What is API and why should using one be encouraged?

API - application programming interface – is a term that is increasingly used, not just by technology companies but by any business keen to grow via the development of apps or software. However, while “API” has become more common currency, there are still many people who aren’t sure what the term really means and why it’s such a useful tool. So, what is an API and why is it a good idea to use one?

Defining an API

The most commonly used concept for an API today is that it is a package of rules that determine interaction with a web server. More often than not these rules tend to relate to data retrieval. An API request is very similar to a webpage request – a request is made to an online server, the server accesses a database and then a response is returned. However, while webpage request responses usually turn up JavaScript, HTML etc (which then combines with the browser to create the web page), API requests are returned in basic formats such as XML. These basic formats are not designed to be converted into a browser experience.

Why are APIs a good idea?

End users rarely interact with APIs. However, they are an essential tool for developers creating apps and software and can make life much easier. There are a number of different reasons why working with APIs is a very good idea.

APIs can extend the reach of an organisation

Platforms such as Spotify are using APIs to broaden their reach. This is a good example of a public API, which is released to encourage developers to build on platforms like Spotify. This essentially makes Spotify’s data available for developers to build on the platform in ways that will help to expand customer reach and attract new consumers. The Artist Explorer is a great example of this – its purpose is to enable Spotify users to find new music, create new playlists and use the app even more frequently.

Encouraging innovation from data

APIs effectively give developers the tools to create interesting applications that relate to the company that owns the API. With the little package of company data, developers can innovate in all sorts of different directions that could end up benefitting the business.

Greater accessibility

APIs can be accessed via any programming language. This is because APIs are built around the HTTP protocol.

APIs add value

Often, APIs come as part of a package sold to other brands or companies. The raw data they contain means that those companies can build integrations with useful functions, such as harvesting data from the cloud into their own internal software systems. Whatever is developed can often be automated for greater efficiency and reach. APIs can be a useful tool in many ways and have a part to play in building profile and expanding reach. They may sound complicated but their simplicity is one of the reasons that they are beginning to prove so successful – APIs are likely to become the norm in the years to come. Read Mandon Software’s blog today to stay up-to-date with the latest industry information.

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Mandon Software is a UK-based company founded in 1999. We work with customers in a wide range of insurance lines, from marine to healthcare. We are experienced in working in the Lloyd's market and pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer services at all times.