What is API? Learn about API in 5 minutes

What is API? Learn about API in 5 minutes
November 01, 2022

In web development, an API is a set of instructions that allow different pieces of computer code to talk to each other.

You may have heard it called Application Programming Interface, but the word "Interface" just means that there are instructions to tell other pieces of code what you want them to do.

In this blog post, we will cover all you need to know about APIs, from what they are and what types there are, all the way down to where they're used in coding.

What is the API?

The API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of rules and standards that allow software programs to interact with each other.

It acts as a middleman between two applications, allowing them to exchange data and information.

An API can be accessed through a number of different methods, including web-based APIs, SOAP-based APIs, and RESTful APIs.

Why do we need an API?

In software development, an API (Application Programming Interface) specifies how software components should interact. It’s a set of rules and protocols that define how one piece of software request data from another piece of software.

An API can be written in any number of languages, but most commonly use tools like JSON or XML. In order for two applications to communicate, they both need to have an API. The application requesting the data is the client, while the application providing the data is the server.

When you make a request to an API, the server will respond with the data you requested. This data is usually returned in a format like JSON or XML. The API will also specify what kind of response you can expect from the server (such as success or error codes).

The benefits of using an API include:

Ease of use: An API makes it easy for developers to access data and functionality from another application. For example, if you want to add social media functionality to your website, you can use an API from a social media site like Facebook or Twitter.

Data sharing: APIs allow different applications to share data with each other. For example, if you have a blog on your website and you want to give other people the ability to show your blog posts on their website, you can create an API for your blog so that people can access your content more easily.

Increased security: By using an API, developers can keep their sensitive data by giving access to only small pieces of data.

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Different types of APIs

REST APIs are one of the most common types of APIs. They are based on the Representational State Transfer architecture, which is an architectural style for distributed systems. REST APIs use HTTP requests to GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE data.

SOAP APIs are based on the Simple Object Access Protocol. They use XML-based messages and usually require a SOAP client library.

GraphQL is a newer type of API that provides an alternative to REST and SOAP APIs. It is a query language for interacting with data in a declarative way.

Each type of API has its own benefits and drawbacks. Choose the right type of API for your project based on your needs.

Web-based APIs are designed to be accessed through a web browser. They're typically used when you need to access an API from a web-based application or website.

SOAP-based APIs use the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to communicate between two applications. They're often used in enterprise systems where security is important.

RESTful APIs use the Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture to exchange data. They're typically used when performance is important.

Where APIs are Used?

An API is a set of programming instructions that allow the software to interact with other software.

They are used to request data from a server and display it on a client, such as a web browser.

APIs are most commonly used to fetch data from a server, such as weather data or stock prices.

APIs can also be used to update data on a server, such as updating the status on social media or adding items to a shopping cart.

In these cases, the API acts more like an interface between the two pieces of software, rather than just fetching data from one place and displaying it in another.

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Different categories of APIs

There are many different types of APIs, but they can generally be categorized into three different types:

1. Public APIs: These are open to the public and anyone can use them. Examples include the Twitter API and the Google Maps API.

2. Private APIs: These are only available to select partners or developers and are not publicly accessible. An example of a private API would be the Facebook API.

3. Partner APIs: These are similar to private APIs, but are designed to be used by business partners of the company that owns the API. A good example of this would be the Amazon Product Advertising API.

HTTP methods for APIs

There are four primary HTTP methods for APIs: GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE. Each method corresponds to a different action that can be performed on a resource. 

1. GET requests are used to retrieve information about a resource. For example, a GET request might be used to fetch the data for a particular product from an eCommerce site. 

2. POST requests are used to create new resources. For example, a POST request might be used to add a new product to an eCommerce site. 

3. PUT requests are used to update existing resources. For example, a PUT request might be used to update the price of a product on an eCommerce site. 

4. DELETE requests are used to delete resources. For example, a DELETE request might be used to remove a product from an eCommerce site.

API Examples

The first example is Google Maps. Google has an API that allows developers to embed Google Maps into their own websites and applications.

This is useful for things like store locators, directions, and even just displaying general location data.

The second example is Amazon’s Product Advertising API. Amazon allows developers to access its vast product catalog and leverage features like wish lists and customer reviews in their own applications.

This is useful for things like building comparison shopping applications or creating new avenues for discovery on the Amazon platform.

These are just two examples of APIs, there are literally thousands out there being used in all sorts of interesting ways.

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Fetching Data from API using JavaScript

    .then((response) => response.json())
    .then((data) => console.log(data));

Free APIs for Testing

There are many free APIs available on the internet for testing purposes. However, finding a reliable and up-to-date API can be challenging. The following is a list of some popular free APIs:

1. Facebook Graph API: The Facebook Graph API allows developers to access data from Facebook.

2. Twitter REST API: The Twitter REST API provides access to tweets and other data from Twitter.

3. Google Maps API: The Google Maps API allows developers to access map data from Google Maps.

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