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5 Things That Startup Owners Should Know About APIs and How to Use Them

As our world becomes more connected, the use of technology like Application Programming Interfaces (API) becomes the norm. Nowadays, it’s not about the products you use; it’s about whether they can provide a seamless user experience for your employees and customers. As data becomes more abundant, innovative teams have gotten better at simplifying workflows and integrating components via APIs. But what are APIs, and why do businesses need them?

As our world becomes more connected, the use of technology like Application Programming Interfaces (API) becomes the norm. Nowadays, it’s not about the products you use; it’s about whether they can provide a seamless user experience for your employees and customers.

As data becomes more abundant, innovative teams have gotten better at simplifying workflows and integrating components via APIs. But what are APIs, and why do businesses need them?

What is an API?

An Application Program Interface (API) is a technology or software that connects two systems. 

Think of an API as a massive database of knowledge similar to a librarian. If you’re in a library and can’t find the book you need, you’d approach a librarian and ask where the book can be found. Modern libraries now have search APIs on computers that utilize keywords to find books.

How Do Businesses Use APIs?

Before creating your own API, it makes the most sense to use another company's system first. This will get you familiar with APIs while incorporating them into your business simultaneously. 

Find a free API and get an API key. This is used to identify yourself as a valid client, record your interactions, and set access permissions. Keep your key private, like you would a password. Then, review the API documentation (instruction manual) to learn how to integrate your API.

You’ll need to learn how to send requests and which resources it can pull. To test the request system, write your own request using an HTTP client. You don't need a lot of coding experience to make a request. However, you should view a step-by-step tutorial to make this step easier.

The last step is to sync your API of choice to your application. Not only do APIs keep your business organized, but they also make it easier for customers to interact with your products.

What Startups Should Understand About APIs

APIs can seem complicated at first glance, but their complexity allows businesses to find a solution that works for their consumers. Here are five things you should know about APIs.

1. API Management Tools Oversee API Functions

API management is when a company oversees all API functions, like distributing, controlling, and analyzing, in a secure environment. Programs that monitor the performance of APIs are essential because they improve API security and help developers make your API better.

However, these tools are only beneficial to your company if they’re customizable. For example, RapidAPI has personalization options that can help build an API solution around your needs. 

2. There are Four Common API Types Developers Use

APIs are categorized by their intended scope and audience. While there are many APIs your team could use, there are four main types of Application Program Interfaces developers prefer:

  • Private APIs: Only used by internal teams to boost productivity and transparency

  • Partner APIs: Shared externally with people who share a business relationship with

  • Open APIs: Public APIs that are openly available for external use (for customers)

  • Composite APIs: Allows you to make calls or requests from different servers

The most well-known APIs are open APIs because they allow customers to look through a large catalog of products. For example, YouTube APIs give you access to a library of videos. If you want to learn more about these API types, read HubSpot’s extensive API guide on their website.

3. REST APIs are a Simpler Alternative to SOAP APIs

REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs are a simpler alternative to SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) APIs because it requires less code. REST is also much more flexible than SOAP APIs. However, if you want routine standardization, SOAP APIs are the best choice. 

4. APIs Are Used for Multiple Business Applications

The four common API types all serve different purposes, but their use goes further than that. If you plan on using an API for your business, here are four ways you can implement them:

  • App Integration: To allow two or more software/tools/applications to work together

  • Data Sharing: To allow two or more software/tools/applications to share information

  • Internal Systems: To allow internal teams to divide data into small components

  • Embedded Content: To embed content not hosted by the same company as the site

There are a large number of APIs available on the market today. Some exist on websites, others are strictly for operating systems, and some specialized APIs are only used for one purpose. For example, if you want to make a microservice architecture, you should use a private API.

5. The Right API Benefits the Consumer and Provider

The proper API can provide many benefits for the consumer and API provider. Consumers using the API will notice an increase in productivity, user satisfaction, and innovation, while providers that share their API with the general public will see a hike in revenue, scale, and organization. 

But connecting your application to the software world is the ultimate benefit for providers. These connections empower organizations to create new, innovative business models globally.

posted October 18, 2022
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