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What is an API, how it Works and What are its Importance?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is one of those acronyms which is used from command line tools to enterprise Java Code. If you want to write every single line of code from scratch then that is different thing otherwise you are going to be interacting with external software components, each with its own API. Even if you write something entirely from scratch, a well-designed software application will have internal APIs to help organize code and make components more reusable.

During the software development process, we may need different APIs. An API is a specification of possible interactions with a software component. For example, take the example of a car. Assume car to be a software component then its API would include information about its ability to accelerate, brake and playing music from DVD player. It gives information about how to accelerate i.e. by putting your foot on the pedal and pushing it. The what and how information comes together in the API definition, which is abstracted and separate from the car itself.

In simple words, an API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other i.e. An API is the messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you are requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you. An API defines functionalities which are independent of their respective implementations, which allows those implementations and definitions to vary without compromising each other. That means a good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing the building blocks.
As we said, when developers create code, they don’t often start from scratch. Productivity of the developer depends on how APIs make often repeated yet complex processes highly reusable with a little bit of code. APIs speed up the development process of developers while building applications. Therefore, developers are now more productive than they were before when they had to write a lot of code from scratch. With an API they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they write a new program. Instead, they can now focus on developing the core logic of their applications while outsourcing so much of their functionality development work to APIs.

Why are APIs Important for You?

You use internet for so many of your tasks. Much of your internet experience runs on APIs.
Instead of accessing many different companies separately, you may use one software application to access all of them at the same time.

APIs Streamline Your Processes

The latest websites or apps of leading banks are excellent examples of this. In earlier time, you had to use different websites for accessing your bank account, recharging your phones, paying your bills and checking your credit score. Now the leading banks use APIs and you can do all of this work from the main banking website eliminating your efforts and need of extra time.

Apps Make Your Life Easier

If you have booked a bus to go to your destination using a mobile app then you can track the location of your bus real-time through the app itself. Such kind of app uses APIs to show when the bus is arriving to pick you up. It saves your time and makes your life easier.

Expand your Businesses with APIs

The potential of a business expands a lot if it offers an API. API can work as an important resource like the business has many others. Having an API will lead to many developers using it to build software on them hence their services can be expanded to reach so many more people.
A good example is a web application from where you can compare insurance policies of so many companies and buy the one which is the best in terms of cost and benefits.  Such kind of website connects with multiple insurance providers and compile it in one area. These companies allow the website to connect to its API, so you can buy the best policy.

Important Things You Should Know About APIs

Here are the important things you should know about APIs

  • Developers use APIs to create software and applications. Generally, it is not required for you, the end user, to directly interact with an API.
  • APIs work as a gate, allowing companies to share select information while keeping the unwanted requests out.
  • APIs can make your work a lot more smoother. For example, airlines share data about flights and prices. The travel aggregating sites can compile this data and help you to compare them at one page and select the best one.
  • Many businesses are being built on APIs. For example, so many websites and web applications use Google Account or Facebook Account for directly login into their applications. They use Google and Facebook APIs for this purpose.
  • If you are using a third party application to manage your social media, then sometimes if may happen that some of the features are not offered. It may be due to that the network itself doesn’t provide these as part of their API.

Now we will look at some of the examples of popular APIs.

The Java API

The Java API is a library of software components available out of the box to anyone who has installed the JDK. These components implement common tasks and increase productivity as programmers don’t have to start writing code from the scratch each time. One of the basic components used is something called a List, which keeps track of a list of items. The Java API defines what and how you can do with a List i.e. adding items, sorting the list, checking if an item is in the list and more. It also tells how to perform those actions. For example, if you want to sort the list then you have to specify how you want the List sorted i.e. alphabetically, numerically or with color variation etc.

The Twitter API

The Twitter API is a web based JSON API that enables developers to interact with Twitter data programmatically. Java API is included in the JDK while Twitter API is a web-based API. It can be accessed by making requests over the internet to services which Twitter hosts. With the web-based API such as Twitter, your application will send an HTTP request, similar to what a web browser does. But instead of the response being delivered as a webpage, for humans, it is actually returned in a format which the applications can easily parse. There are many formats for this purpose and Twitter uses a popular and easy to use format called JSON which is a standard output format. The basic element in Twitter is a tweet. The Twitter API tells you what you can do with tweets for example: search for tweets, create a tweet, mark favorite a tweet. It also tells you how you can perform these actions. For example, to search for tweets, you need to specify your search criteria with terms of hashtags to look for language, geolocation and more.


We have just explained what an API is, how it works, how it is important for you if you are a programmer and couple of examples of popular APIs in the development world. There is no doubt that APIs are an essential component of software design process and they are available at every level of the software stack. APIs provide a way to define and manage abstraction by telling us what we can do with software components and how we can accomplish it. There are many APIs available in the market for various purposes like Java API, Twitter API, Facebook API etc. and they provide support for efficient, smooth and effortless adoption and use.

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