What is an API? How it Works, Benefits, and Functions – When you are learning coding or related to websites, of course you will meet the term API. But what exactly is an API? What are the benefits of the API and also the features it has?
Not to mention there are other terms related to API, namely Web API. In this article, let’s find out more about what an API is through some of the discussions below.
- What is an API?
- Types of APIs and Main Functions of API
- API Benefits
- API Architecture
- How the API Works
- What is the Web API?
What is an API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface, this API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to be connected. One example of a website/application that uses an API is Facebook.
API has an important role in connecting different applications, whether they are on the same platform or different platforms.
To make it more understandable, let’s take an example from our daily activities. Try to imagine sitting in a restaurant with many menu choices that you can order.
In the restaurant, there is a kitchen that we call part of the “system” for preparing your order. Now all you need is someone who can communicate with the kitchen and bring the food to your table.
Now, let’s assume that this server is an API, the server is a messenger or API that is ready to accept requests from your order and notify the system (kitchen) to prepare the order.
Then the waiter who acts as this API responds to your table, in this case in the form of food.
Types of APIs and Main Functions of API
There are many types of APIs nowadays. But in general, there are four main types of APIs, what are they? Check below:
1. Open API
This type of API can be used publicly, meaning that there are no restrictions on accessing this API because it is provided by the public. This type of API is very easy to use because you only need to register first or you can use it directly in the application. An example of an Open API is Google Maps, using the Google Maps API.
2. Partner API
Unlike the open API, the Partner API requires a special license if you want to use it because this type of API is not publicly available. Partner API is only used for public purposes but its use is only for certain parties.
How to use it is the same as open API, you only need to first register with the API provider and then can use it according to the agreement. An example of this type of API is the Pinterest API.
3. Internal API
This API is only used for certain/personal purposes, usually, those who use this API are only internal systems and are designed to be used exclusively within the company. If it is used by other people, it must also be bound by an agreement between the API provider and its users.
4. Composite API
This type of API is an API that stores data from various servers. The Composite API allows users to get access to various types of data that are only accessed once.
With the right utilization strategy, the API function can be maximized and can help you as a developer in developing the system. A more detailed discussion of the benefits of the API can be seen below:
1. More Efficient System Development
If you add APIs to the system you are designing, the system development process becomes faster and more efficient. Because if you need a certain feature, you just need to take the API Key needed to develop that feature.
After you get the API, the next step is just to install it into the system code that you are developing and new features as needed.
It is not clear that this API is very useful in helping programmers work, so they no longer do coding from scratch to create certain features that can still use the API.
2. Integrated Data
When you want to connect applications, of course, you will need data that is well integrated.
The API can do this, we take the example of the API on a website that you want to display on Instagram as a portfolio. Did you know that the API from Instagram can integrate data from Instagram accounts to the web so that you can display feeds from Instagram?
When someone opens the website page and likes the Instagram web upload, the data will be recorded on Instagram.
Another API example is the Whatsapp Business API. The advantages of the Whatsapp Business API are many, which in essence is that it can improve your customer experience online.
Cool isn’t it? Its use has also now penetrated the travel agency web, where by using the API the bureaus can display flight schedule information on their website.
3. Reduced Server Load
If you implement the API into the system, then you no longer need to store all that data on your server. Now if using the API, you can simply request the API to get the latest data from the origin server.
So that the server load will be reduced and your server will not be down again due to excessive load.
4. Can Customize Features Easily
When you’re developing a system, you’ll want to add some features that users need. But the app won’t finish by the deadline if you build the feature from scratch.
Therefore, the API can help in creating the features needed by the system without having to code from scratch, your job is only to find the API Key of the features you need.
For example, in a website system, you want to add Google Maps or Facebook login on the website. Then you can simply use the API Key, then these two features can be easily installed on your website system.
Similar to buildings, API technology also has an architecture that forms a foundation that can provide defense support and convenience for its users. The API has three types of architecture that are often used today, including:
1. Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
RPC is a technology that is used with the aim of helping the performance of server-side and client-side systems for both communication and the concept of RPC is much simpler.
There are two types of RPC, namely XML-RPC and JSON-RPC, both of which are different from the data transfer medium. XML-RPC media uses is XML while JSON-RPC uses JSON media which has the same function, which is to move data that is much lighter.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer which is quite popular today because of its advantages, namely that it does not require long coding during the development process.
This type of API has data in the form of JSON, where the advantage is in terms of application performance which is much lighter.
3. Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)
The next type of API architecture is SOAP where the data form uses XML so that the data is stored in the form of a document.
How the API Works
If you want to get to know the API more deeply then don’t miss the discussion about how the API works.
The workings of the Application Programming Interface (API) involve various components including the server, request, and response. A more detailed discussion is as follows:
1. API Access Stage
This stage is usually carried out by developers using the API. Developers who use this API usually already know the goals of the service as well as the information that can be obtained.
For example, in developing a product for e-commerce in ordering train tickets, e-commerce requires access to available data from the service provider, namely the Indonesian Railways company.
2. Request Data to Server
After passing the API access stage, the next step is to request data from the service provider server. If the API address matches then a request for information can occur.
3. Server Sends Response
The follow-up to the second step above is that the server sends a response to the user. In this case, it is the information that is accessed, for example, a customer wants to see the number of seats available including the number and time of departure.
4. Response Acceptable Application/System
After passing the three steps above, the result is the response received by the application. The results of the data obtained will be managed by an algorithm from the internal code, for example, there is a price discount or a filter feature for sorting prices and so on.
To be clearer consider the illustration of how the API works below.
Now you understand what an API is, right? Now we continue the discussion on the Web API, see more below!
What is the Web API?
Web API is an API for a web that can be used in HTTP protocol. Web API is a concept of existing web technologies, you can build web APIs using today’s popular technologies such as Java, .NET, and so on.
So basically the Web API is a framework that has the function to expose data and services to different devices. Web API also has several advantages that can be utilized, including the following:
- Business benefits: Web API is an open-source tool, so it can improve business needs and can maintain incoming business data consistently. Web API is also easy in terms of maintenance, so it does not require a lot of budget for maintenance.
- Benefit from the technical side: Web APIs have the benefit of the technical side where the configuration provided is not complicated. So that when you are going to integrate two different applications, you don’t have to bother connecting them manually.
The API can also provide updated information so that work becomes faster and more effective. In terms of architecture, it is also very light, ideal for devices with limited bandwidth.
All types of websites can use the API or Web API according to their needs. So it’s not surprising that currently, APIs are increasingly popular, even thanks to APIs, many types of digital applications and services have been born.