API Introduction for Beginners, and How it's Used Everyday and Everywhere

Wednesday August 18

Have you heard the term ‘API’ before clicking this article? From your friends, social media or you just learned to program and this term gets mentioned a lot? If you have, it is because API is literally everywhere, it’s in your mobile application, social media websites, to anything that can exchange data online. 

That’s why you should at least know what an API is and how it functions because we're going to discuss those today with extra topics like why API is useful and relevant examples from today. 

A. What is API

Application Programming Interfaces (API) can be described as an intermediary software that allows programs to communicate with each other. APIs provide a set of rules and tools for the developer to make the communication consistent and precise.

APIs also allow companies, businesses or developers to open up their data, services and capability to other parties more easily, securely and well documented. 

B. How APIs Works

Let’s imagine an API as a menu in a restaurant. In order to get served, you (a program) have to order (make a request) through the menu (API) provided by the restaurant (another program/server). After you order from the menu, the restaurant’s kitchen will do the rest of the work, and then your dishes are served.

You don’t know how your dishes are prepared because you don’t have to, you will get what you order. That’s one of the advantages of APIs, efficiency.

The analogy is not perfect, but this analogy encapsulates how an API works as an intermediary between a program that makes a request to another program and how your request gets a response because the correct rules and tools are correct.

C. Why APIs?

While there are many types of API for many different goals, there are a few general reasons why we want APIs and how APIs can be useful.

  • Collaboration Tool

Many modern APIs enable you to collaborate between companies regarding data and services for the benefit of both parties. The benefits of these collaborations can range from just exchanges of information to the implementation of others' technology in one application.

This is one of the most important reasons why APIs are important. Without the collaboration of APIs, most applications would just be stuck, can’t have and share data. Imagine that in this current day and age.

  • Safety and Security

When APIs act as an intermediary it also grants another security layer when exchanging data, because there are protocols and rules that have to be followed, for example, APIs authentication, encryption, and monitoring.

But this has to be implemented manually, the security layer APIs provide won’t mean anything if the security implementation is incorrect. More about APIs security later.

  • Efficiency

This is a prominent reason why when you’re building an application APIs are used everywhere from backend, frontend, security to its features, it is to save time, effort, and money.

When the users need a faster way to log in you implement social media login APIs when the users need GPS data you implement Google Maps APIs, even when the developer needs feedback there are APIs for surveys. 

As a popular saying goes, ‘Don’t reinvent the wheel’.

  • Innovation

Another great thing about APIs is their flexibility for innovation. Combining multiple data or services to get new features is now easier with the help of APIs, this will help businesses to innovate faster and better than before.

Even better if your business is able to open your own APIs for others that can attract collaboration for new products/services, that definitely will be beneficial for both parties.

  • Better Customer Experiences 

Most APIs in software are invisible to many customers, but the ones who use APIs correctly are able to interact and act accordingly to the customer’s needs because the software is easy to take control of their own journey.

One example is Artificial Intelligence APIs, with AI integrated into your software. Many things are now possible, for example, Chatbot, recommendation system, face or voice recognition, and other things you can imagine that will help their journey and experiences.

D. APIs Examples 

With tens of thousands of apps, companies, startups, and amazing individuals, Indonesia also provided a lot of APIs for public or private uses. Here are a few popular API examples from Indonesia:

  • Tokopedia.com API

One of the biggest e-commerce platforms in Indonesia provided an API for the integration of various Tokopedia systems for sellers to manage their products and shops from their own interfaces. 

  • Midtrans

A payment gateway that allows integration of various payment methods from e-money, bank, to minimarket to your own application.

  • Kawalcorona API

Public API for checking various COVID19 data from global to different regions in Indonesia. 

  • Traveloka API

One of Indonesia’s top travel industry companies, Traveloka API provides integration of real-time tracking, booking, reschedule, and many more. 

  • Satu Data Indonesia API

This API provides data from various government institutions, ministries of Indonesia, and local governments to monitor and create open government data.

E. APIs Are The Core

Although invisible to many of us, APIs are the core of our digital life, without them, we won’t be able to enjoy our connected and rich digital life. From our daily life to global scale business, every time we take advantage of APIs, it will give us back more value, innovation, and quality for now or for the upcoming future.

Our team at Smooets also provides you with the best usage of APIs for your project, learn more about our finished projects here.