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Providing an API gives Your Business More Value

API means Application Programming Interface.
What is an API? Let’s try to shed some light on this term. Let us focus on the word interface. An interface is a common boundary between two separate systems. It is the medium in which the two systems communicate. An API is the interface implemented by an application which allows other applications to communicate with it.
So why is an API necessary? The answer is simple — to communicate properly. Here is an example, imagine Notepad could not copy-paste to and from Microsoft Word. Envision having to type each and every time even though the text is present in some other application. This is an illustration of communication between applications, and this communication is made possible by APIs. In other words, an API invokes a function from a computer program.
Each API call is different in how it is called, when, what it does, and what it returns to the caller. These APIs are generally invisible to the end users. They are carefully thought out sections of code created by programmers.
The purpose of an API is unlimited. Examples of an API include: to allocate, manage and return memory; to create, manage, and delete files and folders; to receive and set the current time; to draw lines and other geometric shapes; etc.
If this all sounds confusing then think of it this way — and API is a means of putting information in and getting information out of your system without having to type it yourself. You will provide the API with information, and in return the system will process and emit back other data. Here is one final analogy you will all understand – the ATM machine. This is a sort of an API for your bank. You place your card in the machine, then you enter your PIN number and ask the bank for money, and then it dispenses cash. The information you are providing is the data on your card and PIN number, while the bank is supplying you with cash and a receipt.
What about the potential business value for providing an API? Firstly, you are making it easier for your customers to deal with you. Secondly, if clients can interact with your system through your API, this will shorten their overall process. Thirdly, it will cut down on errors and duplication. If it is simple to deal with your company, then more people will. This will have a positive effect on your bottom line.
So, the reality is no longer — “what is an API and why do I need one”; it is instead — “what is my API going to do and when can I start using it”.
People once thought, (maybe some still do), APIs only could be used by those willing to write massive amounts of code. However, people use APIs to gather data using ordinary URLs. The first thing you need to know is how to construct the URL. Each API is slightly different, so you need to review the documentation for the API you are interested in employing. Most of the time, the documentation will include examples you can tweak to get the desired output. This does not mean every API can be used without any programming skills, but using many of the APIs made available by services on the internet is not as difficult as you may think.
Keep in mind most APIs have some kind of rate limit, which means you only can make so many calls to the API from a given IP address or account in a given amount of time. This is to prevent people from abusing the API and placing too large a load on the servers.
API keys — some APIs require you sign up for an API key. This is customarily used to keep track of your requests, and you should think of it as a password that should not be shared with others. In many cases, an API key is what the API uses to rate limit your requests.
With some additional programming, you can start to combine these APIs to obtain some interesting information that cannot easily be gathered in other ways.
Internally, you should examine your core competencies. What makes your business unique? By doing this, you will discover what people will want to utilize through an API.  Once you decide, a straightforward design and precise documentation are essential in successfully adopting and API.
*Did You Know? The motivation for revealing APIs to partners differs from business to business. For major companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, APIs can be used to drive increased usage of their services, through the creation of innovative third-party applications that attract a large audience, which can then be monetized through advertising.

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