Unless you are a developer or planning to be, there is no urgent need to know about APIs. However, if you go through this article you will have a better idea of what an API is and communication with your development team might become smoother. Establishing a common understanding of what APIs are, how they do what they do, and what some of the most important benefits are the central moment of moving that conversation forward.

API definition

These days you can’t talk about the back-end portion of an application without touching on APIs (application programming interfaces) and how they seamlessly connect software, applications, databases, and services together. 

An API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. In other words, an API is a messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you're requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you.


What is API


As an example, imagine that you’re ordering a pizza via phone (connection link): you provide input data like type, quantity, and size of the pizza and a URL - your phone number, and the pizza app shows you output data: the expected delivery time and the total price.  

Each time a person uses an app like Facebook, send an instant message or check the weather on the phone, he's using an API.

In computer programming, an application programming interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, communication protocols, and tools for building software. Basically, an API specifies how software components should interact. 

APIs Types 

There are many types of APIs. One of the most common types of APIs are Web APIs; these APIs, otherwise known as Web Services, provide an interface for web applications, or applications that need to connect to each other via the Internet to communicate. There are public APIs that can be used to do everything from checking traffic and weather to updating your social media status or even to make payments.

There are also more private Web APIs. These APIs are not available to be consumed by the general public; rather, they are used by companies to extend their services and capabilities across a broad range of use cases. Windows, for example, has many API sets that are used by system hardware and applications — when you copy and paste text from one application to another, it is an API that allows that to work. APIs are usually developed in a form consumable by a client application. For C/C++ applications, it a set header files and dynamic/static libraries. For Java - set of jars. And so on.

There are further types of Web APIs such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Remote Procedure Call (RPC), Representational State Transfer (REST) and GraphQL.

Business Cases for APIs

It’s well known that APIs make companies more efficient, more innovative, and more able to meet the needs of increasingly demanding customers. And it’s also well known that a number of companies are using APIs as a revenue stream. As Connectivity Benchmark Report by MuleSoft showed, 50 percent of large companies (10,000 employees or more) are making more than 10 million dollars in annual revenue from APIs. 

APIs expand the capabilities and functionalities you can offer, without putting a ton of resources behind integrations. To get the most out of APIs, businesses use APIs in the following ways:

  • Integrate with third-party APIs

  • Build APIs for internal use

  • Build APIs and expose APIs for external use

Katrina Nicolet, a software developer in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi gets right to the point about the value of using Google Maps API “Using it versus writing your own mapping system is almost a no-brainer.” 

Joe McKendrick of Forbes, notes that developing an API strategy adds functionality, increases agility, and decreases operating costs. “The impact of APIs on operations and go-to-market strategy is significant,” he says. “Using APIs to tap into existing functions offered by third parties – such as Google Maps or Salesforce analytics – provides new forms of functionality, as well as a way to cut the costs of maintaining or writing software.”

API is worth what people are willing to pay for it. Companies are willing to pay money just as long as they get the services and data they need.

A Google maps mashup, for example, costs money in volume. The developers receive $200 of monthly usage for free. Google estimates that most will have monthly usage that will keep you within this free tier. On the Google Maps API prices, after the free tier, the price goes to more than 5 dollars per 1000 calls. Example: Embed Advanced (with search included) is 14 dollars per 1000 calls, and the free tier is up to 14000 calls per month. 

APIs have the potential to add value to your business for customers and employees alike. Understanding what an API endpoint is and how to measure performance is key in capturing the potential value APIs offer.

 What is an API Endpoint?

Endpoints are important aspects of interacting with server-side web APIs, as they specify where resources lie that can be accessed by third-party software. Usually, the access is via a URI to which HTTP requests are posted, and from which the response is thus expected.

Simply put, an endpoint is one end of a communication channel. When an API interacts with another system, the touchpoints of this communication are considered endpoints. For APIs, an endpoint can include a URL of a server or service. Each endpoint is the location from which APIs can access the resources they need to carry out their function.

APIs work using ‘requests’ and ‘responses.’ When an API requests information from a web application or web server, it will receive a response. The place where APIs send requests and where the resource lives is called an endpoint. 

The Anatomy Of A Request

It’s important to know that a request is made up of four things:

  1. The endpoint

  2. The method

  3. The headers

  4. The data (or body)

The endpoint (or route) is the URL you request for. It follows this structure:

<root-endpoint>/<route>

The root-endpoint is the starting point of the API you’re requesting from. The root-endpoint of Github’s API is https://api.github.com while the root-endpoint Twitter’s API is https://api.twitter.com.

