Digital Themes


What is an API?

An API, or Application Programming Interface, acts as a “middleman” between two web-based applications, allowing them to “talk” to each other, without having to know how they are implemented. These sets of definitions and protocols allow products and services from one organization to communicate with those from other organizations. For example, Amazon Marketplace Web Server (Amazon MWS), an integrated web service API, facilitates data exchange between the Amazon Marketplace and sellers, allowing sellers to manage inventory, track shipment requests and extract sales data.

API layers, or protocol layers facilitate communications between multiple parts or layers of a system. The most familiar, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), manages traffic on the internet, connecting machines within the network and providing a common language that allows them to talk with each other and exchange information. An HTTP, or a Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, is most commonly used by web APIs as a part of their transfer protocol to send and receive requests for information via the internet. When a user makes an HTTP request to view Amazon’s home page, the Amazon API retrieves a set of instructions and packages that information to be sent back.

Third party developers constantly look for ways to integrate solutions quickly so that they can move on to solve more complex challenges. API documentation is the technical content deliverable that contains instructions required to work with an API. Documentation quality determines developer experience with API adaptation. Seamless adaptation results in satisfied users, and satisfied users attract more users, raising product awareness. Good API documentation is also key to saving time and costs, reducing onboarding among internal and external users.

APIs are an essential feature of the digital landscape, helping businesses to:

  • Improve scalability, flexibility and portability. Representational State Transfer or REST APIs can be easily scaled by product development teams to expand communication and performance capabilities. Data requirements for these remote APIs allow for seamless migration from one server to the next, or for frequent changes to a database.

  • Gain deeper insights about users. Open APIs (also known as public APIs) allow developers to integrate portions of a third-party web site into theirs. This allows third parties to gain valuable insights through access to data they would not otherwise have, including information about users and how they interact with an application.

  • Promote innovation. Public APIs open up new possibilities for the companies that publish them. For example, Google search creates an open API as part of a web service that could be integrated into third party sites. A third party will take them and adapt them for their own use, while giving Google access to thousands of third-party interactions and innovations built on their original API.

  • Connect employees, suppliers, and customers. Effective API management can help streamline communications within organizations and streamline mundane, repetitive work. With solutions such as single Sign On (SSO) APIs, users can log in to Office 365 using one password for multiple applications. With the help of cloud-based services like one-drive, APIs can also promote secure document sharing, editing and storage among all key stakeholders.
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