What Is An API?
API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface. It is a software interface that allows two or more applications to communicate with one another.
Humans can communicate their ideas, thoughts, and needs to others through facial expressions, gestures, and spoken (or written) language. On the other hand, Software products can exchange data and perform other functions through machine-readable interfaces, otherwise known as APIs.
Application Programming Interface (API) creates a connection between computers or computer programs. It defers from a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which establishes the connection needed for humans to communicate with a computer using symbols, visual metaphors, and pointing devices. API connects computers or pieces of software.
When a software wants access to information or functionality on another software, it calls its API and specifies what data it needs. The other software then returns the requested data or functionality based on the received specifications. For instance, an online travel service that aggregates flight schedules, fees, and other information about various airlines uses an API to communicate with airline databases.
Typically, an API consists of different parts which provide various tools or information that other computer programs can access. For instance, weather software can have an API for providing weather updates and another API for telling time worldwide. When a computer program wants to use a part or all the information on another computer program, it “calls” the API. Usually, APIs come with documentation on how to call and implement them.
APIs play an essential role in our daily lives. A typical example of API you must have come across is the weather application on most smartphones. For instance, Apple is not a weather data company, but it provides weather reports on the iPhone, and they do so through an API that sends the latest weather reports.
Another example of API at work is the “Login using Facebook, Twitter, or Google” feature on many mobile applications and websites. For instance, if you use the “Login using Facebook” on a mobile app, the Facebook Login API will authentic you to confirm it is you and then send your information to the third-party application.« Back to Glossary Index