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Application Programming Interface: API Development 101

Application programming interface or API is a way to integrate services within your company or web applications without permanent system integrations needed. The API market will expand dramatically over the next few years.

API Basic Explanation

Most people reading this know what an API is. For those who need a refresher or new way to explain it to other CXOs, you can use the restaurant example. The patron is one program; the kitchen is the second program. The menu is the message you need to get to the kitchen. The waiter is the API that delivers the request to the kitchen.

Chart showing basic API function.

Typical Example of API Use

Social media is one of the best examples of API use and how they work. The “Share to Facebook” or “Share to Twitter” button on a blog or website triggers an API to post the media on your profile. The blog talks to Facebook through the API and manipulates the data to publish it under your profile.

Types of APIs

There are four main types of API to use depending on your needs. Manufacturing ERP systems may need a different API then a freemium SaaS application for entertainment locations. Partnering with an experienced company can make requirements and planning easier.

Internal API

Internal API are private APIs. These are used within an organization to connect internal systems and departments. Internal API development and use will help collaboration, data transfers, and operational efficiency. Internal API allows software written with different technologies to communicate with ease.

Examples of internal API would be mobile apps connecting sales to the companies internal CRM. Supply chain software connects with an MRP system to determine when to order more inventory. Any business or operational function connecting internal systems.

Partner API

Partner API allows external use through licenses or through purchasing rights to use the API. Many businesses benefit from partner API for core business functions and as a commercial option for consumers. Examples of partner API would be Amazon’s AWS, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft, etc. 

Open API

Open API is public APIs without restrictions for access. These APIs can be used by anyone regardless of licenses. One great example of Open API is the social media example. Sharing to a profile, sharing your location, messenger, etc. allow access to the public and are global.  

Composite API

Composite API uses multiple APIs to run processes simultaneously. Composite API allows for faster, more efficient processing from software to software. Composite API improves web listeners for HTTP requests for enhanced communications. 

What are Web Services

Web services are a type of API used for communications from network to a network using sets of protocols and standards. The main types of web services are below.

REST

Representational State Transfer. Unlike SOAP, REST is an architecture instead of a protocol. REST uses less bandwidth. REST utilizes XML as well as plain text, HTML, and JSON for requests. REST was a direct response to SOAP to help alleviate issues with slow load times due to less bandwidth use. Another REST benefit is caching. To reduce requests, REST can cache frequent data requests to speed up processes even more.

GraphQL

GraphQL is the newest API created by Facebook and released the open-source in 2015. GraphQL uses query language and schema allowing you to define the parameters of the data you need and eliminating under and over fetching data. GraphQl helps alleviate the n+1 problem with other web services. One downfall is the complexity of GraphQL.

SOAP

Simple Object Access Protocol. SOAP was the big web service before REST. SOAP allows apps built on different languages to communicate. SOAP uses XML over HTTP through networks but can get used over other platforms. SOAP utilizes WSDL, and the SOAP endpoint uses a URL. SOAP is an operating system independent API, as well. 

SOAP utilizes more bandwidth. SOAP has strict security features, and strict rules for messages make SOAP a better choice for enterprise use. SOAP is legacy and while it can be supported, development isn’t recommended.

RPC

Remote procedure calls are the most straightforward and earliest forms of APIs. RPC would call a function or block of code remotely and becomes an API when HTTP gets used. The two main RPC used are XML-RPC and JSON-RPC. 

RPC is an action-based API. RPC falls short to REST due to the inability to perform CRUD actions between systems. RPC also lacks architecture being action-based. RPC is another legacy technology and can be seen in systems like AS400.

Conclusion

Using API in your company can help increase productivity and revenue through inter-organization communications or as a commerce solution to your apps. Every company should consider how they can utilize API in its software and app strategies.

To learn more about API development, email, or call us today at 315-738-6016. We are a software staff augmentation company working with both commercial and government clients. Our specialties include custom software and API development, AWS cloud computing, blockchain, and SaaS development. We work with tech companies, finance and insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies, helping build software projects with 100% US-based software developers on-demand.