Even if you do not know what an API is, you have undoubtedly interacted with any of them.
Today, we take connectivity between technologies for granted. For example, we do not doubt that we use OpenTable to make a reservation at a nearby restaurant.
Alternatively, if you use Kayak.com to book flights, you probably never asked yourself the following question: wait a minute … how does Kayak know that JetBlue has a free seat in 27A?
Finally, whenever you need applications to communicate with each other, you need an API or programming interface for applications.
Here we will explore what is an API and why you would need it. Even if you are not a programmer and do not need to master the technical jargon, you still need to understand the basics, because nowadays, technological integrations are often essential components of the work of each.
What is an API?
According to its most basic definition, an API allows software to communicate with another software.
To understand an API in action, consider a concrete example: HubSpot integration with Typeform. Typeform, a tool providing questionnaires, contact forms and registration forms ready for mobile, must be integrated with HubSpot's Forms API to interact with the form tool and send seamlessly submitting Typeform forms to the HubSpot CRM.
To do this, the Typeform API and the HubSpot API must speak. An integration can act as a translator, ensuring that information from each API is correctly translated for the other application. In this case, the integration can guarantee that the Typeform form fields are correctly mapped to the corresponding HubSpot fields.
Isaac Takushi, HubSpot Developer Support Specialist, explains, "You can consider the APIs and" endpoints "that they understand as access points for different information. API endpoint can only have a specific job.However, when combined, different terminals can support powerful multi-faceted integrations. "
Kayak.com, for example, needs an API to communicate with JetBlue systems. When searching for "Boston to Charlotte" in Kayak, the JetBlue Booking API essentially receives this Kayak request, retrieves information about that request, and sends it back. Kayak will however need its own API or code to understand the information returned by the JetBlue API and act accordingly.
How to use an API
To use an API, you often need the API key because most APIs need it. See the API documentation for access conditions. Then look for an online HTTP client, such as Postman or Runscope. These tools will help you access the API with your API key with very little coding required.
To use an API, you must consult the API documentation for the access conditions. For example, HubSpot's Contacts API requires authentication:
Likewise, you will need an API key to access the APIs of Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Once you need access, you can use a tool such as Postman or Runscope to manually interact with an API. These third-party tools, or "REST clients," allow you to make unique requests to API endpoints without encoding. They are great for getting an idea of what your backend systems can do automatically. Check out this resource to find out how to make your very first API application with Postman.
If you are not quite ready to use a REST client with a REST client, try the following in your browser:
This is a public API endpoint of the free REST Countries service. Specifically, we use the "Name" endpoint, which accepts country names as search queries. A successful search will return matches from potential countries, as well as key information about each country. In this case, we are looking for countries whose name contains the word "united".
You should see the following block of JSON data returned:
Congratulations! You have just made an API request from your browser!
The end system returned raw data (in JSON format) to countries with the name "uni".
This may not sound pretty, but remember that the APIs are designed for applications that do not require the style that humans expect on an HTML web page. Although you can easily Google "countries that start with" united ", applications can not, they may need to use services such as REST countries to search for this information.
If you're not sure whether you should use your internal developers to create APIs or search externally, check the Premier APIs versus third parties: What you need to know.
Originally published on May 17, 2019 07:00:00, updated on May 17, 2019