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What is an API and what is it for?

14 Feb 2023. 17:25
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  • SME maturity
    Middle
    Topic
    1. Infraestructuras
    Scope to digitize
    1. ICT infrastructure

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Are you familiar with the term API? If that’s not the case, don't worry. When you finish reading this post you will know what an API is and how it can help you with the integration and development of your business. Shall we start?

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Descripción

The acronym API comes from its name in English Application Programming Interface, which in Spanish means application programming interface. An API itself is a very important technology for the operation of websites and apps. Therefore, knowing its functions and applications can be useful for your e-commerce. We will explain them here!

 

What is an API?

According to IBM, an API is a set of rules that define how applications or devices can connect and communicate with each other. In other words, APIs are codes that function as mechanisms for software and web applications to talk to each other and exchange a series of data and information.

These tools can extract predefined formats, information from a database or parts of one program to another. For example, in order to connect a payment platform with your e-commerce so that your customers can make their purchases online, it is necessary to use an API.

 

What is an API for?

APIs are used for different purposes: financial, social, online payment or administration in your e-commerce you can use them to:

  • Extend the functionality of web applications by collecting data from external sources.
  • Leverage existing code without having to rewrite the entire code of a software or application. 
  • Login to an application from your email account or social networks.
  • Automatically synchronize data or images in the cloud.
  • Automatically synchronize the time and date of electronic devices.
  • System automation.
  • PC notifications from an application.

 

How does an API work?

As we mentioned above, APIs can be an efficient technology to collect information from one digital tool to another. APIs are a solution that allows to have extended functionalities of a software and thus allows to satisfy the different needs of the users.

In this context, for an API to work, three steps must take place: the call, the intermediation and the execution. We will tell you about them below. 

 

  1. The call

This step occurs when a programmer or a user tells a software execution system that it has to extract information from another part    of the same program or from an additional tool in order to integrate it into the system. All this happens through code.

An example of this could be when you log into your bank's application and want to search for the nearest ATM. When you search near your location, the system makes a call to display the information you are looking for.

 

  1. Brokerage

The intermediation process then takes place, whereby the requested information is extracted and incorporated into the code of the new program.

To continue with the example, the system should perform the request and extraction of the ATM location data.

 

  1. The application

Once the program receives the requested information the program must be able to execute it.  

In our example, this is when the bank application integrates the data it has extracted into the interface with the help of the API.

 

What are the different types of APIs?

APIs can be classified both by their use, as well as by their architecture. By their use we would have:

  • Private: they are used internally and within a company's applications.
  • Partner: they can only be accessed by authorized users.
  • Public: anyone can use them.
  • Composite: they are composed of two or more APIs to address complex system requirements,

 

Now, let's look at APIs according to their architecture:

 

  1. REST APIs 

Its name comes from the abbreviation of Representational State Transfer, and one of its main features is the ease of communication it provides to other applications. It allows adding functionalities or information in a simple, fast and secure way.  A particularity of this type of API is that they only respond to requests in HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) language.

 

  1. SOAP APIs

SOAP APIs were very popular in the past. They use the simple object access protocol and are not very flexible. They consist of a set of guidelines that allow access to basic program-to-program information and can use any communication protocol.

There are also other types of APIs such as the WebSocket API or the RPC API or API, which have more specific functions.

 

Although they may seem like a very technical type of technology, APIs adapt to the different needs of developers, so they are highly flexible. But like any technology, APIs must be protected by proper authentication and monitoring.

 

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