New-generation APIs handle data quicker and more securely than ever before. API stands for Application Program Interface and is often described as an interpreter, because the interface allows programs to talk to each other. Several other comparisons have been drawn, such as APIs as messengers that deliver and retrieve information for you.
They’re everywhere and make life easier
Imagine that you’re a retailer and a customer wants to buy on credit, but you don’t know the customer. A few thousand years ago, you would ask a helper to go out to the customer’s village and ask questions to ascertain whether the customer could be trusted. Two hundred years ago, you would have sent a telegram. Although these comparisons may seem a bit banal, the fact is that humanity has always found ways to share data. The difference with APIs, of course, is that they are automated, detailed, and quicker than Morse code. They’re also everywhere and make life easier for millions of people. But few people actually know what APIs are.
Our API expert, Jens Näsholm, gives an example:
“Even a proficient user like me doesn’t notice that all of Google’s web services are based on APIs – they’re behind everything from Gmail to Google Maps,” he says.
The fact that APIs are in the background allows companies to build user-friendly programs. In short, APIs make it easier to use a service.
“If I visit an e-commerce store and enter my personal identity number in the system, the store gets my credit report in the blink of an eye. The advantage of APIs compared with a standard solution is that an API can be integrated into the store’s business system without the user even noticing. The customer doesn’t need to chop and change between programs themselves,” says Jens.
Evolution of API
APIs have been around for more than twenty years. Back then, programs shared information in a more viscous way, largely reflecting the internet – a new kid on the block at the time – which was also viscous. This was a time when our modems would beep and whine like a manic robot when connecting to the internet via the phone network.
Originally, data could be collected by an API and transferred in a file format once a week. Some people (but increasingly fewer) still use these file transfers. An automated and integrated API that constantly picks up information is preferable for obvious reasons.