What Is an API Integration & Why Does It Matter?

An API — which stands for application programming interface — is a software interface that connects two or more applications to exchange data. Learn all about it here.

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An API — which stands for application programming interface — is a software interface that connects two or more applications to exchange data. Organizations use API integrations for seamless collaboration between multiple applications and software to share data and automate business processes. In simpler words, API integrations help organizations keep their valuable data in sync, improve their productivity, and generate more and more revenue.

Examples of API Integrations

To understand it better, you can take examples of Tripadvisor, Marketo, and Salesforce. For instance, the Tripadvisor app collects data from airlines, hotels, and restaurants by engaging with their APIs. Similarly, leads are easily synced between two marketing automation systems, like Marketo, with customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce, through API data integrations.

How do API integrations work?

APIs work to do more than just exchange data and facilitate communication between a machine and software. They can also perform calculations and transform data into different formats, like text into audio or comprehending the subject of photos.

While the term “API” covers a broad range of technologies, the term is most commonly associated with web APIs — which are APIs that are used specifically designed for use over the internet. Suppose a computer works as a server somewhere on the internet and responds to every request it receives. When you send an API request, the computer performs the necessary tasks — scanning through data — and then sends you back a response.  

Since there are thousands of APIs, you need to know how to make requests for each type of API. 

Different types of API used in web-based software applications:

1. Public APIs:

  • These APIs are open for all devices. Any developer or business can use public APIs to share their software components or database with other organizations. Such APIs usually present moderate-level authorization.

Another type of public API is the third-party API. Third-party APIs, by default, are not present in your browser. Instead, they are built into third-party platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, and you need to retrieve their information from the web. Through third-party APIs, you can use some of the functionality of the third-party platform in your web pages. 

For example, the Twitter API allows you to display your latest Tweets on your webpage. Another example is  Google Maps API that helps you put the Google Map location directly on your website. Moreover, it also allows you to add relevant content and customize it according to the requirements of your site.

2. Partner APIs:

  • Partner APIs are used for the facilitation of communication between businesses. These APIs are only available to specific outside developers or API users. This means businesses can choose who they want to share their data with without including any unnecessary external party. Partner APIs present high-level authorization.

3. Private APIs:

  • Private or internal APIs are only used to establish communication and connect systems within the business. For example, a private API can help a business connect its payroll and HR department. Since these APIs are only intended for internal use, they require and present weak authorization.

How do REST APIs work?

REST is one of the most commonly-used API conventions. But what is a REST API, and how does it work? Since APIs exchange data between two or more applications, the process requires precise protocols and architectures. By this, we mean the rules and structures that control the API’s functions. 

REST refers to representational state transfer, the most flexible approach to building APIs. The architecture depends on a client-server approach that differentiates between the front and back ends of the API and offers easy implementation. 

REST APIs are usually known as “RESTful APIs.” These APIs don’t require the user to store data or sources between requests. However, REST supports caching or storing responses for slow APIs. 

Apart from that, REST APIs work directly from an HTTP URL instead of relying on extensible markup language (XML). They can also operate via intermediate systems, like API gateways and load balancers.

In addition to REST APIs, there are other common API protocols, such as RPC and SOAP. Each has its unique specifications and functions.

RPC

RPC refers to the remote procedure call protocol, a straightforward way of sending various parameters and getting results. Where REST APIs work on exchanging data or resources, RPC APIs mainly perform executable processes and actions. 

RPC can also use two entirely different languages for codings, such as Javascript object notation (JSON) and XML — which results in dubbing the APIs as JSON-RPC and XML-RPC, respectively. 

SOAP

SOAP refers to simple object access protocol, a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defined messaging standard mainly used to make web APIs, especially with XML. SOAP is compatible with various communication interfaces such as HTTP, TCP, and SMTP. 

Fortunately, the infrastructure of SOAP is user-friendly, as it allows developers to create and write SOAP APIs in many ways and customize them.

Benefits of API Integration

There are many advantages of using API integration. Some notable ones include the following.

1. Minimal Errors

Businesses with large volumes of data can easily share information with other businesses through API management. In addition, APIs reduce the chances of errors and minimize the complexity of the process.

2. Improved Collaboration

API integration gives you a clear report of your data processes so that you can monitor them effectively. With a streamlined strategy, you can compile precise reports based on your data, thereby improving communication and visibility within all systems. 

3. Scalability

API integration provides businesses with an easy alternative to scale up. With APIs, they don’t need to create something new to connect their systems and applications.

4. Automation

With API integration, data exchange from one application to another takes only a few minutes. Successful automation doesn’t require any manual help and thus saves time and reduces errors.

5. Data Integrity

The dramatic change in the IT world has increased many risks to data integrity. With the innovation brought by artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), API integration has become a need of the hour for businesses. 

Businesses can rely on their capabilities to keep up with the changing tech trends by having an effective API integration platform.

Take a free lesson in API integrations 

If you want to learn more about APIs, you can easily do so with a free intro to API integration lesson.

Flatiron School’s free lessons will give you a foundation in understanding APIs and will help you decide if you’d like to enroll in a coding bootcamp.

Posted by Flatiron School  /  April 19, 2022