At a Glance – APIs

What is an ‘API’ and why are they important?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. There are various different kinds of API, and they are used as a set of building blocks for developing software interfaces which let software applications interact with each other. Essentially, they act as the middle man between the application and the programmer. For example, Amazon released an API to let customers get hold of product information more easily. Another example of APIs in use can be seen on the websites of various restaurants. Many will include a Google Maps route on their webpages so that customers can plan their journeys. It’s an API that enables the conversation between the webpage and Google Maps to allow them to co-exist. The relative simplicity of using APIs (which can be programmed to behave a certain way) teamed with their affordability has made them very attractive for businesses.

APIs are important because they enable software-to-software interaction. They are vital for businesses, as companies rely on open APIs to create apps which can then be used by third parties to extend the app even further – think Google Maps. APIs are also key to basically every social platform, and allow social media ID to be used for other sites, for instance, using your Facebook username and password to sign into an app.

The growing number of consumer devices like phones, tablets and other personal computers has led to concerns about the security of APIs, as they are forced to break down applications in order to respond to higher demand. This means that data becomes scattered and vulnerable to hackers, which compromises the security of information. In response, a number of companies including IBM have released API security products. As many companies are reliant on APIs as part of their digital business strategies, they should be ready to invest in security measures.