Here’s why APIs make modern human life easier

Fabio Santos
Fabio Santos

Público alvo: Para os iniciantes em programação ou APIs (Em Inglês).

Audience: For the very beginners of Programming or APIs.

Inspired by the book “An introduction to APIs”.

APIs ring you a bell, but you don't know exactly what it is.

Have you ever wondered how and why Facebook has access to your Instagram photos?

I've just read the book "An introduction to APIs" where those questions were answered. And then, I put the main idea in the following short article. Check it out! Both the article and the book!

The book doesn't not only deliver a basic understanding of APIs, but also explains how APIs usage goes.

First things first, API stands for Application Programming Interface and it is an “interface” that integrates different applications. But besides that, it’s also a piece of software or even a set of definitions between application and programming.

To guide your thinking about the subject, let’s make a basic comparison: On one side we have an UI (User Interface), which is basically the software’s screen that end-users may interact with. On the other side, we have the API, which is developed only for systems. The API allows them to use functionalities from other systems.

APIs facilitate the usage of functionalities from a different application or service. Most of the time, this functionality belongs to an external source, e.g. Facebook, Instagram and so on.

So, let’s see one example.

Imagine you are selling some goods on a website, and now you want to offer the possibility of checking if the Zip Codes (CEP in Brazil) inserted by the customers are really their delivery addresses, because you know how easy it is to make mistakes in an e-commerce.

Now, instead of developing a sophisticated service for this need, you can use a real part of someone else's service. For this example we’re talking about the Post Office’s API (Correios in Brazil). The customer doesn’t need to leave your website and go to the Post Office’s page only to validate this information.

Let’s be honest here, chances are the customers won’t return to your website if they do that.

From the moment you have set up the API completely, your website will connect to the other system in the background and do the whole work for you and your customers.

With this example in mind, now you are able to figure out why Facebook can access your Instagram photos.

Most applications and services have their own APIs published in an exclusive webpage. In this page you will find the API library, which contains all the code necessary to implement it, and also the how-to-use guide that will help you deploy the API and understand what can be expected from it.

The modern API we know nowadays is from the early 2000s, but APIs have been around almost for as long as computing itself and, for sure, APIs will continue here for a really long time. Not the way we know them today, but for sure our children will have a huge contact with this technology, probably more than we have had so far.

So, I encourage you to check this book out. I can guarantee some pleasure in this reading and perhaps tasting a good pizza, as described in some of the examples from the book.

Fabio Alves dos Santos



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