APIs and why they matter

What are APIs and why they matter?

Application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact.  You can also think about APIs as user interfaces, with one big difference: the users. User interfaces show how users communicate with the software. APIs apply the same concept, seeing software applications as a user. Now you probably understand the importance of APIs and why they matter that much in the developer’s world.

Three basic concepts you should know in order to understand what’s API:

  • Application – functions put into operation;
  • Programming -coded instructions for a specific task;
  • Interface – objects’ interaction with the outside world.

We use APIs every time we use a desktop or laptop. APIs are what makes it possible to move information between programs. APIs do all this by “exposing” some of the program’s internal functions to the outside world, thus sharing data and taking actions on one another’s behalf.

That means, an API is a software-to-software interface, not a user interface. As a user, we only see one interface, but behind the scenes, many applications are working together using APIs.

APIs are a code format which enables businesses to provide a simple representation of components of their IT infrastructure, like data set or service functionalities, in a way they can be integrated into other internal or external IT system architectures. In one of our previous articles, we explained how relational databases work. Later in this article we are going to describe the process of how APIs help web based databases be more effective and more efficient.

Looking at the bigger picture, APIs  connect business processes, services, data and content to channel partners. Companies that release their APIs often do so as a part of a larger software development kit (SDK) that includes the API, programming tools and other instructional documents to make the developer’s job easier. An application is useless if (future) developers don’t understand it.

Most operating environments, such as MS-Windows, provide APIs allowing programmers to write consistent applications with the operating environment. Today, APIs are also specified by websites.  Third-party software developers use Web APIs to create software solutions for end-users, also known as mobile apps.

APIs and web based databases

Web based database shares information you are willing to make public. There are two types of business applications:

  1. Front-line business application (customer services)
  2. Back-line business applications (manufacturing).

Web APIs are the interfaces creating the interaction between an enterprise and the applications that use its assets. APIs are an architectural approach providing programmable interfaces to different applications serving different types of consumers. 

When used in the context of web development, an API is typically defined as a set of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) request messages and response messages in Extensible Markup Language (XML) or JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format.

The process of web based database applications, follows these seven steps:

  1. The Web browser requests a page from the Web server.
  2. The Web server passes the request to the Web-to-database-middleware using CGI or API.
  3. The Web-to-database-middleware uses ODBC to connect to the database.
  4. The middleware receives the query result and creates the HTML formatted page.
  5. The Web-to-database-middleware sends the page back to the Web server, using the Web server interface (CGI or API) transmission standard.
  6. The Web server sends the page to the browser.
  7. The HTML output is displayed on the client computer’s Web server.

The database is not particularly useful unless it has a user-friendly application, capable of handling information and supportive of transactions.

Here are some client side extensions you should use:

A word on API and customer experience

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can also heighten brand awareness, increase intelligence about customers and improve customer service and customer engagement. Here’s how:

  • Help gather data;
  • Give the opportunity to meet customers where they are;
  • Take short time to develop an idea into a “living” program;
  • Provide the capability to thrill consumers, facilitate partnerships, and empower employees;
  • Make customers feel special in inspired new ways.

APIs give you access to data you don’t own and leverage this data to improve customer relationships and satisfy their needs better than the competition does.

Marketers understand that customers want to feel known, welcomed, appreciated, thanked, understood, and above all, unique. APIs are what helps them achieve that.


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