API or Application Programming Interface is the software intermediary that helps in the communication between two applications. An API is being used each time a person uses an app like Facebook, sends an instant message or checks the news on their phone.
Another major use of APIs comes in the form of transactional email API. Order confirmation, shipping confirmation, password resets or confirmations, customer feedback, etc., are examples of transactional emails. All of these are fully automated and are sent through APIs.
On the mobile phone, when one uses a mobile application, it connects to the Internet to send data and information to a server. In turn, that server retrieves that data and information while interpreting it in the process and performs adequate and necessary actions based on the interpretations and then sends the data back to the mobile phone. The mobile application’s job is to decode the information and data and present it to the client in a readable format. This is how an API functions.
Here is a real-life example to help understand APIs understand better:
Imagine going on vacation; one would have various options to choose from, like the city and type of room and dates on which one plans to vacation and the like. Suppose one is booking the room on a hotel website and has to choose a particular suite and dates of the stay. In that case, one can access their database and see if any rooms are available on those specific dates and what the room costs might be.
But, instead of using the hotel’s website for booking the stay, where one might be able to access the information directly, what if one is using an online hotel booking service like Oyo or Trivago, which collects information about hotels from a number of online and offline databases and gives a more holistic database?
In this situation, Oyo or Trivago’s service communicates with the hotel’s API. API is the interface that, when asked about the hotel’s room booking and available dates by the service chains, gives ample and adequate information from the hotel’s database and allows the customers to book the rooms according to the dates. The API then takes the hotel’s response to the customer’s request. It delivers it back to the service, which then shows the updated, relevant information, mostly in the form of a transactional email API.
Types of APIs
The four basic types of APIs are:
- An open API: This type of API gives unrestricted external access to information without the need for authentication.
- A public API: This type of API gives access to selected services from authorised developers, like an organisation’s clients or partners. This API allows for much broader use of information.
- A private API: This type of API gives access within an organisation by their developers to integrate their systems and share data within their organisation.
- An internal API: This type of API is for use within one system.
Benefits of APIs
- Efficiency: When an API is granted access, the content generated is published automatically and made available for every channel. This permits it to be distributed and shared easily and quickly.
- Application: The delivery of information and services are found to be more flexible since the APIs have access to app components.
- Availability of new information: The data generated at the government level is made available by the APIs to all the citizens and not just a select few.
- Automation of work: Machines do more work in this case, and less manual labour is required. Through APIs, agencies can update the workflows to make them more productive and quicker.
- Adaptation over time: APIs help in making service provision more flexible. The requirements keep changing over time, and APIs help in anticipating the changing conditions. When working with technology, data migration is supported better by APIs, and information is scrutinised a lot more closely.
- Integration: APIs allow the integration of content from any site or application more easily; content can be embedded far more easily now. This makes more information delivery more fluid and the user experience much more integrated.
- Personalisation: APIs allow any user or company to customise the content and services that they use the most. Personalised service is a huge advantage of APIs as it increases ease of access.
- Enforcing security and authentication: APIs play a role in enforcing safety and boosting authentication in sites by permitting access only via an authorised request for the service.