WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT APPLICATION PROGRAMMING INTERFACE (API).

 

Introduction

The acronym API stands for  Application Programming Interface. It is a very important terms that is used everywhere nowadays in developing specifically. As a developer, you must have heard about the term “API” from a team member while developing a project or heard of it from a friend. But, the major question here is “what exactly is that API?”. worry no more, this article aimed at to give an introduction to the meaning of API in a very simplest way. For easy understanding, I have decided to break this write-up into sub- topics which include:

Understanding API from the conceptual point of view

To understand Application Programming Interface from the conceptual point of view, we need you understand what is an interface. To give an analogy of what interface means and what API will stands, consider having radio  with two nobs one to turned to the frequency you want to listen to and the second for  increasing or reducing the volume. And you have got antenna and the internet system which allows you to get radio signals from or connect to different stations and then you can play. This is the system that works internally for example if you want to adjust volume it will have an internal mechanism that will work to ensure volume adjustment internally. But from the listeners perspective who are listening to a music on any stations, it has got two things to which listeners can modify either to change the stations or increases or decreases the volume. As a user of a system, you are only concern with what you want to achieve from this system. From this simple analogy, as a user you only bordered with what you want without considering how the system work internally. This system provide simple interface to you so that you can achieve to task and abstract the internal mechanisms within itself. So, we can say that this system provide two APIs, the nob for turning to the frequency of any station of your choice and the other one for increasing or decreasing the volume. Hence, from the conceptual point of view, API can now be describe as a simple means that the system provide to the users to access the resources of the system to achieve his/her tasks without bordering about the internal mechanisms of the system or the complexity of the system because the internal mechanism is independent from the users.

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Understanding API from a development point of view

Let us now understand the meaning of API from the perspective of developer the real concept in which it has actually been used. So, we can categorize where API has been used as

l  Software Library and framework

l  Remote APIs

l  Operating system

l  Web APIs

Software Library and framework

From this category, API can be seen as something you developed by providing various methods. For example,  imagine you have created a software library and uploaded it to the GitHub or other open source platform for others to use in their  project and if a user used you software library with the method you have created without bordering the code or library from where the service came from, it is call API.

From this perspective API simply means the objects and methods exposed by a framework which can be consumed and used by the user of the framework to achieve a specific task.

Operating System

API from the concept of operating system means operating system provides various methods by which one can access system resources through the interface between application and operating system. For example, you want to perform file opening function all what you need to do is tho pass the path of the file to the operating system and it will do the remaining actions for you to edit or write to the file without bordering you with the way it is being done. You need no to worry about the internal working that involved in opening the file from the file storage. Hence, the methods that provided by the OS to interact with the system resources to carried out this function is APIs.

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Remote APIS

API can also be categorize from this perspective as the means on how you are trying to access the resources. This means that  suppose you have got a database somewhere in the cloud and you are accessing the database and you are making something using such a data such that the database is providing that API which you can access remotely. For example, you are writing application in java; java provide a means for database connectivity. As a developer, as a developer, you can query the different types of databases using the same methods provided by database connectivity using the uniform methods which will work on both regardless of the differences in the types of the databases. That  API provided by the java is able to accessing multiple databases and we are not concerned about how it delivered that but we are only concerned about if I used this method I will get this result.

 

  1. Web APIs

Most of the time, APIs are categorized from the perspective of web APIs and this is the most context from which people discussed a lot about APIs. Web API is a programming interface or application type that provides communication or interaction between software applications. It is often used as a means to provide an interface for web sites and clients applications to have data access. Web APIs can be used to access data from a database and save data back to the database. Web APIs came in to picture when an interface is there between an enterprise and application. This means, you have got your server somewhere and it is providing certain services such as streaming for video, accessing social network etc, so that enterprise provide various APIs so that you can interact with those services. Web API provides URLs for  API users to accessing the resources. It  provides HTTP protocol to be used and the desired response in return.

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  1. Understanding APIs from Web Development point of view

This is the most common scenario in which APIs are used. Basically, we create a  website and provides a means to the clients to be able to access the website. Suppose you have a company and you have got a list of products and for users to use you APIs, you need to provide an HTTP request because you are having a remote service you have to use HTTP protocol which can be use to access it always. Using HTTP, you have to provide an end point URL which can be use by the end users which can access your services. So, you may be having a service running in you backend, you need to expose one method of the infrastructures which can be access by the url.

 

Benefits of using API

There are too many benefits to count for the use of APIs. The following are some of the benefits

l  Integration with internal and external system

Adding or enhancing functionality of internal and external system

Adding or enhancing functionality for customers

Speeding up the process of software and system development

Operational Cost reduction

Software Development cost reduction

Improving  both software and system testing

Enabling mobile application development

Conclusion

In this article, we have leaned a lot of things about APIs. We learned the meaning of APIs from the conceptual point of view and also saw how the developer show understand the concept of API. We also learnd the meaning of API from the perspective of web development as well as the types of APIs and the benefits of using APIs.

I hope you have understood the API means and how different it is being used in the development environment.


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