API’S IN THE MODERN ECONOMY: A BOUNTY OF LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES
If you live in the current world, and your business or career revolves around IoT “Internet of Things,” or you simply want to keep up, you’ll need to learn some code, or at least the basics of a codding language—goes without saying. A decade ago, codding was unspoken in the open market; it was a medal of honor for hood wearing introverted computer geeks who spent hours in their basements programming, looking to be the next marvel of Silicon Valley.
Currently, there’s a lot of fuss about codding, and everyone is trying to learn it. It’s evident by the thousands of tutorials stacked on YouTube. While codding is the new talk of the town, it’s not a walk in the park. Those who code have bylines that go like “Living by the code,” “This codding life,” and for a second you’d be fooled it’s an enjoyable journey, well, it not, at least for anyone who’s tried and given up. Codding, in my learning experience, was like systematically stacking endless rows of bricks, each with their unique function, and qualification. And just like Jenga, one wrong block could lead to a monumental collapse.
In comes APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Could they be a reprieve for those who dislike traditional codding?
What is an API?
API short for Application Programming Interface is a type of computing interface that works to define specific interactions between two or more software applications. The API defines the requests and calls made, how to process them, the conventions to follow, and the specific formats to be used. Furthermore, it also offers extension mechanisms allowing users to extend the existing functionalities in several different ways and degrees.
And now, for the English version….
An API is much like the Kofi Annan (God rest his soul) of web applications. It is a software intermediary that lets two applications communicate with each other. Therefore, each time you use your phone to check the weather or use an app like Instagram to send a message, you are using an API.
How Do API’s Function
Early in the year, during a client meeting with my partners at Wezacode, one of our staff suggested using an API like Zapier, as part of an automation solution. Needless to say, the focus of the meeting was disrupted. I was mind blown by the limitless possibilities that APIs delivered, and I had to go back and research why APIs were getting widespread attention from mainstream media.
APIs are a genius invention in the world of programming; the reason why there are millions of dollars to be made. They allow developers to save significant time taking advantage of the platform’s implementation, to do the dirty “brick stacking” work for them. The API in this context is like visiting a fancy restaurant with your ingredients the chef will work with…a web-based “Koroga” of sorts.
In terms of how they function, using the fancy restaurant analogy, the API, in this setting, would be a waiter. The waiter is the communication link between you and the chef. The chef can’t take your order, cook, and serve. There’s a need for something to connect you with the chef. This is where the API (waiter) comes in.
The waiter will take your order, and get the information to the chef. It will deliver the response from the kitchen in the form of food. And if the API is correctly designed, it won’t crash, bringing bad feedback.
How do APIs work in the Real World?
Let’s take the example of booking a flight. When looking for a suitable flight on a web-based application, you’ll find a menu that will have several options to choose from. You’ll have the city of departure, date, the return city and date, the flight class, baggage requests meals, and a lot more.
To successfully book a flight, you will need to have access to the airline’s website to see the seats available on the specific date you want to travel, cost, time, and route. That information is on the airline database. Depending on where you are getting the data, mobile phone, or tours and travel website, the choice of application will need to communicate with the Airline’s API, which will, in turn, give it access to its database.
Back to our restaurant analogy, the API here is like the waiter that will go back and forth, delivering data from your desired application that you are using to access the flights to the airline’s systems through the internet. The API will also take the airline’s response from your queries, and deliver it back to the application you are using (travel website or web-based application on a mobile phone). Furthermore, throughout the process of flight booking, it will facilitate the interaction between the application and the airline’s systems, from what seat you want to payment and reservation.
APIs work the same for all sorts of interactions between devices, applications, and data. They offer a standard way of accessing info from cloud applications to e-commerce applications. Apart from significantly simplifying interactions, APIs also provide a security layer for mobile phone users. The servers are never fully exposed to your handset. Instead, each entity only communicates with smaller data packets, presenting what is essential.
APIs offer limitless possibilities for businesses and the economy. And for many global movers, such as Google, Amazon, eBay, and Salesforce, APIs bring in the chunk of their revenue stream.