Hackernoon logoAccessing and Using APIs: API Disruption in the Digital Economy by@ipgeolocation

Accessing and Using APIs: API Disruption in the Digital Economy

API is software that enables software applications to communicate with each other. They can be used internally, for data integration between servers, or externally, as a communication medium between clients and servers. The idea of an “API economy” has been around for a decade and over the past years; established companies across industries have been using APIs as the key for unlocking their digital transformations. To successfully utilize APIs for extending the functionality of your product, you first need to understand what they are, and how you can access and use them.
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In the digital economy, survival and progress rely on a company’s ability to adapt to the digital climate. At the heart of the strategy of most successful digital companies are APIs - application programming interfaces - that enhance mobile experiences, connect companies online, and enable platform business models.

The idea of an “API economy” has been around for a decade and over the past years; established companies across industries have been using APIs as the key for unlocking their digital transformations. Today, APIs are silently running behind the scenes in most web applications - if you have ever used an online taxi service, a flight search website, or Instagram geotagging, you have interacted with an API.

As expectations for effortless user experiences are rising, companies are increasingly turning to APIs to increase the value for their customers. To successfully utilize APIs for extending the functionality of your product, you first need to understand what they are, and how you can access and use them.

What Are APIs?

An API is software that enables software applications to communicate with each other. They can be used internally, for data integration between servers, or externally, as a communication medium between clients and servers.

Depending on a company’s product and needs, they can use APIs in numerous ways. If, for example, they collect location data from their users, then they might look to get IP address from Javascript APIs that pin IP addresses to geolocations. If they need to feed hotel information to users that search for specific hotel locations online, they will use an API that can extract the hotel data from online servers.

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Types Of APIs

There are four main types of APIs that you can utilize: 

  • Open APIs - they are publicly available with minimal restrictions.
  • Partner APIs - technically similar to open APIs, but with restricted access that is usually controlled by a third-party API gateway or key.
  • Internal APIs - used within a company for data integration, not available to outside parties.
  • Composite APIs - allow for multiple data extractions from a server with a single request.

API Components

APIs are composed of three parts:

  • User - the one who makes a request;
  • Client - the computer that relays the request to the server;
  • Server - the computer that responds to the request.

When a client submits a request to a server’s API, they make an API call. The call also includes all actions that take place after the request is submitted.

Using An API

Now that you understand how APIs work, let’s look at how you can start using one. If this is your first encounter with an API, it might be best to use other APIs before implementing your own. 

Select An API

First things first, you should find an API that you can adequately incorporate into your business. You might have already scoped out the options, but if you are unsure about which one is most suitable for you, you might want to try a free API before paying for one.

Review The Documentation

The most important thing you need to do when starting with an API is to read the provided documentation - this will serve as the definitive guide for usage and integration. Among other things, the documentation will specify the need for an API key, how to get the key, how to make requests and the kind of requests that you can make.

Get An API Key

An API key is a unique identification code that verifies API calls. The key is composed of a string of letters and numbers that are specific to clients - it grants or denies a request based on the access permissions for a specific client and tracks the number of requests made.

Some APIs have freely available keys, while others will require you to pay for one. Either way, you will likely need one to sign up for the service. Free APIs will often ask you to complete an identity verification, such as signing in with your Google account and feeding you the key for future log-ins. Be sure to keep your key private, so you don’t face unauthorized calls made by a third party.

Make A Request To An Endpoint

If you have properly read the documentation, then you are ready to test the API by sending your first request. Depending on whether you choose a partner or a public API, you can either seek guidance or turn to online tutorials for help.

Connect Your Application

Once you have fully grasped the process of making requests to the API of your choosing, you can finally sync your app with the server. To do this, a developer will use one or more programming languages like JavaScript, Python, Java, PHP, or others.

Final Words

APIs are disrupting the digital economy by enabling and empowering all types of organizations in their digital transformations. In doing this, they have become the backbone of innovation and competitiveness in the digital era.

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Getting started with APIs requires familiarity with the functionality and applications of the interface, which can help you take the necessary steps towards integrating the API with your business.

By identifying your API capabilities, your organization can define and implement innovative and valuable solutions for your business.

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