APIs 101: A Basic Guide - Saasler - Saasler

APIs 101: A Basic Guide

If you’ve ever been involved in setting up or building an integration, there is no way you haven’t had to deal with APIs before.

However, understanding the true value of APIs and how to use it in your favor can be quite tricky.

Let’s start with the standard definition:

An application programming interface (API) is a set of routine definitions, protocols, and tools for building software and applications. An API expresses a software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types, defining functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows definitions and implementations to vary without compromising the interface.

Still having some doubts?

Essentially, an API is a set of code that allows for proper management of software applications, while making it possible for two software programs to communicate and interact with one another. Furthermore, the communication aspect of APIs has become essential with the rise of social media and the growing need for connectivity, prompting the surge of more opened interfaces.

Types of APIs

Broadly, APIs can be divided into 3 overarching categories based on how they are used.

  1. Internal: This type of API (SOAP/HTTP or .NET), though not as popular in recent years, is still very common inside enterprises. As its name suggests, internal APIs are for exclusive use inside corporations, which responds to a need for better management of internal business processes, increased agility and information security.
  2. External: Also known as public or open APIs (based on REST/JSON technologies), are shared freely to the public, encouraging interaction from third- party developers. In fact, when a business software has an external interface it provides the public with access and ability to use the code and data from the software to create or integrate other software that will interact with the original.
  3. Partner: This type of API is considered to be a hybrid of the internal and external models, because it is open, but only for partners to access specific business functions. This is especially valuable for creating new business channels, as it is based on collaboration with other businesses.

Examples of APIs

With thousands of APIs being used every day… What does it take to be on top? According to Programmable Web, a site that tracks more than 13,000 APIs, these are some of the most popular:

  1. Google Maps:
    1. Embedding of Google Maps onto web pages of outside developers (JavaScript or Flash interface).
    2. Designed to work on mobile devices and desktop browser applications.
    3. Language localization for over 50 languages, region localization and geocoding.
  2. Twitter:
    1. Includes two RESTful APIs.
    2. Allows developers to access core Twitter data: update timelines, status data, and user information.
    3. Search API methods give developers ways to interact with Twitter Search and trends data.
  3. Youtube:
    1. The Data API allows users to integrate their program with YouTube.
    2. It provides the capability to search for videos, retrieve standard feeds, and see related content.
    3. A program can also authenticate as a user to upload videos, modify user playlists, and more.

Now that you have a better understanding of APIs, go one step further and learn more about how you can make your product more valuable and engaging for your users.

Get your free copy of our strategist’s guide to building a SaaS integration system, or contact us to talk to a product specialist about your integration ideas.

Carmen Apostu Growth Marketing Manager

Expert in B2B and B2C growth marketing strategies, with a passion for innovation, storytelling and advising tech startups.