For Developers

Top 7 Examples of APIs We Use in Our Everyday Lives

APIs (application programming interfaces) are already linking our digital world in ways we never imagined achievable. With real-time analytics and highly integrated tools, we can execute tasks faster and more efficiently at work. APIs are also bringing crowdsourcing clinical data and research teams together in health care, greatly speeding innovative medicines and helping clinicians enhance the quality of care by leaps and bounds.

You may be wondering how the little yet powerful API has such an influence. Let's go through the fundamentals of APIs and how they link apps.

What is an API? What are its Functions?

Simply said, an API acts as a virtual middleman, transferring data from one interface, such as a mobile app, to another. APIs connect various sections of a software platform to guarantee that information is sent correctly. These connection points serve as an internal communication route, and a way for external tools to access the same data. As a result, APIs may be classified into two types:

  • Private APIs: A private API is only available to developers and users within a company. These APIs are often used to link internal team operations to remove silos and streamline communication.
  • Open APIs: on the other hand, open APIs allow third-party developers to quickly access and merge data from one tool to another. An open or public API saves time for developers by allowing them to link their platform with already existing tools, minimizing the need to construct new services.

We've produced a list of seven of the most relatable instances of API usage in our daily lives to assist our readers better grasp what is API and how they operate. You've probably encountered these API connections elsewhere, from checking in with Facebook to buying with PayPal!

1. Weather Snippets

Weather data is a popular API example that we come across regularly. Rich weather snippets appear ubiquitous, appearing on all platforms such as Google Search, Apple's Weather app, and even your smart home device. For example, if you Google "weather + [your city's name]," you'll get a specialized box at the top of the search results (known as a rich snippet) containing the current weather conditions and prediction.

Google isn't in the weather data business (yet!), so they get it from a third party. They do it using an API, which feeds them the most recent meteorological information in a format that they can easily modify. As previously stated, several weather APIs power this type of functionality.

2. Log-in Using XYZ

Another well-known API example usage is the "log in with Facebook/Twitter/Google/GitHub" capability seen on many websites. It's quite useful, but have you ever pondered how it works? Rather than entering into users' social media accounts (which would be a severe security risk), applications with this capability use the APIs of these platforms to authenticate the user with each login.

It operates in a straightforward manner. When the program loads, it checks the API to see whether the user is already logged in to whichever social networking platform. If not, when the user hits the "Log-in Using XYZ" button, a pop-up appears asking them to confirm they really want to log in with that social network profile. When the user confirms, the API sends identity information to the application, letting it know who is logging in.

3. Pay with PayPal

Have you ever used PayPal to purchase directly from an eCommerce store? That, too, is an API at work. The "Pay with PayPal" functionality, like checking in with a social networking site, is done via APIs to ensure that the end application can only do what it needs to accomplish without being exposed to sensitive data or gaining access to unwelcome privileges.

The inner workings of this useful feature are fairly similar to the login procedure discussed above. When a user selects the "Pay with PayPal" button, the application makes an "order" request to the PayPal API, containing the amount owing and other critical information. The user is then authenticated, and their purchase is confirmed through a pop-up. Finally, the API returns payment confirmation to the application if everything goes as planned.

4. Twitter Bots

Another API example in action is the vast array of bots available on Twitter. Twitter bots are accounts that tweet (or retweet), follow, and send direct messages in response to software commands. There are several Twitter bots, but here are a handful of our favorites:

TinyCareBot: Sends hourly alerts to drink water, stretch, get some fresh air, and do other activities. Grammar Police: It identifies typical grammatical errors produced by its followers. Netflix Bot: When new Netflix material is launched, it is announced on Twitter.

The Twitter API powers all of these bots. Aside from allowing you to do simple operations on the network, such as Tweeting a certain phrase or following a user, the Twitter API may also notify bots when something specific occurs. For example, you may instruct the Twitter API to notify your bot anytime a new follower is added. Then, using the API, you can configure your bot to deliver a message to that follower.

5. Travel Booking

Have you ever wondered how travel booking websites can collect thousands of flights and locations and present the lowest option? Using third-party APIs to retrieve airline and hotel availability from suppliers is frequently the answer. Similarly, if you book a trip through one of these services, they'll use APIs to confirm the trip with the supplier from whom it was sourced.

APIs are ideal for travel services because they enable machines to communicate data and requests — in this API example, trip availability and reservation requests — rapidly and independently. Without the use of APIs, a booking service representative would have to personally email the airline or hotel to inquire about their availability. Then, after they receive an email from the supplier, they must confirm it with the passenger. By the time the travel broker sends another email to the supplier confirming the trip, it will most likely be unavailable!

