APIs and JavaScript: Maximizing Development Potential | Dreamfactory

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Diagram of APIs and Javascript

For decades, businesses of all sizes have uncovered the value of application programming interfaces (APIs). However, it's only in recent years that the implementation of APIs has exploded, often thanks to greater accessibility

From reducing costs to creating more interconnected experiences, the benefits of APIs for developers and business leaders are clear — but what are they, and how do they relate to something like JavaScript? Here's what you need to know about the link between JavaScript and APIs, plus how to optimize the development of mobile, web, and IoT applications. 

How APIs Are Driving Growth

An API is a set of procedures and functions that allow data to be sent between interfaces so that they can effectively communicate. They are what enable billions of digital experiences each minute, supporting the development and functionality of everything from weather apps to finance apps. Their role in business is being recognized across all industries, no longer being something that only relates to tech companies.

The evolution of APIs and their use cases continue to fuel growth, with 98% of enterprise leaders stating that APIs are a critical part of their digital transformation efforts in 2022. A 2019 study found that firms using APIs experienced 12.7% more growth in market capitalization over a four-year period than those who did not adopt APIs. After this ground-breaking research was conducted, the study was extended, finding that there was 38% growth over a 16-year period.

So, when considering the ins and outs of building or accessing APIs, it's crucial to understand how they're used. 

What Are APIs and How Do They Work?

Many terms are thrown around in the industry, like "API requests" and "Node.js," but what does it all mean?

Although this is a complex topic, the concept behind APIs is relatively simple. 

An API is a set of rules that dictates communication. It acts as the middleman between the application and the web server, and the API call is the request. By leveraging the power of APIs, developers can more easily write applications. What may have taken months or even years can be completed in a fraction of the time. 

For example, consider interactions like a cloud application communicating with a server. The ultimate goal is to integrate applications quickly and at scale, much like Amazon did 20 years ago, which led to the creation of Amazon Web Services (AWS) — its most significant revenue driver. This example brings us to the difference between internal and external APIs. 

Internal APIs allow engineers to alter key features for consumers by accessing their company's backend information and application functionality. In contrast, external APIs help developers launch more efficient products. For example, as a developer, you could quickly and easily implement a payments API like Stripe or a communications API like Twilio. These external or open APIs are designed for access by a larger population, including developers. 

The Connection Between APIs and JavaScript

JavaScript is a text-based programming language used on both the server-side and client-side. HTML and CSS provide structure, whereas JavaScript allows for more engaging and dynamic user experiences. This high-level scripting language is built into browsers, allowing for greater functionality on apps and web pages. However, it is also available in other environments, including Node. 

As the name suggests, JavaScript APIs use JavaScript language to make complex functionalities possible. JavaScript APIs are client-side APIs that are not publicly available endpoints. Instead, they are internally available. 

If you're proficient in JavaScript, know that many APIs are available to supercharge your code. These APIs are built on top of the core JavaScript language, thanks to JavaScript Frameworks like Angular and React.js. 

When discussing the link between APIs and JavaScript, APIs typically fall under two main categories:

  • Browser APIs are built into your web browser. These APIs can manipulate documents, retrieve data from the server, draw graphics, create custom UI controls, and more. 
  • Third-party APIs generally require you to retrieve codes from somewhere on the web. For example, when utilizing the Twitter API, you can easily display your latest tweets on your website. Other examples include the Google Maps API, YouTube API, or Twilio API, which provides a framework for quickly building video call and voice functionalities into your app.

The idea here is to leverage the power of JavaScript APIs to improve digital products without reinventing the wheel. Using these APIs, you can make any application or website more dynamic than possible by using JavaScript, CSS, or HTML alone.

Access DreamFactory tutorials, including how to write server-side scripts using Node.js and JavaScript. 

Types of APIs Related to JavaScript

There are different types of APIs, including those that allow objects to talk to each other in the Java programming language. For example, RESTful APIs are external interfaces, whereas a Java API is internal. In Java, there are over 4,500 APIs available for use, including the History, DOM, Canvas, and Fetch APIs. 

RESTful APIs are simply those that refer to a specific set of standards that conform to a particular architectural style, allowing for greater flexibility. If you have heard people discuss JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), they're more often referring to REST (representational state transfer) APIs. Web APIs are typically used with JavaScript, although this is not always the case. 

DreamFactory automatically generates, publishes, and manages REST APIs. Learn more about the benefits and capabilities of such processes. 

The Benefits of Connecting to an API by Utilizing JavaScript

JavaScript was released two decades ago, yet it still serves as the most popular language for web development. In response to modern web applications, there is a growing demand for interaction with REST API using JavaScript, influencing new libraries that make HTTP requests more effective. 

JavaScript APIs can be customized to build solutions that target your exact needs. By using APIs and JavaScript, you can build products very quickly without needing to start from scratch. You can also use technologies without understanding how their internal implementation works. Basically, APIs boost automation, cutting down on your most precious resources. 

How Do APIs Work With JavaScript?

For today's most efficient developers, a major part of working with JavaScript is understanding how to connect to APIs. At this point, you should be familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript basics, including JSON and JavaScripts objects. For example, the code you write to interact with APIs will use one or more JavaScript objects.

To work with REST APIs, you must be aware of endpoints, which are connection locations. Simply put, they are one end of the API communication channel. For example, Instagram uses several API endpoints. One gathers data on interactions (e.g., likes, replies, follows), one for moderating replies and comments, and one for discovering hashtagged media. 

How an API works concerning JavaScript depends on the API in question. However, they generally have common features and similar themes. For example, JavaScript objects have recognizable entry points. An example of a JavaScript object would be the HTML DOM. It provides information about what's in HTML documents. 

When diving deeper into understanding JavaScript REST APIs, there are four essential methods to discover. These are the ways that JavaScript sends requests and gets responses. These methods include XMLHttpRequest (XHR), Fetch, Axios, and SuperAgent. For example, the Fetch method allows you to make HTTP requests to servers from web browsers. If you are familiar with the XHR object, the Fetch API is similar in terms of performance. However, the latter is simpler and cleaner. 

Simply send a request (the URL of the resource you want to fetch) to receive a response. 

Recommended reading: How to Connect to a MySQL Database with JavaScript

Reducing API Bottlenecks With DreamFactory

Whether you're just starting to use APIs or have been using them for a while, powerful open-source software can provide a complete REST API for your JavaScript, Python, or PHP applications — without worrying about bottlenecks

One of the most time-consuming elements in creating a new project is often coding an API. Ensuring a secure and functional API can be more time-consuming than creating the app itself. You'll want to partner with an API management platform to save time and money. DreamFactory provides a way to create and manage APIs easily. 

You'll eliminate the biggest bottleneck in modern IT by taking advantage of instant APIs without code. In a matter of weeks, you can launch your project, compared to months — a timeline you may not be able to afford. 

DreamFactory helps save hundreds of development hours and tens of thousands of dollars in operational costs. With DreamFactory, you can create a secure, reusable, and fully documented REST API. You can also effectively manage your data portfolio, integrate technology into cutting-edge applications, and more. 

Ready to begin leveraging the power of the leading instant API generation platform? Start your free 14-day trial today! Also, be sure to check out this resource on REST and DreamFactory.

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