Why Are API Endpoints Important?

All over the world, companies leverage APIs to transfer vital information, processes, transactions, and more. API usage will only increase as time goes on, and making sure that each touchpoint in API communication is intact is vital to the success of each API. Endpoints specify where resources can be accessed by APIs and play a key role in guaranteeing the correct functioning of the software that interacts with it.  In short, API performance relies on its ability to communicate effectively with API Endpoints.

The Method

The method is the type of request you send to the server. The most common types are listed below: 

  • GET - This request is used to get a resource from a server. 

  • POST - This request is used to create a new resource on a server.

  • PUT, PATCH These two requests are used to update a resource on a server.

  • DELETE This request is used to delete a resource from a server. 

These methods provide meaning for the request you’re making. They are used to perform four possible actions: Create, Read, Update, and Delete (CRUD).

The Headers

Headers are used to provide information to both the client and the server. It can be used for many purposes, such as authentication and providing information about body content. 

The Data (Or “Body”)

The data (sometimes called “body” or “message”) contains information you want to be sent to the server. This option is only used with POST, PUT, PATCH or DELETE requests.

To send data through cURL, you can use the -d or --data option:

curl -X POST <URL> -d property1=value1

To send multiple data fields, you can create multiple -d options:

curl -X POST <URL> -d property1=value1 -d property2=value2

If it makes sense, you can break your request into multiple lines \ to make it easier to read:

curl -X POST <URL> \

 -d property1=value1 \

 d property2=value2

There are various body message types available (like JSON), they can be passed like:

curl -X POST <URL> -H "Content-Type: application/json" - '{"property1":"value1"}'

Examples of popular business-related APIs 

Salesforce API 

The Salesforce API landscape is very vast, it takes an API-first approach to build features on the Salesforce Platform. API first means building a robust API for a feature before focusing on designing its UI. This approach gives the Salesforce developer flexibility to manipulate his data however he wants.

Salesforce knows that its customers and partners are always thinking of new ways to extend Salesforce functionality and exciting apps to build for the AppExchange. Providing a comprehensive toolbox for developing on the platform is a top priority. This approach also lets Salesforce build UIs on top of the APIs, ensuring that the behavior is the same between them.

REST API, SOAP API, Bulk API, and Streaming API make up the Salesforce data APIs. Their purpose is to let you manipulate your Salesforce data, whereas other APIs let you do things like customize page layouts or build custom development tools. You can use other Salesforce APIs to manipulate subsets of your Salesforce data, too. For example, Analytics REST API focuses on Analytics. But these four APIs apply broadly across the spectrum of core Salesforce data.

HubSpot API 

Hubspot API is built to allow you to create a functional application or integration quickly and easily. The ecosystem of developers creating integrations on top of the APIs is strong and diverse, ranging from webinar providers to CRMs to social media.

All of the HubSpot APIs are organized around REST. All API calls to HubSpot should be made to the https://api.hubapi.com base domain. Hubspot uses many standard HTTP features, like HTTP verbs, which can be understood by many HTTP clients. JSON will be returned in all responses from the API, including errors. The APIs are designed to have predictable, straightforward URLs and to use HTTP response codes to indicate API errors. 

Below is an example of the Forms API snippet.

Forms API snippet

MailChimp API

MailChimp is an email marketing platform that offers simple tools that make it easy to design and share email campaigns, manage your subscriber lists, and track results. The MailChimp API gives users access to a directory of integrations, which connect MailChimp to hundreds of third-party add-ons, plugins, and other useful services, allowing users to create their own connections between MailChimp and other services. With the newest version Mailchimp API 3.0, it’s possible to sync activity and campaign stats with your database, manage lists, view, and control Automation workflows, and test different calls and endpoints before pushing to production.

With Mailchimp API users are free to create their own connections between MailChimp and other services. More than 200,000 customers use their API daily for a variety of tasks, from streamlining campaign creation to adding new subscribers to their email list. Typically, the MailChimp API is used to automate specific routine jobs that you can do within the application. These jobs include keeping your external email database in sync with a MailChimp subscriber list, like MailChimp for Salesforce app, or you can also automatically build campaigns that use dynamically-generated content or even add data about the products your subscribers have purchased with our e-commerce methods, like Chimpified, our Shopify integration. You can also use the API to accomplish simpler objectives without logging into the MailChimp interface. With the API, you can pull a report data for a sent campaign, create a segment of your list for later use, or add a new subscriber to your MailChimp list.

In the next article, we will describe the example of using Hubspot API for one of our clients. 

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