API or Application Programming Interface is a set of rules and protocols that allow applications and services to communicate with each other and share end data via the internet for extended usage.
The basic way to access the data of a company is through API and one can do it by adding certain inputs to the URL of the website and the API key at the end. The API key is unique to a user/application which wants to access the data. This allows the company to know WHO is accessing the data, and the inputs specify WHAT data is the person accessing.
This same purpose can be served by personally going to the host website and browsing the data and noting it down manually. It is a tedious process that was initially followed. However, with data like stock prices or weather conditions, one cannot have manual checks every minute on all the stocks or weather of all cities. Therefore, there was a need to automate the extraction of data from websites actively gathering first-hand data. That is when APIs were born. They directly and continuously access the data from the host and display results in real-time without any slack.
Examples of APIs:
1. Trading websites take real-time stock prices from the websites of stock exchanges using APIs. The prices then reflected on Trading websites (client websites) are used for buying and selling of stocks.
2. The weather application on our smartphones accesses the real-time temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. conditions from government or research laboratories' weather report websites. These are presented to us in a smooth user interface for us to access.
3. Food Delivery and Taxi Applications use real-time tracking of vehicles on the map by accessing the live location of the person by using Google Maps or any similar company’s data.
How do APIs function:
1. An application initiates a request for the usage of the final data of another application. For example – Zomato asks Google Maps API to access its live location feature so that it can track orders.
2. The API confirms the request from the host application to allow or not the usage of its data.
3. Once the host application allows the request, the client application can access the data and use it on its own terms.
APIs help applications communicate and share data efficiently. Without APIs, many companies would suffer from a lack of connectivity and information gaps. This would have negative impacts on productivity and performance.
APIs help combine data from one or more Applications to make innovations easier. Connecting with new markets by offering a variety of services that can ultimately lead to digital transformation.
API Economy can be created. A company can monetize the access of its data which it is allowing to other applications. APIs are usually free in the beginning to facilitate an audience to form around the brand. However, in later stages, it can charge a fee for providing API keys to applications.
The security added between the data of a company and the server of the client is essential. Further strengthening of the API security testing gateways can be done via API Management. It restricts illegal or non-essential websites or applications that use the big database of Companies like Google Maps, Youtube, Twitter etc.