What exactly is an API? The Answer within 300 Words or Much less

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Once the marketing industry first shifted from outbound to inbound marketing, many marketers dropped their old roles associated with content interrupters for new types as content creators.

But that shift is still generating aftershocks, and to keep up with your competition today, you need to understand what APIs are, how they integrate together with your content strategy, and the social insight they bring to your website.

Don’t worry — APIs might seem complicated, but by the end of this post, you’ll know how they work and what using them entails. Here’s a short definition of an API, followed by some key information on how to make one work for your business.

What is an API?

A good API, short for app programming interface, is a series of rules. To be even clearer, it is an information middleman. APIs allow for an application to get information from a piece of software and use that information within their own application, or sometimes for data analysis.

In the plainest terms, an API is a blueprint that enables “your stuff” to talk to and work together with “their stuff. ” You itens, in this case, is known as the API endpoint.

Sound confusing? Don’t worry — we’ll walk through an example below.

API Endpoint Example

Let’s state you want to stream public twitter posts in real-time so that you can stay informed on a specific subject of interest or on current trends in the world. Then you could use Twitter’s filtered stream endpoint. Its URL is: https://api.twitter.com/2/tweets/search/stream

Technically, an API endpoint need only be referred to with all the end path of the source URL. The base path, that is common to all endpoints, is https://api.twitter.com. Because that stays the same, there’s no need to keep listing it. You can instead just list the endpoint: /2/tweets/search/stream.

How to Test a good API Endpoint

There are several online tools available for testing an API endpoint. For the sake of this post, we’ll walk through ways to set up a test using snuggle. cURL is a command-line device for transferring data that will supports multiple protocols, including HTTP. It is able to make demands, get data, and deliver data — making it the ideal tool for requesting details from APIs.

Let’s use an example from Twitter’s personal documentation. Say, you want to stay informed on the Twitter API. Then you will want to get tweets through major accounts like @TwitterDev and @TwitterAPI as soon as they’re posted. And maybe you only wish tweets that contain links to articles or documentation therefore you’re getting as much context as possible.  

In that case, utilizing the filtered stream endpoint is the perfect choice. But in purchase for the endpoint to know what kind of tweets to send you, you will have to define filtering criteria. Otherwise, you’d just be inquiring to see every tweet posted in real-time.

Filtering requirements will be applied to the endpoint in the form of rules. To build these rules, you’ll need a group of operators. For this example, you may use two operators — from: and provides: links — in order to only see twitter posts from certain accounts which contain links. To instruct the particular filtered stream endpoint to only show tweets from the balances @Twitterdev and @TwitterApi that contain links, you’d use the subsequent rule: “from: twitterdev from: twitterapi offers: links”

To demand this information from the filtered flow endpoint, you need to include the proper HTTP request to tell the API what action to take. There are four main options. Check out a brief description of each beneath:

  • OBTAIN: retrieve a resource 
  • POSTING: create a resource
  • PUT: upgrade an existing resource 
  • DELETE: get rid of a resource

For this example, you’ll use the POST request. In addition to including the rule mentioned above within your request, you’ll include the content material type and authorization. Beneath the content type is defined as “application/json” so the request is rendered in the lightweight data format JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). To authenticate your ask for, you’ll have to replace the placeholder text $BEARER_TOKEN with your app’s unique Bearer Token, which can be generated in your developer website.

Why are APIs important?

One of the first questions many marketers inquire is: Why do many of these businesses share their data openly, for free?

Normally, the answer is: scale. As software program companies grow, the employees within those companies rapidly realize they have more ideas than they have time and resources to develop them.

By creating APIs, companies let third-party developers create apps that can improve usage plus adoption of the main system. In that way, a business can develop an ecosystem that gets to be dependent on the data from their API — a dynamic that leads to additional revenue possibilities.

How to Use an API

Comprehending the value of a particular API is essentially about understanding what information is available through an API and how it can be accessed. To find out what a particular API can do for you, you can do one of two things.

