API stands for application programming interface. It is a set of tools that allow different software modules to talk to one another. So what is an API used for?
An API is typically used when someone wants to do something on their website or app but their programming language can’t do it. For example, if you want to accept payments on your website and that’s not supported by your programming language, you might use an API called Stripe.
What is stripe you ask? Stripe is a payment processor. They allow you to get money from your website’s visitors using a variety of different payment methods, like credit cards, bank transfers or Paypal.
There are many different ways an API can be used. For example, they can help automate something or give someone a way to programmatically access a website. Also APIs are commonly used by companies that are building software for other companies and want to maintain their independence and control over the software.
If you are going to use cloud based software for your ERP ( Enterprise Resource Planning), MRP ( Manufacturer Resource Planning), or custom cloud based software. It’s extremely important to know how an API works. There are different types of APIs Private and Open and Closed APIs. The difference is who is allowed to access the data. Some APIs are completely open and publicly available through different portal websites around the web. For example, you can go to Google and search for Stripe APIs. Click on it and you can see the API documentation for Stripe which is publicly available for anyone to read and use if they want.
Private API’s are commonly used between two companies. For example, if one company wanted to build an ERP and MRP system for BMW they would use a private API to connect to and get information from the BMW website or database. This way the company building the software can maintain control of their software and not have BMW have full control over how things work. This is common in custom cloud based software as well.
APIs can be public however, which allows anyone with the know how to access it. Open API’s allow anyone to use the API to get information from a website without having to ask the website owners permission. Some Open API’s are public and some are private. Either way, if you want to connect to a website you must have an API that allows that connection and you must know how to use it.
So what’s required for an open API?
Well, pretty much anything can be turned into an API – there aren’t any restrictions as long as you can connect it in some way.
Two popular examples of Open APIs are Instagram and Facebook. For example, if you want to get a status update from Instagram you would be able to do so with a simple API call. Facebook also has simple ways for you to post things to their website.
Open APIs have been used for quite a while on websites and apps, but are still new to the app store realm. There are currently a staggering 9000+ public Open APIs although the number continues to grow every day.
If you want to understand more about application programming interfaces. I suggest checking out our Glossary.
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