What is an API ?

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Connectivity is an amazing thing to ever happen, We are connected to each other like never before. It is not just about us, the web and mobile applications are also connected to each other like never before. We can purchase, post, pick anything anywhere. But how does it happen. How does data get from one place to other. How does different devices and applications connect with each other to allow us to place an order, make a reservation, or book a flight within clicks.

What is APIWell the unsung hero of our connected world is API or Application programming interface.  Its what makes communication between applications possible. But what exactly is API ? API’s are business capabilities exposed over the internet for applications to use. To put it simple API is messenger that takes request from you ,tells the system what you want to do and then returns the response back to you .

To help you understand this with an example, imagine API as a waiter in restaurant. You are sitting at the table with menu having list of food items available. These food items are prepared in a place called kitchen.  Now you need a waiter who can take your order , pass it to the cook in kitchen and then bring your ordered back to you. The similar activity is also performed by API but in between software applications.

To give you a real API eg.  I guess You are probably familiar with the process of searching and booking an airline flight ticket. Now let’s say I want to book a flight ticket from Mumbai to Singapore. I prefer Indigo airlines so I visit their website, enter source, destination, date of travel and other required variables to see price and seat availability details. Now in this case am using goindigo.in website to plan my flight. But what if Am not using goindigo.in website which is having direct access to flight information. What if am using an online travel companies website like makemytrip.com to book my flight ticket which aggregates information from many different airlines. This travel service interacts with API (similar to waiter in restaurant) of all airlines that fly from Mumbai to Singapore  to give me the best price, seat availability and other information like meals and baggage.  All airlines have API’s which get interacted by travel service companies software to provide you with right information. To make it clear API acts as a messenger between software of travel service companies and software of airlines.

So this was the connection between applications which I was talking in the beginning of this article.

So whenever you think of an API think of your waiter, running back and forth between applications, databases and devices to deliver data and create connectivity that put world at our fingertips.