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Have you ever wondered how a Google map, or a YouTube video shows up on a third party website?
The answer is through the magic of APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces.
Well maybe it’s not magic, just programming. Some really cool programming.
APIs are the reason many of the programs we use can connect; allowing us to have the seamless online user experience we have all come to expect.
In non-technical terms an API allows one piece of software to “talk” to another.
Think of an API as the waiter at your favourite restaurant. You’ve seen the specials but still ordered your favourite dish. You need the waiter to communicate your order from you, at your table, to the kitchen where the food is made.
The same is true with an API.
The Waiter (the API) takes your order (the request) from your table to the kitchen (the system) and returns with your food (the response).
The most commonly used API is a REpresentational State Transfer or REST API for short.
Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all use them to allow third parties to access their systems.
Usually a REST API works pretty much the same way a website works, you make a call from a client to a server and you get data back. For example, our ‘Contact’ page makes a call to Google Map’s API, so you can find our Head Office at The Rock.
Now you might be wondering, “what types of requests can I make using a REST API?”
Here are the standard types of requests:
Get - is a method to read or retrieve data from a system (our Google Maps example)
Post - is a method to create new data in a system
Put - is a method to update/replace existing data in a system
Patch - is a method to update/modify existing data in a system
Delete - is a method to delete data in a system
These methods allow developers to connect their system with other systems making your users experience more seamless.
Airline booking websites like Expedia and Travelocity use APIs to get prices of flights from multiple airlines and allow you to book flights. Price comparison websites use APIs in a similar way. Credit card processing companies use APIs to process payments from different lenders.
We take this connectivity for granted, and all of these applications have made our lives easier.
The question is, how will you use APIs to make your business more efficient or provide a better user experience? Get in touch with us today for an informal chat.