Surely more than once, you have seen the term API without knowing what it is. It is very common to see it when the operating system, web browsers, or some applications, through their updates, announce new APIs for developers.
But all these, what is an API? What are they for? In short, it is a set of functions with their respective descriptions that the developer can use in their applications. So the common user does not use the API but is inside the application without being aware of it.
What is an API (Application Programming Interface)
API or Application Programming Interface is a set of operations that a developer can use. The programmer does not always need to know how the API works, but he must know what is there and what he can do.
The importance of an API is that developers save time implementing them to get the relevant work done. Simultaneously, the amount of code that they must develop is also less, and it allows for better consistency in the applications for a platform. Also, they can control access to software and hardware resources.
For example, let’s say you want to take photos or record videos with the application you develop. It is not necessary to make a separate application for this since many platforms provide their APIs. In this way, you only need to implement the API to use your device’s camera in the application.
How does an API control access to resources?
I am answering what an API is going much further than simply speeding up the programmer’s work. An API plays a very important role in the security of the operating system since it can control access to hardware devices and most software functions that an application is not allowed to use.
For example, if you entered a web page and the message “This web wants to know your location” appears. It is because this website is trying to use its geolocation API. If you choose to allow it, the API will allow the browser to access GPS or Wi-Fi networks to find your real location.
What else can an API do?
APIs can be used for almost anything. For example, if you have seen a Google Maps object on a web page, they use the Google Maps API to enter that map. Google provides these APIs for developers, so they don’t have to develop their maps.
There are also APIs to offer text translation or to write a Facebook comment. On the other hand, the OAuth standard defines a series of APIs that allow you to log into a website with another service. For example, you can use your Twitter, Google, or Facebook account to log into a website without creating an account.
Does it sound familiar to you? This is prevalent in many games for mobile devices and some academic websites such as Codecademy.
Now you should have a better idea of what is an API. But as you can see, it is not necessary to know if you are not a developer. However, if you see that a platform has added new APIs, you can anticipate that developers could improve their applications.