We keep hearing about the “new normal” and how recent events accelerated digitization. As redundant as these narratives have become, they’re not wrong.
Communication and work have shifted immensely—and they continue to shift because they must—but the hidden benefit is that it’s forcing traditionally non-technical industries to step into a new world of digital potential.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) support the adaptability and automation all organizations are craving. They work as the middleman to help different applications understand and communicate with each other more effectively.
This allows businesses to scale and innovate faster. In addition, as low-code/no code development booms, implementing APIs between those applications no longer has technical barriers.
In the infographic below, we’ll look at where APIs are headed and how they’re evolving. But first, let’s cover some basics.
How do APIs Work?
APIs allow one application to communicate with another through commands designed by programmers (or citizen developers if you’re using a no code tool). When a specific action is taken in one application, the API communicates with the web server to send a request. Based on the commands the API has in place, the server responds in kind to take that action in the other application.
For businesses, this might mean triggering a shipment from a distribution center when someone submits their shopping cart on the e-commerce website. Or an API might tell a Twitter bot to automatically retweet a Tweet that includes a specific keyword. A car company may use APIs to send software updates or unlock car data. Banks can use APIs to track and manage digital transactions like transfers, account balances, credit card fraud, and more.
For consumers, APIs are functioning behind-the-scenes in just about everything we do digitally. For example, when you go to a travel site to check flights, a third-party API is collecting the most updated flight information from providers to inform the results. When you book the flight, the API sends the confirmation to the provider they sourced it from, completing the loop of information with autonomy. If you use Paypal to make a purchase, an API is exchanging the financial data with another application to verify the information. Then, that verification is sent back to Paypal to complete the purchase.
Types of APIs
On a base level, APIs do the same thing: they help applications communicate. However, there are different types of APIs for different types of scenarios and standards.
Some APIs communicate between an application and a database management system. Some are used in operating systems. Remote APIs interact through a communication network like the internet, although not all remote APIs are web APIs.
Web APIs are the most common type. They send requests from a web application and responses from a server using HTTP.
REST vs. SOAP vs. RPC
REST API (Representational State Transfer) is a software architectural style that uses HTTP commands to perform requests and receive responses. It’s the most popular API today, designed specifically for the Web. SOAP APIs (Simple Object Access Protocol) are defined by a standard instead of an architecture like REST. They depend on XML-based systems and programming. SOAP APIs are more secure but often more expensive, too. Organizations dealing with sensitive data, such as banks, would be more likely to use SOAP APIs. Last but not least there are RPC APIs (Remote Procedure Call). They’re the earliest and simplest form of APIs. They are programmed to execute a block of code on another server, and if they’re implemented with HTTP or AMQP, they can become a Web API.
Private vs. Shared vs. Public
APIs can be private, shared, or public. Private APIs are only used inside a specific organization that has complete control over the interface. Partner APIs support integrations with select partners or customers. They are shared as a way to add value to a service and create additional revenue streams. Then there are public APIs, which means they’re available to any third-party developer who wants to use them. Public APIs can be open and free to use, or they may require a subscription fee to access.
API Trends & Evolutions
With uses across both business and consumer applications, it’s easy to see why so many organizations rely on APIs. They make automation more efficient, make it easier to adapt to changing systems, build new capabilities, and help organizations leverage resources to empower CX and strengthen their digital assets. So, what trends are we seeing with APIs and how do their uses continue to evolve? Check out the infographic to learn.