by Tony Harris • May 25, 2021
APIs now have a prominent place in business technology. Most digital transformation strategies will need the adoption of some form of API to ensure connectivity and integration between an ever increasing suite of applications and business systems. But how did this piece of code jump to the forefront of software development? Understanding API usage and the reasons for their increased popularity can provide an insight into how you might be able to better leverage them in modernizing your business.
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An API is a piece of software that facilitates communication between platforms, apps, or services. These services may not be able to communicate on their own due to variances in programming language, operating system, or file type. The API acts as an interpreter between the two, sending requests and responses from one endpoint to the other. As businesses add more platforms and apps to their technology stack, the need to integrate these services correspondingly increases – and so begins the increased need for API usage and consumption.
But APIs have evolved to be more than just bits of middleware. Through the development and effective management of APIs, businesses can turn their offerings into platforms. New technology and services are made possible with integration from previously incongruent software. Businesses are also finding a way to monetize their API offerings, bringing in a new revenue stream by sharing data and capabilities.
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is a web service that was created as an older form of API. These use XML to send and receive requests and responses, and have a strict framework for operating. While they still have their uses in high-security applications such as financial services, they are generally considered clunky and take up too much bandwidth today.
Representational State Transfer (REST) is an updated form of API. It is an architectural style rather than a protocol, meaning its construction can be more flexible, and it executes tasks with more simplicity and less bandwidth than a SOAP web service.
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While software integration was formerly the domain of IT, there are options to make API access available to industries outside of tech. Even small and medium businesses can take advantage of new software advancements, thanks to platforms that support low-code or even no-code options.
These platforms work by doing the heavy lifting of code behind the scenes while you dictate what you want the end product to accomplish. And with the help of automation on the back end, building your API can be done in an afternoon. Business owners no longer need a degree in computer science to digitally transform their business. What does this mean for APIs in general and API usage specifically? The short answer is that a platform that offers ‘low-code’ or ‘no-code’ functionality offers potentially huge savings in terms of cost and effort associated with developing, deploying and managing APIs.
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The popularity of APIs led to an explosive growth in innovation that feeds an even greater interest in the software. The result? Platforms building upon each other for expanded business capabilities and an improved user experience. Competition giving way to collaboration.
Previously, businesses persisted with their own proprietary software. You were locked in with license agreements and the inability to integrate rival technology. Now, this is still the case to a degree — businesses still develop their own software. But as companies plan for a more composable approach to their technology, they’ll want more flexibility to pick and choose the services they want. An API facilitates this approach by allowing for integration and packaging these services into one easy-to-use interface.
A popular example is the Google Maps API. Third-party services can use this API to gather satellite data and maps for their own services. This is what drives rideshare services like Uber and Lyft — sparing them the time and expense of creating their own satellite navigation services.
Making use of an open API can open your business capabilities to new data and services. On the flip side, creating your own API and opening it to third parties creates new opportunities for developers — and a new revenue opportunity for you.
With APIs used in just about every service you encounter today, it only makes sense to use the same software that integrates with them.
Want to know more about how you can get the most out of your API usage? DreamFactory is an API management system that can help your business join the API economy. Build an API in minutes with your existing database, and learn how to make the most of your API and others with our library of resources.
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