6. Google Maps

Google Maps is a popular app on billions of mobile devices around the world, but you're probably aware of at least a few dozen other apps that use Google Maps APIs to pull customized location data, send directions, and analyze all types of location data that can help businesses provide better services and establish streamlined connections with suppliers, customers, delivery services, and more.

A deeper geographical data cache than what is provided through various Google Maps APIs would be difficult to find for business app developers. Businesses that manage a fleet utilize this data to pinpoint vehicle positions and chart the most effective routes to destinations, saving time and money on fuel and vehicle maintenance. This data is also used by ridesharing applications for similar purposes. Travel firms adore the autocomplete address capabilities, which allow their customers to quickly enter destinations for directions and alternate routes, and the "places nearby" functions.

Google Maps provides a plethora of customizable, simple-to-implement APIs that companies may use to maximize their location data and services to interact with all sections of their organization. Because, at the end of the day, it's all about location, location, and location.

7. Okta

Okta is an identity authentication system that operates in the cloud. In other words, if your organization handles a large number of workers who work on the road, on several devices, or from home, you'll need more than simply a password to secure data protection. You will require multi-factor authentication (MFA). Okta's APIs assist organizations in securely managing data in the cloud.

Okta's APIs may be configured to provide new workers specific access to the tools they need for their job while preventing access to data and applications that aren't relevant to them. If an employee quits the firm, Okta allows you to automatically disable access to all of the systems they were previously logged into.

Okta's APIs have been in high demand since the beginning of the year, as more and more work is being done from home, allowing employees to securely manage, analyse, and churn through data they're allowed to access from the comfort of their own kitchens.

Importance of APIs for Business

APIs, or application programming interfaces, are essential tools for enterprises of all sizes. APIs are important from a technical viewpoint because they allow one computer program's capabilities to be utilized by another. They allow two separate programs to communicate with one another. APIs allow businesses to grow faster than ever before, and they provide a solution for firms that presently spend more than $590 billion each year connecting heterogeneous systems. APIs foster a new wave of innovation based on sharing services, similar to how the web expanded the internet's possibilities. APIs and their potential to alter business processes are attracting the attention of organizations across all industries.

Innovation

The fundamental reason APIs are so important in current marketplaces is because they enable speedier innovation. Change is easier, and more individuals can contribute to an organization's success. They provide two advantages: the firm can manufacture superior items while distinguishing itself from the competition. APIs also facilitate commercialization. Having a presence on multiple platforms allows businesses to sell more ad space. According to ReadWrite, any transactional or advertising-driven service benefits from various interfaces. APIs should be established for platforms such as the iPhone, Facebook, browser extensions, and others.

API Example of Success

Simply said, APIs enable businesses to enter markets they may not have previously considered. Early adopters may be able to increase income by collaborating with other businesses. There are several instances of firms that have successfully adopted APIs. Instead of developing its own mapping, payment, and communication systems, Uber leveraged the finest of those programmes and linked them all together via APIs. Those who remember Twitter's early days may recall that its user interface wasn't always so simple. On the other hand, TweetDeck constructed a nicer UI on top of the Twitter engine, resulting in a more seamless user experience. And thanks to a third-party application, Google Maps was able to display real estate sites on a map, resulting in an exponential surge in popularity. Years later, Google Maps and numerous of its other products now provide API access.

The Future

APIs have the ability to revolutionize business. Traditional techniques rely on huge sales forces, paperwork, and other time-consuming, outmoded, and costly procedures to operate their operations, and the practice is becoming increasingly unsustainable. According to Forbes, forward-thinking businesses are cutting prices and time spent by "creating their solutions using best-of-breed components, which they access via APIs." When you contemplate the Internet of Things, it's simple to see how APIs' significance is expanding beyond IT firms. APIs can help organizations establish viable product strategies for the internet of devices.

Behind the Scenes with APIs

So far, this article has covered five real-world instances of API usage. However, it is critical to note that APIs are utilized for far more than those API examples could demonstrate! This is especially true in business, where successfully storing and transmitting data is critical to day-to-day operations. Here are just a few of the ways APIs fuel our lives in the background:

  • Private APIs are used by financial organizations such as banks to track and manage checking accounts, credit cards, and other accounts.
  • APIs are used by retail companies to connect with courier networks, ensuring that shipments are picked up as soon as possible and tracked as they move.
  • APIs are used in web applications to connect user-facing front ends with critical back-end functionality and data.
  • APIs are used to deliver material by streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix.
  • APIs are used by automakers such as Tesla to provide software upgrades. Others utilize APIs to make automotive data available to third parties.

Final Thoughts

APIs are ubiquitous, and all you have to do is pick up your smartphone to see them in action. APIs power everything from searching for the weather on Google to connecting with friends on Facebook, purchasing with PayPal, and communicating with a Twitter bot. Furthermore, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes with APIs. We may not notice them as much as we should, yet they are essential to our everyday digital life.

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