Driving the Internet: How APIs Connect The World
In this article, we’ll examine the importance of the API, and how it’s helping shape the world in which we live.
We take for granted the ability we now have to connect to almost every aspect of life via our mobiles, tablets, watches, and even home appliances. That we can make purchases, or bookings online, search for a flight to Ibiza, or a locate a local curry house. It allows us to communicate instantly with our friends, colleagues, and loved ones wherever they may be (almost) in the world. Watch the latest Marvel movie, or episode of Game of Thrones, on a wi-fi device held in our hands as we sit on a train. It gives us the means to conduct business, access data, and manage accounts from anywhere, at any time.
It’s kind of awesome, when you stop to think about it.
But how has this been made a reality? It wasn’t that long ago that such global connectivity and interactivity was still the preserve of imaginative sci-fi writers.
How has the internet been able to transform from its somewhat static platform, populated by informational websites, to an interactive world of instant global communication, online purchases, bookings, entertainment, commerce, and social engagement?
And, in so doing revolutionise the way in which we all conduct our lifestyles.
The Application Programme Interface (API) – That’s How
Granted, it’s not the sexiest sounding name in the world.
But, as far as technological innovations go, the API is a pretty big deal, and a fundamental reason for the level of online functionality that we enjoy today.
For instance, the development of the API is the reason it’s possible to access social media or Google maps via a mobile device, find a cheap flight on a search engine, or watch your favourite vlogger on YouTube.
What the API Provides
The API is essentially your digital version of the middleman. The facilitator between person and database, or even between database and database.
It’s how different programmes and devices communicate, share, and deliver information. Making it possible for app developers to link, or integrate, with the big web service providers; gaining access to information that can be used to provide an add-on service to the end-user.
Always ready to give credit where it’s due, we like this little video that provides a more human analogy, comparing an API to a waiter in a restaurant.
The waiter takes your order -> The waiter then takes your order to the kitchen -> The chef prepares the meal based on the order received -> The waiter returns to your table with the correct meal.
Simplistically, the API will work in much the same way; relaying specific information from one entity (be it human or machine) to another, returning information or a service based upon that specific information.
Albeit much faster than the waiter, and probably without a fake French accent.
The Power Under the Internet’s Bonnet
By delivering this function, APIs have made the internet the flexible, versatile behemoth that permeates into almost every aspect of our lives.
It’s the driving force behind the search engines we use, the means by which we share content across social platforms, and the way in which we’re able to integrate different services into one fluid, seamless platform – accessible from whatever device you happen to be online with at any given time.
It’s the reason we’re able to develop, design, and deliver such powerful, yet easy-to-use booking solutions, with a user-friendly interface that can instantly call upon the relevant product, based on the data you provide. Before sending you swiftly to a check-out and secure payment gateway, from a 3rd party provider, seamlessly integrated into the journey via an API.
Searched, selected, secured, and paid – in a matter of minutes. While lying on your bed, sitting in your office, or walking along the beach.
APIs may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to technological innovation; yet their influence in how we engage, socialise, purchase, work, and live in the digital age is as far-reaching as it’s possible to be. An innovation that’s always in front of us, yet rarely noticed. The essential cog in the digital wheel.