APIs bring in and share data from apps and sites like Twitter, Reddit, Facebook or Youtube with the user. For those curious about APIs, Nigel Pereira gives you a rundown of the same.

Imagine you’re developing an application that advises people about the best holiday destinations for outdoor activities like hiking and camping. You want to be able to give your customers live updates on the weather at all the locations that you are covering, but you don’t want to write a weather app from scratch. Application Programming Interface (APIs) are software programs that allow software programs to communicate with each other or with external services, even if they are unrelated. In the example above, all you would need is the right API that would communicate with a weather app like OpenWeatherMap to provide your customers with weather information.

Google Maps API

Now there are different kinds of APIs, public APIs which are either free to use or commercial, private APIs which are solely for internal use within an organization, and partner APIs which as the name suggests, are made to be used among business partners. Public APIs are the only ones available to the general public and are often in the form of Web APIs like the Google Maps API which is probably the most popular public API. While you’ve probably used Google Maps loads of times when you were trying to go somewhere, the Google Maps API features in almost every delivery service or every application that uses a map.

So, every time you look at a map to check out your AirBnB or where your Uber driver has reached, or if your food from Swiggy has arrived, the app that you are using is communicating with Google Maps through the API in order to keep you updated. The Google Maps API has loads of custom features and is free up to a limit of $200 every month which works out to about 28,500 ‘maploads’ after which you are charged a standard fee. GoogleMaps is also by no means the only map API out there and other popular choices include Mapbox API and OpenStreetMap.

Pinterest API

Image: Flickr

APIs are a great way to add another dimension to the way your services are consumed. For example, we all know Pinterest as a social media platform with an emphasis on visual content. The Pinterest API, however, allows users to develop applications and create content that’s focused on driving results on Pinterest. Pinterest initially launched the API as a partner API exclusively for partner brands, it is now open to all developers, allowing anyone to create apps based on Pinterest boards and pins. This includes third-party apps that can now use live widgets powered by the Pinterest API that refreshes them and keeps them up-to-date in real-time.

According to an online report from content distribution service ShareThis, content sharing on Pinterest jumped 19.2% in the latest quarter of 2013, which interestingly enough is about the same time that they launched the first version of their API. In addition to providing users with access to a number of tools that help with content creation, the Pinterest API also provides users with information on the top pins in their respective domains, currently trending images, and most recently pinned items. Other features include analytics and insights into your profile and advertisement performance as well as a Pinterest API for Shopping.

API Security and Management

Image: Pxhere

Now it goes without saying that there are a lot of security implications to having your services consumed via APIs as well as a lot of complexity associated with managing multiple APIs. Because APIs are becoming increasingly common and enable access to user data as well as proprietary software functions, they are increasingly being targeted by attackers. This is why API security is the foundation stone that API management needs to be built around. There are a number of security best practices that need to be implemented to ensure your APIs are secure including extensively testing your APIs for security.

Now not everyone is up to the task of fighting off API attacks daily and the enterprise has no shortage of solutions that decouple the complexities associated with API management. These tools are called API management platforms and can be used for everything from designing APIs to managing them, monetizing them, and even running analytics on them. Popular API management platforms include Google’s Apigee, IBM’s API Connect, Azure’s API Management, and Amazon’s API Gateway. Additionally, management solutions also act as a gatekeeper for all your APIs so you can store them all in one place as well as enforce policies that ensure security.

The future is API driven

According to a recent API Management Market Research Report, the global API market is expected to more than double in size from 4.1 billion in 2021 to 8.4 billion in 2027. APIs are already the most popular way for applications to exchange information and as more organizations understand the benefits of making information available via APIs, the ecosystem around APIs and their management is going to flourish and expand, as it should. No one wants to reinvent the wheel and APIs provide the perfect solution for developers looking to integrate external services into their applications without a lot of effort or coding.

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With a background in Linux system administration, Nigel Pereira began his career with Symantec Antivirus Tech Support. He has now been a technology journalist for over 6 years and his interests lie in Cloud Computing, DevOps, AI, and enterprise technologies.

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