APIs are the most obscure feature in today’s digital age. As being tech-savvy, some of you must already aware of the term and the definition as well. But if you’re not a technical person you must have come across the term while reading a blog, or going through your favorite applications’ description or documentation. So before going with the actual question what is an API development, this arises another question what is an API?
This article won’t only tell you about the definition of API or API development but will take on the ride where you discover everything about API from its purpose to its working to the development technique, everything. This article is about the ‘unsung hero’ of the software development world.
What is an API?
API is a short form used for an application programming interface. API is an interface that establishes connections between multiple software programs or a mixture of hardware-software mediators. API specifies the types of calls or requests that should be made, the procedure on ‘how to make the calls/requests’, the data types that must be included and used, etc. APIs are also used for giving the opportunity for extending the already existing functionalities by some in-built functions or some outer inherited or extended functions. An API can be tailor-made, specific to some particular component, or customarily designed as per the industry standards for interoperability with the particular hardware tools and software. An application programming interface is a set of rules and regulations that specify how computers, applications, or a mixture of these two links, communicate and respond with each other.
In simpler words, API is a link or an interface that allows various parts of the software or a mixture of hardware-software to connect and communicate with each other. API is a way to virtually way to connect to sub-parts and activities or resources of an app or software and hence, taking the load of manual work away from the programmer. If you code the complete software from scratch, you going to need some third-party components and even then API will help you.
Release Policies of API
APIs are one of the more normal ways innovative organizations incorporate. Those that provide and use APIs are considered as being associates of the business biological system.
The primary policies for releasing an API are:
Private APIs or sometimes referred to as internal APIs are designed and developed for a company’s or individual’s personal use and are hidden from all the other users. These are used to share within the business to share and establish a link for inner resources. APIs permit various teams or departments of a business to use one another’s devices, data, projects, and programs. Private APIs provide better security and access control over others.
Public APIs sometimes also referred to as open APIs, are accessible to developers, programmers, and coders with limited restrictions or zero. Usually, Public APIs require you to enroll for free, or either using an API key referred to you or might be totally free for all the app developers. These APIs are usually developed by a community of freelance programmers or IT companies to provide access to data or services or both to all the mobile app developers or web developers out there. The public API program empowers you to build brand mindfulness. Moreover, it additionally permits the developers to get additional pay if appropriately executed.
Partnered APIs are almost like public APIs but with restricted access that is controlled by two companies or businesses that are in partnership and agreement. Usually, these are controlled by a third-party API gateway. These are intended for particular purposes like connecting an app with our relatable applications advertisements.
These are a combination of multiple data and service APIs. These allow the developers and programmers to access several endpoints in one request or call. These APIs are usually useful when the developers need information or data from several different services to perform a single function in an app. Composite APIs help the applications to perform faster and in reducing the load on the server. This also helps in enhancing the performance services of data integration.
How Does API Works?
Application programming interfaces embody many technical specifications concerning data exchange options and services between different applications or the same sub-activities of the same applications. The applications commune to users by a user interface whereas the applications that need the functionalities of other applications call those applications using the APIs of those applications and also specify how the functionality should be provided in a certain way. After confirming the request is authorized and valid the other application fulfils the request. I know it is a bit confusing to understand for a few of you. Let’s understand this in a simpler way with an example.
Supposedly, you went to a restaurant and order your favorite lasagna. But unfortunately, the lasagna wasn’t able so your server contacted another restaurant and order it for you, with the necessary instructions to cook the lasagna just the way you order it, without letting you know. After confirming the request can be fulfilled the other restaurant took the order and get it delivered. In this case, you’re the user who ordered the lasagna, where the lasagna is the application you’re using, the menu you ordered it from is the UI that is the user interface, the server is the API that connects and communicates to the other restaurant and the other restaurant is the other application or database to help the initial application with the required function or services or data.
Usually, the documentation of every project is a must. For API there is no exception, it is essential to draw an “If This Then this” agreement between two applications stating if application A sends a request, what kind of structure and procedure should be followed, and how application B will respond. The API documentation also consists of information about the working of the API with others and the functions call procedure and the regulations about responding.
Why You Need API?
A technical world without APIs, will be a chaotic one and not to mention will need lots of manual work from the programmers and developers. The APIs free world will also mean limited functions of all the applications and double the work and time of programmers for rewriting the same piece of code for every application performing the same work. APIs are not exactly the modules that specifically belong to one application or another, which means they are developed individually with general specifications that can be called later with the guidelines by whichever application needs it. And this definitely helps you and all the programmers and developers burden and saves the time of rewriting the same code over and over again.
