What Are APIs?

What Are APIs?

Jan 8, 2023   ·  3 min read

API stands for "Application Programming Interface" and is one of the most important pieces of a software service.

"51% of [developers] say that more than half of their organization’s development effort is spent on APIs." - State of the API Report

What is an API?

An API stands for "Application Programming Interface" ... I have always hated hearing that because it never helped me understand what an API is. Let's talk about what an API really is.

An API does two things: It (1) combines code + data and (2) exposes it through a programmable interface. For example, think of a TV remote. If you push a set of buttons on that remote you can open up a channel or app, like Netflix, on your TV. The remote is an interface between you and the TV that is programmable, meaning you can press different buttons on the remote (e.g., program it) to input your desire and it will return your desired response on the TV. That is what an API is An intermediary between two entities, like you and the TV.

There are three kinds of APIs Web-based, operating system, and library-based.

In summary, web-based APIs are accessible over the internet, operating system APIs are specific to an operating system, and library-based APIs are based on a specific programming library or framework.

The following interactive and fun comic strip from Postman is one of the best introductions to APIs that I have ever read. Take a look!

The API-first World.pdf

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