The 411 on APIs: For the not so technologically inclined

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If you aren’t techy in the slightest bit you probably have not heard of APIs. If you aren’t trying to create an app or aren’t in a tech kind of study, you have no reason to know about APIs. If you are interested in knowing more anyways, allow us to explain it in simple terms. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and that is a set of definitions and protocols used to build and integrate application software. What it does is help two or more applications or computer programs to essentially ‘talk’ to each other.

APIs for dummies

Being explained what an API is in the technical jargon in normally is online can be very unhelpful. To make it easier to understand, we will use a real life example. 

Imagine that you are at a restaurant sitting at a table, there isn’t anything different about it or special. It’s a regular restaurant that provides you with a menu and has a kitchen. Think of the kitchen as the part of the ‘system’ that will prepare whatever you ask for. But how will the kitchen, or the ‘system’, know what you want? To be able to communicate with the system you need the API, in this example that is the waiter. You communicate what you want to the waiter who then in turn communicates that to the system. The system, or kitchen, then prepares what you asked for and the waiter brings the response back to you, in this example that is the food.

Different types of APIs

Now that you understand a bit more what an Application Programming Interface means and what it entails, you can learn about the different ones that exist. There are three categories that APIs can fit into. Those categories are: Private APIs, partner APIs, and public or external APIs.

Private APIs are mainly made and used by an organization. The private APIs in organizations are used internally to improve services and more. The apps made with the private APIs can also be available to the public, however the interface will still be only available for the ones working with the API publisher. Having a private Application Programming Interface authorises an organization to have full control over the usage.

Partner APIs are promoted quite openly but they are only available to available business partners who signed an agreement with the publisher of the API. Partner APIs are commonly used for software integration between two groups. Organizations who make use of this category of APIs get the advantages of additional income streams. 

Public or external APIs are typically designed for customers and any third party developers. With APIs that are public, it ensures increased brand awareness. If you want to create an app, like a football app for the Premier League for instance, you can buy a Premier league API to do so, that is an example of a public or external API.

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