There are tons of reasons why a business needs API development, some of the most crucial ones are –
- Better Security
APIs not only provide the interface but also control the access, the control of data and information. APIs are programmed in such a way that only authorized and authentic users can perform certain functions and access the data. A well-designed and developed API acts as a shield against all types of attacks and breaches.
- Streamlined architecture
With good APIs, you can program your back-end code and develop the app without any worries and independently from the user interface. APIs allow you to work on algorithms as per your brand’s goal and let you launch the app on both the mobile platforms iOS and Android and web. You can even rewrite and redesign your app’s UI using a newer framework without tampering with the actual functioning of the application.
- Easy testing
APIs don’t only make developing easy but also make the testing of the app easy before it gets deployed or launched for the public. It also helps to test the UI before the app actually goes into the development phase because once the back-end gets involved testing the UI is the biggest headache, luckily APIs save you from that. And there is also an automated API testing feature.
- Faster development
APIs spare you from the headache of designing and developing everything from scratch, which means faster and reliable development. You can simply integrate all the important features and add data from other applications.
- More scalable
Instead of developing big unitary applications that will be hard to document or test, you can build complex and yet fun applications through all the independent modules available or modules of other applications via APIs.
- Better integration
Most businesses rely on variant sets of software modules and applications to make their one application work. Hence, integrating all the modules together is the best way to let the application function without any delay, and what’s better than the APIs for the integration. Big enterprises like Google, Apple have many of their APIs public but it need not to be the case with you if you’re developing a customized application. A well-designed and developed API obviously lifts the performance of your application up and so can help your business to boom.
- Easy to use new technologies
APIs let you internally connect with all the new and latest technologies without creating much fuss about rewriting the codes and connections.
- Better experience
APIs help enhance application functionalities which in turn provides a better user experience.
- Less development cost and time
One of the most important positive effect APIs has on developers and programmers that save the extra time they don’t need to spend the extra time programming all the functions and services they can access from other applications via APIs, this saves time and hence, the fast development and faster deployment and more revenue.
Should Every Company/Business needs Its Own API?
Some companies taste success by developing their own APIs that enhance their customers’ experience and UI and let other third-party applications use them and hence bringing fame and revenue. But the actual question is do you need your own API even if you’re starting a software-based business? To be honest, the complexity of developing your own API with all the work and coding for the application for a business that is just starting up or a non-technical founder is a headache. But it’s still good to know when and why API development is needed.
I try to list the important deciding factors that might help you with the question of whether to develop an API for yourself or not.
Should consider the API development –
- If your aim is to develop a mobile app, desktop app, and web app, all three.
- You want to use and work on modern frameworks and UI/UX design technologies.
- If your application deals with a large amount of data that needs to run and load quickly without delaying the process for your users.
- In case, you want to access the same data in many different places and ways or maybe applications. Like web app and mobile app both accessing same data and using it.
- You want your partners or customers to have access to your application’s data.
Should not consider API development if –
- You just considering having a simple one activity or page application without any complexity or heavy traffic.
- You are building a temporary application or your application won’t mean to be updated.
- If you want to run your application only on a singular platform.
One thing that should never stop you from trying API development is the lack of experience. Hence, the next few sub-topics of this article will walk you through the API development process so said you can be confident enough to develop your own API.
Terminology Associate to API
If you’re looking forward to customized API development, there are few terms you should be well aware of –
API key a special code that is passed to the computer programs or software to check the authentication of the user or the developer that is requesting the data or services. The API key is also used for the verification of the calling application.
The end communication touchpoints between the server and an API is called endpoint.
It’s a function that is used to call to request data from the server at a specified resource.
An inline function/program for sending the requested data to the API server to change or update or create a resource.
OAuth is an open-source authorization framework for APIs. OAuth provides more secure and restricted access to the end-users data which can be only accessed by the application with authorization and verification.
Representational State Transfer is a software architectural style that was built to provide the rule and regulation set for designing and development of the architecture for the World Wide Web.
Simple Object Access Protocol is a set of rules (protocol) for messaging, specified for exchanging structured data in the implementation of web services and other services in computer networks.
Latency is defined as the total time taken by an API to process a request that is made and to revert to it.
