenue channels or expand existing ones.
- Extend the reach of your brand.
- Facilitate open innovation or improve efficiency through external development and collaboration.
For example, for a book distribution company, let’s suppose one of its partners develops an app that helps people find books on bookstore shelves. This enhanced experience attracts more buyers to the bookstore, the distributor’s client, and expands an existing revenue channel.
Perhaps a third party uses a public API to develop an app that allows people to buy books directly from the distributor, rather than in a store. This opens a new revenue channel for the book distributor.
Sharing APIs, whether with selected partners or with everyone, can have positive effects. Each partnership extends your brand recognition beyond your company’s marketing efforts. Opening up technology to everyone, as with a public API, encourages developers to build an ecosystem of applications around your API. The more people use your technology, the more likely they are to do business with you.
Making technology public can lead to novel and unexpected outcomes, sometimes disrupting entire industries. For our book distribution company, new ventures, like a book lending service, for example, could fundamentally change the way they do business. Partner and public APIs help you leverage the creative efforts of a larger community than your internal development team. New ideas can come from anywhere, and businesses need to be aware of changes in their market and ready to act. APIs can help.
An example of using an API on web pages is to offer the user the option to select an event (an appointment, a consultation, a webinar schedule, etc.) so that it can automatically integrate into the client’s Google Calendar, once they have given their authorization.
They are an important component within marketing automation.
The role of the API in this case is to receive the appointment request, send it to Google Calendar, and in turn, return certain necessary information or actions like ‘appointment confirmed’, ‘appointment canceled’, etc…
If you want a complete e-commerce solution with custom development and API integrations, contact us.
Juan Esteban Yepes