Application Programming Interface (API) is a popular term in software development. What does it stand for, why do you need to build it for your software, and how do you do it right? Below are the basic concepts you need to learn before getting started with your API development.
- What is an API?
- Reasons to Build an API
- What are the Different Types of APIs?
- What Data Formats Does an API Support?
- What are API Protocols?
- How to Build Your Own API
What is an API?
An API is a piece of software code that enables other developers to reuse it in their apps and exchange data with your software. A simple API example is Google Maps API. When a business owner wants a map on their website or an app to display their location to customers, they can use Google Maps API and integrate their platform with Google’s service. Developers don’t need to build mapping features from scratch. Instead, they can just reuse Google Maps code.
Opportunities to integrate APIs go beyond free code sharing though. So, read on to learn about why you should create your own API.
Reasons to Build an API
There are two main reasons to create an API for your software.
- Expand your product to a new platform more quickly. The main feature of any API is its reusability. When you need to expand your product to a new platform, you won’t need to build an app from scratch because you can reuse an already developed API and customize it according to the platform requirements. It provides you with cutting-edge technology and saves you time and effort.
- Adding an income stream. Since not all APIs are shared for free, your API may become another source of income for you if when distributed commercially. APIs are also great for letting your potential customers try your product. They integrate your API into their workflow to find out how it works. That encourages users to move to a full-fledged subscription. APIs are often distributed as demo-versions of Software as a Service (SaaS) products, but they may also work as a standalone product. The opportunity to sell your API depends on the type of API you develop.
What are the Different Types of APIs?
There are three API types:
- Private: In this case, APIs are created by the organization owning the software for internal use. These APIs are used by the company’s employees to integrate existing solutions and/or build new applications powered by an API.
- Partner: These types of APIs are shared with trusted partners to streamline data exchange between the companies.
- Public: These APIs can be open or commercial. They are developed for third-party programmers or end users. Anybody may use open APIs for free, and they have public access to the documentation for developers. Commercial APIs are distributed for a fee; often, there is a free demo version to invite trial.
What Data Formats Does an API Support?
To make two pieces of software interact and exchange data, you need a single data format so the two computers can understand each other via an API. There are two basic data formats that APIs support.
- XML. It is one of the oldest data formats still used for API data standardization. It allows for organizing data in logical blocks called nodes which have subnodes. That’s why XML requires much more code text compared to JSON.
What are API Protocols?
An API protocol is a set of rules for data exchange or calls. Below are the various API protocol types.
- Remote Procedure Call (RPC). This protocol is used in client-server applications to enable communication. When the client sends a request, it is processed by the API, and it returns a response from the server.
- Service Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Within this protocol, data exchange occurs in XML format. It is best suited for enterprise-level solutions when a high level of data security is essential.
- Representational State Transfer (REST). The most popular data transfer protocol in API development supports not only XML and JSON but also HTML and YAML. Within this protocol, each source is assigned a specific URL, and it is possible to access it by providing URL data. That is the way the World Wide Web works.
- GraphQL. It is an API query language used when there is a need to obtain data from multiple sources.
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How to Build Your Own API
- Choose your architectural style. The architectural style of your API is determined by the protocol it follows. Most API developers choose RESTful API. However, some specific use-cases may make other options more appropriate.
- Implement 4-level security. There are four pillars of future API security - Authentication, Authorization, Federation, and Delegation. Each of the points defines the users that may interact with the API and the ways they can interact with them.
- Draw up your API documentation. API documentation is the guide for developers on how to use your API. It should be clear and answer all possible questions.
- Perform a lot of testing. Testing your API is as important as testing the full-fledged software product. Make sure that the API works according to the specified protocol. It is done with the help of function API tests, performance, and security testing.
Creating an API isn’t as challenging as creating a full-fledged software solution; however, a technical background is still essential to make your API work. Our tech specialists can assist you with your API development, so feel free to get in touch with us for help!