When was the last time you used an app on your phone? I bet it was today, perhaps only minutes ago. If you issued a command on your phone then an API sent a signal to the server to modify an action command for you. Perhaps you weren’t aware of that? Read on for more information on APIs and how they function.
What is an API?
API stands for Application Program Interface. This describes how apps communicate with each other and the internet. For instance, when you open up an app on your phone and issue a command the app sends data to the server, the server then interprets that data, performs the actions, and returns the signal to the phone.
You could think of an API as a server in a restaurant. You sit at the table with a menu and you want to order something from the kitchen, but there is no way to order the food and have it delivered without a server to take the order and deliver it to the kitchen. The kitchen, or system, can then take the order, create it and deliver it to you. The server would be the API.
An API provides Security
If you’re wondering about whether this communication with the server and the internet is a secure transaction you can rest easy. As with a restaurant, there is not a complete disclosure of all the data you have available, instead, information is transferred in small packages; a bit like how you might order some food and exchange money.
Because your mobile device is never fully exposed to the server, and the server is never fully exposed to the mobile device there are very few security issues. For this reason and others, APIs are used by some of the biggest companies and corporations in the world, including Google, eBay, Amazon, and Expedia.
The Modern API
For years, an API was a very general term for an application that interacts with another application or the internet, but this is rapidly changing as API develops into more complex programs that are indispensable to cross-platform interactions. Modern API now carries out a range of functions making them extremely valuable to companies and corporations.
For instance, the modern API is developed to be user-friendly and easy to access, thus making it compatible with many small developers and startups as well as big businesses. Although APIs are primarily coded they are treated more like products nowadays, probably due to their functionality and their importance.
For years APIs were a standard function of apps and didn’t carry much weight in terms of their importance to usability, security, and functionality. All that has changed in recent times perhaps because more devices and apps are available and cross-platform interaction is now a vital part of business and recreation.
The Job of an API is to take a signal and transfer it to the server where the action can be carried out, a bit like a server taking a food order to a kitchen, then returning with it. The signal is sent back to the app modified and actioned. These transactions are more numerous today and the job of the API is more vital than ever before.