ABCs of APIs
In its simplest form, a Web API is a request-response protocol written and published by the owner of some kind of digital asset — data, videos, photographs, the software to set your thermostat, or anything else that can be published online. A developer who is given access to the API (sometimes it’s open to anyone, sometimes to a select few) then uses that API in some kind of front end, for example, a website or a mobile app, to present the content or functionality to end users. The user sees website content or an app that does their bidding, but they don’t see where it’s coming from. Similarly, a user could use any number of apps to get the latest sports scores, for example, but all of those scores might really be coming from ESPN via its API.
At its most fundamental level, an API enables a behind-the-scenes, machine-to-machine transaction. At a higher level, it enables enterprises to offer access to their digital assets, and encourages developers to create new and innovative uses of those assets, and potentially creates revenue streams. For users, it gives powerful and convenient access to a world of content and applications in ways they’ve never had before.
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