Stepping into the world of Open Source isn’t easy. There’s tons of terms and typical abbreviations used which prevent the beginner from feeling at home. The goal for this post is to explain what an API essentially is.

An Application Programming Interface, often abbreviated as an API is basically a set of tools available for utilization. Although, people often have the misconception that the API is a set of rules software programs can follow in order to communicate with one another.

The statement above boils down to the very simple fact that the API serves as an interface between various software programs to facilitate their interaction.

UI : Human Intercation :: API : Program Interaction

An API is used when two or more systems work together in order to achieve something they can’t achieve individually. The API itself can be viewed as a promise one program makes to another to perform certain services when asked in specific ways.

Notable examples

The Prime example

Imagine it’s Prime Day and you’re ordering five items off of Amazon. When you’re presented with an option of using your credit card, you click on it and proceed to the page where-in you’re required to enter the details of your card.

After entering the details, you press the Enter key and the website you’re on tells you whether the information you’ve entered is true or false. The API is used exactly when the website communicates with your Credit Card company to validate your account and send a result back.

What’s the weather?



Almost all of us us use a weather application on our device. It is the API the application uses that lets it relay information related to the weather from weather.com to your device.

Without the presence of an API, the developer of the weather app would have the crawl weather.com manually.

English, mo-f*****! Do you speak it?



An API works like a translator between two people who speak entirely different languages. When it comes to softwares and programs, data can be consumed using an API so that two different kinds of programs could communicate.

The term “API” isn’t limited to the world of Open Source

The term this article focuses on is used in the world of trade- business as well. APIs (in business) allow organisations to expose certain assets or chunks of data for public consumption.

Concluding

Computer Science revolves around the concept of abstraction. Getting the work done with the help of an alien software without needing to know how the software works is what abstraction is all about.

In the world of Open Source, the utility that provides the abstraction is the API. Is is a set of functions or classes one software module exposes for other programs to use by passing arguments.

Questions, anyone?
Questions, anyone?

tl;dr for busy people- a comprehensive video by MuleSoft


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