  1. Ask an online developer to look at an API and discuss it with you.
  2. Do the research on your own. Minus access or budget to use a web developer, this is an attractive option. But don’t anxiety — many online providers have good API documents.

API Documentation

Let’s take a glance at Twitter’s API reference point index as an example.

Twitter API reference index

A lot of Twitter’s growth has been due to outside developers, and the 1st Twitter API started as being a basic wiki. Since then, they have evolved into a detailed index of APIs that a savvy marketer can use to determine what information might be available to the developer in the form of an API   and how to include this API on your website.

Taking a look at the screenshot above, you can see there are multiple categories of info available to outside developers. As soon as you select an API you have in mind, you can click on it to see what information is available via this API. Check out Twitter’s Tweet Timeline API endpoint below.

Twitters Tweet Timeline API endpoint documentation

In the API documentation above, Twitter’s Tweet Timeline API explains ways to take a brief collection of recent tweets from a specific customer’s timeline and display them, in clickable form, on your own website. The API paperwork includes tweet volume restrictions, the API’s resource LINK, as well as what you can plus cannot choose to display through this API.

Applying the particular API to Your Website

If you include the API’s resource WEB ADDRESS to the backend of your web site, it’ll return the information a person called for to the frontend of the website. Here’s what this looks such as on the New York Road Joggers website, helping them market the New York City Race (with a few custom design modifications):

New York Road Runners website embeds Tweets using Twitter API

You can also see the HubSpot API documention to see how you can build applications and integrations using data from HubSpot.

One last caveat: In order to officially use a developer’s API, you might also need to be assigned an API key.

Think of your API key as your authentication token, declaring you a member of a developer’s local community. In effect, this token recognizes what you’re using the API for, and verifies that you’ve been given permission to carry out this particular project by the API’s owner.

Rest assured, your API important does not really give the creator access to personal information about a person.

APIs as a Marketing Platform

Marketing in an inbound world is about companies developing useful applications and services to maintain customer retention. Brands will need to move away from intermittently shedding in advertisements to become conduits of consumer communications.

In that process, APIs facilitate the information needed to provide solutions to customer problems.

API Examples

Understanding what information is available with an API will help your see whether it is worth working with a developer to pursue the particular project further. Here are 2 examples.

Twitter Mentions

In case you wanted to show tweets on the website that included describes on Twitter to posts from your blog, you’d have to understand if you could request tweets with only specific URLs from the Twitter API.

YouTube Video Embedding

When you right-click a YouTube video on youtube. possuindo, and select “Copy Embed Program code, ” you’re essentially requesting to use YouTube’s API on the website. YouTube makes it easy for your public to embed YouTube videos to play directly on various other websites.

API Terms of Service

No matter the project, it’s critical that you actually read and understand the terms of service for an API you’re considering for your internet site.

Most APIs have particular usage restrictions. If you don’t take the time to understand the restrictions of an API you’re interested in, you could invest more time and money in developing a advertising asset that’s rendered useless once the API provider establishes you’ve violated the API’s terms of service (and revokes your access).

For this reason, most APIs have “call limits. ”

What is an API call?

An API call, also known as an API request, is an instance of a website owner “calling” for the use of the developer’s API. Saving the API, logins to the developer’s website, and queries regarding the application all count as API calls.

With this in mind, an API call limit may be the number of times you can ask for information about an API from the web service within a provided time period. Again, please see the terms of use for any APIs you are thinking about using. These documents should clearly details any limitations as well as suitable use of the program.

The Future of APIs in Business

Developing on the APIs of existing web providers is only the beginning. We live in a world that now desires open and available articles for all   the natural progression of this is for marketers themselves to release their own APIs, so that their customers can develop applications as a result.

API discussing applies to all businesses — not just those that are web-affiliated, but rather anyone who has a web-affiliated tool or component of their own organization. Obviously, this concept could cause hurdles for some companies, especially from the legal section. It’s up to you to find out which usually APIs are most valuable and exactly how you can lawfully and sustainably use them.

Editor’s take note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and it has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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