What is an API?
Updated: Mar 22
APIs, also known as Application Programming Interfaces, allow two different pieces of software to talk to one another with help from a set of definitions and procedures. In simple terms, APIs can be considered a "contract of service" between separate applications. These contracts are responsible for sending and receiving requests and answers between the applications.
An excellent example of an API is the weather app on your phone, which shares a connection to the local weather network. The weather network, which contains all the data, forecasts, and predictions for upcoming weather systems, communicates with your weather app to show you whether it might rain, snow, or be sunny right on your app.
How Do APIs Work?
All APIs are structured using a client and server, the client (usually the application) sends the request, while the server provides the answer. In the example of a weather app, the application is the client, and the local weather network is the server. Here are four unique ways that APIs can work depending on what problem they solve.
1. SOAP APIs
The SOAP API is generally inflexible and has been historically a popular option. SOAP APIs use what's known as a Simple Object Access Protocol. In this type, the client and server communicate using XML.
2. RPC APIs
This API type is known as Remote Procedure Calls. In this type, the client is responsible for completing a procedure on the server, which the server then sends the produced output back to the client.
3. WebSocket APIs
The WebSocket API is modern web API development that uses JSON objects to exchange pieces of data. This API type supports two-way communication between both clients and servers, with the server being able to send out callback messages to link to clients, making it more efficient than REST APIs.
4. REST APIs
REST APIs are among the most widely used APIs, primarily because of their versatility and flexibility on the web. In this type of API, the client will send a request to the server in the form of data. The server will then use this data to begin internal procedures and then send back a response to the client.
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