What are APIs?
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are software intermediaries through which applications communicate with each other to share data and information. They act as a channel through which requests are delivered to a provider and responses back to the sender.
Developers building applications find it easy when they use APIs because of the fact that the APIs provide them with building blocks required for the development. They help in defining functionalities that do not depend on their implementations making it easy for developers to differentiate definitions from the implementations without any issues.
What Differences do APIs make for Developers?
APIs make it possible for developers to create reusable pieces of code instead of having to repetitively go through the same complex processes all the time. New applications are needed every day and developers have to deliver. This has been made possible by APIs especially because of the speed that they enable developers to build applications.
This tells you that developers have become more productive since they do not have to write every code from scratch. APIs make it possible for them to focus on other parts of their applications while implementing APIs for other functionalities of the same application.
How are APIs Different from Web Services?
Most developers often confuse APIs and web services. These are two of the most confusing terms in the development world. To understand how the two differ, it is important to note that while some APIs are considered to be web services, web services are a part and parcel of APIs.
So what is a web service? It is a piece of software available over the internet that uses a standardized messaging system. All communication is encoded to a web service using XML. For instance, a web service is invoked when a client sends an XML message. The client will then get a response in XML. All the back and forth communication is in XML meaning that web services are independent of programming languages and operating systems.
Therefore, APIs are interfaces that allow developers to build on the functionality and the data of other applications while web services are resources that help developers to fulfill specific tasks. You can read this article comparing APIs to web services to understand more about the two.
How Do Developers Benefit from Using APIs?
Most of the time, people talk about how APIs are helping improve the operations of businesses. They often forget how they are also beneficial to developers as well. With APIs, developers are able to coordinate with businesses, update systems, and create innovative features that help in steering the growth of such businesses.
Here are a number of ways through which developers benefit from the use of APIs;
- Application Components: Developers are able to access the components of an application using APIs making the delivery of information and services more flexible.
- Automation of tasks: Developers can use APIs to automate tasks that would otherwise have been done by people. This way, they are able to develop faster and offer productive workflows for businesses.
- Efficiency: Developers can distribute and share content more easily once they are provided with access through an API. Such content can also be published to channels that need it automatically, saving developers a lot of time.
- Scope: When working on an application, developers might be faced with a requirement to customize user experiences for the application users. Although this might be difficult, they can easily use an API that collects the user data, analyzes it, and uses the data to customize user experiences.
- Adaptation: With evolving technology, businesses need to adapt quickly to the changing requirements of their customers. Who else do they rely on for this? They rely on developers who in turn depend on APIs to make sure that the businesses are able to predict changes in technology and adapt to the requirements of their customers.
- Integration: When developers are building an application that needs to use data from another application, they can use an API that allows them to embed content from any application easily without having to struggle with writing code for the same job.
- Personalization: APIs allow developers to customize the services or content that a company or business uses more to create a personalized experience.
These benefits highlight how important APIs are in the daily activities of a programmer. It would be very difficult for them to survive without APIs. Apart from this, APIs play a very important role in helping developers to deliver software faster. They do so by;
- Allowing Reinvention: If you look at some of the best solutions we have today, you will realize that they were not developed from scratch. This is done through APIs. They allow developers to integrate their applications with others that offer the features required by their customers. This, in return, saves them a lot of time since they do not write the code from scratch.
- Allowing Customization in Proven Frameworks: Before APIs, developers were either forced to build new feature functionalities from scratch or leave to feature out of their applications. However, this has changed with APIs because they provide the functionality needed without having to write the code yourself. If the API service is built and documented well, the feature will be delivered quickly and will be reliable and stable.
- Allowing Developers to Use a Framework of their Choice: Some developers are more comfortable using certain programming languages than they are with others. One might think that this gets complicated with APIs. However, APIs allow developers to use any technology stack that they want since most of them can be configured to work with any programming language that one chooses. This saves developers a lot of time that they would have spent learning a new language.
If you are to compete fairly in the world of software development, you need to learn about APIs and use them in your applications. APIs are no longer seen as afterthoughts when it comes to application development, they are part and parcel of any application strategy. They have contributed immensely to technology disruption that businesses are struggling with for survival, hence opening new opportunities for programmers.
They have also changed the way developers deliver software. Today, developers collaborate on the API design first before mocking it to support the development of the server and client code, test suites, and the application documentation. This shows just how important APIs are to the modern programmer.