What is an API?
There is no shortage of marketing acronyms being thrown around the web, and one that you might be hearing more and more these days is “API”. You’re probably aware that this is something to do with computers and likely use APIs regularly, but today you’ll learn exactly ‘what is an API?’. We’ll start with the basics:
WHAT DOES API STAND FOR?
API stands for Application Programming Interface.
WHAT IS AN API?
In its simplest terms, an Application Programming Interface (API) essentially allows two different applications to “talk” to one another. It is a software intermediary that is used in everyday apps like Facebook, instant messengers or even when checking your local weather forecast.
HOW DOES AN API WORK?
Every time you use an app on your phone (such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube), the app connects to the internet and sends data to a server. This server then retrieves that data, interprets it, performs the necessary actions and sends it back to your phone. The app then interprets the data and presents you with the information you requested in a way that can be read.
Sounds a bit technical right? Well, it is, but here’s an analogy which may help you to understand it a little easier. Let’s say you want to order a coffee at your local café. There’s you (who wants a flat white) and the barista, who is standing at the coffee machine and knows how to make your flat white. But how will the barista know that’s what you want him to make? Well, that’s where the waitress at the front counter comes in. The waitress will take your coffee order and then “communicate” this to the barista so that he can make your coffee for you to enjoy! Simple, right?
So, there you go. Now you know the basic understanding of an API and how they work.