Carrying on with our goal to break through the jargon of this magical technological (oxymoron, perhaps?) age, this short article is going to take a look at the API. What it is, what it does, and why it’s important.
That’s right, another acronym.
A.P.I = Application Programme Interface
Now, before you glaze over in the face of such phraseology, try to hang on in there with us. You see, it might sound like jargon for jargon’s sake but the API is a really rather cool innovation in digital technology. And pretty much at the heart of how the internet has evolved from a static series of web pages to the immersive, interactive and social tool that permeates into virtually every aspect of our lives.
For if the internet has revolutionised the human existence in ways the wheel could only have dreamed about, then the API is a fundamental tool in its ascension.
I know – heavy stuff, right?
What an API does
In a sense, the API is the means by which programmes and apps talk to each other. The means by which programmes share information.
Why is this important?
Well, it allows different applications to use the information delivered on major web platforms in order to provide a service or some kind of add-on function.
APIs are what makes it possible for Google Maps or Facebook to be integrated into different websites, for instance.
They’re a way for these giant web service providers to give permission to App developers to link into their programmes in order to share or in some way use the data stored on their server. As the owner of a business website, this might be as simple as allowing visitors to find your address via Google Maps.
Powering Social Media
Take a look at the top or bottom of this article and you’ll see buttons to allow you to share this article on a range of different platforms.
Now, while that might be a shameless plea to get you to share, the point is this:
It’s the various APIs of these platforms that allows this to be possible.
Sharing content across social media channels has become a fundamental aspect to marketing a business, service, product or person. It’s how we engage, how we generate interaction with clients, colleagues and fellow professionals. It’s the way we foster our reputations as authorities and reliable go-to guys in our chosen areas of expertise.
And, as much as anything else, it’s the way we tend to find out about what’s going on in our industry and the world in general.
The death of a celebrity, the latest Brexit news or a new innovation in your industry generally finds its way onto news feeds and profile pages for others to read and share onwards.
A mass movement and sharing of data, news and other information – made possible by the API that links the platforms together.
Indeed, the API has been a critical development in the overall evolution of the internet and the socially driven nature it has become. Especially as we move towards an ever more mobile incarnation. Check out the apps on your phone, tablet and computer.
Whether a new game, service or website, we’re encouraged to sign up not by inputting our details into a new form – but by pressing a button to use our profile on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or some other network.
The social media outlets use APIs to let these sites piggyback their platforms and utilise their data.
Because it works as a two-way stream, mutually beneficial to all concerned.
We come back to the idea of the API acting as a means for systems to talk. And by talking, they are sharing data that both can use to their advantage.
Sign up for TripAdvisor with your Facebook page and what happens?
TripAdvisor has access to your profile – providing it with instant access to your likes, dislikes and things such as your travel or eating habits. Enabling it to contextualise its content to the things you’re more likely to have an interest in.
While further integrating your ‘interests’ into your Facebook profile.
APIs are powerful components in the digital arena. They provide users with access to online services, enable us to easily share information and are the catalyst for much of the data that we shift between platforms in our daily lives.