Rate-limiting in reference to API means the process of controlling and limiting the rate of incoming and outgoing data. It is also referred to as restricting the rate of requests made by end-users.
API throttling means the process by which the usage of APIs by the end-users can be controlled for a particular time period.
Tools for API Development
There are many tools available for API development. Some of the easiest and most famous tools and products that developers and programmers use for API development are –
Apigee is an API development management tool built by Google. This tool is useful for companies that are updating their applications or facilitating data transfer services between the applications. This is also very useful for mobile app developers that decide to develop connected applications like Facebook and Instagram.
Dredd is a HyperText testing Protocol (HTTP) API testing framework. Dreed is used to authenticate the description and design of an API in the backend coding.
APIMatic is a developing platform mainly used for website APIs development. But thanks to the advanced technology nowadays this is also used for mobile application APIs development as well. Developers use APIMatic to create SDKs for their APIs for many platforms. It is also useful for keeping the APIs updates in synchronization. This is also used to transform API specifications into multiple other formats such as Swagger, Postman, etc.
Sandbox is a tool that offers fast and easy mock RESTful APIs. It also reduces the risk and the cost linked with using third-party APIs during testing.
Postman is more like a tool that helps the developers to examine the API’s performance by documenting and testing it. It can also reduce the manual work of developers because it can be set to automation.
This is an open-source testing tool, that is available for everyone. It can work cross-platform. This also helps in reducing the manual work by automating both functional and non-functional testing. Developers also use this one for the security and execution of applications.
It is an open-source framework that is used for API development.
It is an open-source software tool. JMeter is also used for performance testing of API.
- API Science
This is a tool that is used for examining the performance of both internal and third-party APIs used.
- API Serverless Architecture
This tool helps mobile app developers in designing, developing, deploying, and hosting APIs with cloud-based databases.
AuthO is an identity specification tool that is used to verify the users and the request made to APIs.
ClearBlade is an API management tool that provides enhanced and provides the latest IoT technologies to your application development.
GitHub is an open-source git repository hosting tool that lets developers manage code files, learn, use them, pull requests, access information, and open-source APIs.
What is API Development?
The first step in API development is, needs a data source. You can use any database you are comfortable like MySQL, MongoDB, or Google Firebase whatever you prefer and comfortable working on. But if you a beginner you can also use a text file or spreadsheet to store the data. The API database is easy to update through the API itself, without chaos.
Next step will be you need to decide upon the format of your API for making requests. When any user wants to use API, they send a request. And hence you need to decide upon the format and functions you need and want to include in your coding like GET, POST, etc. It’s better you document every developing step of your API.
The final step in API development is that it should respond. Once the API processes the requests and fetches the saved data or in a few cases unable to fetch it, it must respond to the request made. This response can be the data itself or either the status code or the error code. The format for the response should also be documented.
Most Important Practices for API Development
Everything can down the drain if you don’t follow the right API developing practices. There are tons of API development practices but the few most important ones are –
With regards to diverting the flood of traffic, protecting from DoS (Denial of Service), and backup APIs, application throttling is the best practice that all the developers ought to consider.
Overriding HTTP Method
There are a few proxies, who just support POST and GET functions, this is the reason you should permit your RESTful API to override the HTTP method. You can do this by utilizing the custom HTTP Header X-HTTP-Method-Override.
SDK and Libraries
Offer significant assets to the developers to help fasten the speed of services development and execution. You can do this by offering resources that contain reusable cycles, processes, and code.
You should ensure that your API is secure yet not at the expense of ease of use. If your users go through 5 minutes for verification it implies that your API is not easy to use or user-friendly. You can utilize token-based verification to make your API secure and easy to use.
Offering a wide scope of documentation is another incredible practice that every developer should do irrespective of the code is for API or another project. You should make broad documentation for an API that empowers other mobile application developers to comprehend the whole interaction exhaustively so they can use that data to give a first-class user experience (UX).
More or less, all-around created API documentation will diminish the undertaking cost, execution time, and upgrade API proficiency.
Evaluation of APIs architecture
Some of the API development tools take into consideration simple analysis and assessment of APIs. This means, rather than having software developers working nonstop, you can analyze the application in real-time without breaking a sweat.
This article touches all the bases about API, the working, the importance and the basic development techniques. I hope this will help you. In case I have forgotten to mention anything, comment and let me know.