APIs are mechanisms that enable two software components to communicate with each other using a set of definitions and protocols. For example, the weather bureau’s software system contains daily weather data. The weather app on your phone “talks” to this system via APIs and shows you daily weather updates on your phone.
What does API stand for?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. In the context of APIs, the word Application refers to any software with a distinct function. Interface can be thought of as a contract of service between two applications. This contract defines how the two communicate with each other using requests and responses. Their API documentation contains information on how developers are to structure those requests and responses.
How do APIs work?
API architecture is usually explained in terms of client and server. The application sending the request is called the client, and the application sending the response is called the server. So in the weather example, the bureau’s weather database is the server, and the mobile app is the client. There are four different ways that APIs can work depending on when and why they were created.
These APIs use Simple Object Access Protocol. Client and server exchange messages using XML. This is a less flexible API that was more popular in the past.
These APIs are called Remote Procedure Calls. The client completes a function (or procedure) on the server, and the server sends the output back to the client.
Websocket API is another modern web API development that uses JSON objects to pass data. A WebSocket API supports two-way communication between client apps and the server. The server can send callback messages to connected clients, making it more efficient than REST API.
These are the most popular and flexible APIs found on the web today. The client sends requests to the server as data. The server uses this client input to start internal functions and returns output data back to the client. Let’s look at REST APIs in more detail below.