What is an API and why do we use them
Jun 2, 2023

What is an API and why do we use them

You might have heard the word API (Application Programming Interface) before and wondered what it is. But did anyone to tell you what it was and how you could use them?

APIs are the backbone behind connecting different applications or services together. Your website can use Facebook to share information. Or even Google to get a better understanding of who the customers are.

APIs also allow developers to build new apps, applications, and integrations directly into like software Customer Data Platforms (CDP) without having access to large teams of development resources

An API is a lightweight piece of code that extends the functionality of your product

In the world of technology, there are two ways to extend functionality:

  • you can write more code to add more features on top of what already exists, called application programming interfaces (APIs). The API is a lightweight piece of code that extends the functionality of your product or application, without adding additional technology. APIs are popular for their ease of use and access; they enable you to easily integrate another system with a simple click.

  • or you can use existing code and modify it to provide a similar service, called webhooks (web notifications). Webhooks work through existing functionality so that a function can be performed without any extra coding. What’s great about webhooks is that they’re easy enough for non-tech folks who want to make adjustments. But they are hard enough for programmers and developers who want their changes to be reflected immediately in the system. You may have heard of APIs and webhooks in other contexts, like in social media applications or content management systems (CMS). But hopefully, this guide has expanded your understanding by giving you an idea of how APIs work. As well as what makes them such valuable tools.

The acronym API stands for Application Programming Interface

To understand what an API is, let’s first talk about the acronym. The “A” stands for application and the “I” stands for the interface. So, what does that mean?

Simply put, an API is a way to expose data and functionality to other applications. You may have heard of the term webhooks before, but did you know they’re a type of API? For example, if you needed to integrate with a third-party application that doesn’t enable its own webhooks (like Google Analytics). you could use APIs instead.

APIs are designed as building blocks. So that many different pieces of software can work together and interact with each other.

As mentioned earlier, APIs are designed to be building blocks. Let’s think of an API as a toolbox. You can use a hammer to pound in a nail, but you can also use it to open beer bottles. The toolbox comes with many different tools that allow you to do different things. For example, it might come with a wrench that you can use to tighten screws.

But since there are so many APIs out there, how do we make sure that they all follow the same rules so that they can all work together? We need some kind of set of instructions on how each API should behave. As well as what is expected from each API when it communicates with other APIs and applications. That way, if one developer wants their program (the app) to communicate with your API (the toolbox). Then they’ll know exactly what is needed for the communication to happen. And for them to get the information or data they need back from your API.

That’s where we start talking about protocols like RESTful APIs (we’re going over this one because it is the most popular). When developers follow these standards and create an application using RESTful protocols. Other developers create their own applications following these same standards. Then those applications will be able to talk together via their APIs!

There are three major types of APIs: Private, Partner, and Public.

  • Private APIs are used only inside an organization and are not accessible by outside parties.
  • Partner APIs are similar to Private APIs but are shared between a group of organizations.
  • Public APIs are available to the public, allowing anyone to access them.

Private APIs are shared within one organization.

  • Private APIs are shared within one organization. They may be used by multiple teams, but they are not exposed to the public.
  • Private APIs are often used to expose data from disparate sources. Every team does not have to build their own database for each project. This allows them to use the same data for different purposes and projects. For example, a company could have an internal private API that exposes sales data that is updated hourly. Another team could make an internal app that allows employees to see how many sales they’ve made in a day or week.
  • Private APIs can also be used to connect different systems in your organization. They let your software engineers use the same framework and set of tools across all of their projects.

Partner APIs can be shared between a group of organizations.

Partner APIs are available to a select group of people. For example, if you wanted to share information about your company with a specific group of partners and enable them to order your products or services through a custom-built app or website, you could use this type of API. You might also use it if you wanted to set up an easy way for the public to access data on your website. But maybe only under specific conditions (e.g., only after they’ve created an account with you).

Public APIs are made for the public to use.

You’ll often hear the phrase “public API,” which means that anyone can access it in order to build their own applications. For instance, some companies have a public API for their software developers. The developers can use this API to build software that adds a new feature or improves an interface by using the data from your account.

You need to be careful while using public APIs because they are usually limited in functionality. For example, let’s say you want to get information about your account through a public API. The public API might only allow you to read data and not add anything new or delete something; this ensures that no one tries to mess with other people’s accounts – because that would be a bad thing!

This is just one example where restrictions can be placed on what type of things users can do when accessing an application programming interface (API).

Most commonly, companies will extend the functionality of their products by creating an API.

To really understand what an API is and how it can help you, let’s take a look at an example of a real-world API.

Most commonly, companies will extend the functionality of their products by creating an API. For example, an e-commerce platform might create an API to help other apps list their products on their marketplace. Or perhaps a social media website might create an API for other developers to build new tools for their service.

Your business can use APIs in the same way that these apps do. You can use them to get information from your partners’ websites. You don’t need to build any kind of connection with a partner or go through any complex setup processes. All you need is the partner’s API key (a string of letters and numbers that identifies you as a user) and some basic coding experience. You can create your own software product. And you will be able to access data from another company’s website or application in order to add functionality to your own product.

For instance, if you want to display news articles from another site on your app or website, you could use New York Times’s popular Top Stories API. This is just one example of how APIs can be used—there are thousands more out there!

APIs connect systems together to provide value to their customers

APIs connect systems together to provide value to their customers. They allow companies to extend their products, and services and create new revenue streams. Think of APIs as a way to share data or functionality between systems. APIs are all around us—they power our digital world.

This is how a Customer Data Platform like Custimy.io connects your data across different tools, platforms, and websites.
APIs play a key role in creating a unified view of your customer, marketing, and product data. Having this unified view of each customer enables your business to have a full understanding of how you are performing.

In other words, a CDP can use APIs to break your data silos and give you the infrastructure to become truly data-driven without having to hire a team of scientists to make it happen for you.