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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: