Ever since Application Programming Interfaces — or APIs as they are more commonly referred to — made way into the world of mobile app development, there has been no looking back. With the growing popularity of the cloud and technologies like the Internet of Things, APIs have become increasingly important to the way businesses are operated. For some of them, they are one of the most fundamental needs for conducting business. Why so, you may think? Before we answer that, let’s first get a few basic definitions out of the way.
What is an Application Programming Interface?
An API is a development environment that enables one party to connect to another party’s application or platform. Essentially, an API is like an arbitrator which describes and governs how one application can talk to another, the data that will be shared and what could be done with that data.
Facebook’s API is the most common example of an API that most websites use today — enabling login through Facebook, sharing capabilities from external sites, signing up for third-party apps and so on. Similarly, when a third party travel site allows users to book a hotel room using a particular hotel’s website, it is an API at work. Therefore, APIs play a key role today in creating collaboration between businesses and allowing them to significantly augment their user base without having to spend as much on developing everything from scratch. Naturally, they are inevitable for some businesses and extremely important for others.
The rise of the APIs in business
The growing popularity of APIs is because of a number of reasons. For one, they have opened up many opportunities of what can be done with them. They can access aspects of underlying operating systems, infrastructure and databases, connect mobile apps to back-end corporate data, and enable legacy systems to be integrated with newer systems without the need to rewrite everything in a new language. A huge savings of time and resources!
This functionality of APIs is hugely beneficial in the cloud-savvy times of today as more and more organisations try to facilitate BYOD policies and connect their IT assets. Cloud teams and mobile app developers who are proficient in API can thus move legacy apps easily to the cloud for access by employees’ personal devices. Moreover, they allow programmers to build tools that increase efficiency and efficacy in the workplace, often enabling collaboration between different sales, marketing and other functions. For example, marketing teams often depend on Google’s search API (made available via the Google Adwords Keywords tool) for generating leads. On the other hand, the connection between disparate systems — say a CRM system and mobile app through an API, gives rise to possibilities of new business partnerships. By enabling agile innovation and adaptation to market forces, they make it possible for businesses to deliver valuable experiences to customers in a faster, more scalable manner.
On the backend, APIs are critical for answering key questions that developers may have regarding how their apps are being used. Using Data Analytics, developers can have a complete visibility of the end users, developers and partners using their app, app traffic, data regarding downloads/purchases and so on. By capitalizing on the power of legacy systems and enterprise assets, mobile developers can create versatile solutions that attract and retain customers.