Before I explain what the title means, I have to give you some context: I’m Italian or, more specifically, from Napoli.
In London, when you want to meet a friend to have a chat, you go to the pub for a beer. Where I’m from you meet for a coffee at the “bar” - the Italian word for “coffee shop”, that’s where “barista” comes from yeah?
Anyway, I was sitting there with two friends: a developer and a clothes shop owner. Vittorio - the other nerd - and I were talking about dev stuff and the word “API” came. That’s when the other friend asked: “What does API mean?”.
That’s every developer’s deep fear. My friend looked at me and started with a very complicated sentence that needed an exponential number of terminology to be explained. At that point, I remembered a great metaphor that I once read and that could explain it to non-technical people.
The Waiter Example
You’re sitting at the restaurant and you order something. The waiter gets your order and takes it to the kitchen, where the chef prepares your meal and gives it to the waiter, who delivers it back to the table.
The Waiter is the API!
Let’s have a closer look.
You (the diner) are the ‘user’, who opens an app (the restaurant) and asks for some service.
You can’t just walk in the kitchen and get the food you want, you need to ask the waiter.
The API (the waiter) gets the request from the user and takes it to a service (the kitchen) where the software (the chef) elaborates it. Then the API (the waiter) returns it to the user.
What is an API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface and it is a software code written purely to be consumed by other applications. In other words, a communication bridge between applications.
- Pulls or shares data of a company or out to the Internet
- Makes a company’s services accessible to an entire world of developers
- Can be one source of data for multiple platforms of the same product.
The hidden weapon of modern software
The speed of how things change in the technology world makes it difficult to keep track of all the moving bits. But, when you look closely, you can actually see that much of that depends on APIs.
Since they act behind the scenes, it’s understandable that most people don’t understand what they do. Unlike web applications themselves, APIs are built for computer consumption rather than direct user interaction.
But that world is now coming to light and so is the understanding of how APIs affect flexibility and performance of our products. For example, headless CMS choice is now much more common when it comes to business decisions.
APIs give great business agility
A private API architecture will massively decrease the development time, while a public one can add extra revenue channels.
Regardless of whether a business decides to go for public or private, the choice will still show benefits:
- Allow business partners to integrate with ease
- Create brand new partnerships
- More integrations of the same service using one source of data
- Deploy the same data on different platforms without having to re-adapt.