Table of Contents
What is an API Endpoint?
An application programming interface (API) is software code allowing two software systems to transmit data, creating a communication channel between the two systems. An API defines the contract that allows them to communicate in a manner both the end systems can understand, specifying what they want through parameters. When communicating, each party sends an API request to the API endpoint located in the other party’s server.
An API endpoint is one end of the API where the resources for the API requests are located. Every API has at least two endpoints from which the request sender receives the response. Any software system can consist of multiple API endpoints that serve resources for specific functionalities. For example, an endpoint consists of a URL of the web service or the server, and if the request is in a particular resource, it will include the parameters that specify the exact resource to request.
For example, suppose there is a website where users can search for hotels worldwide, and the website gets those data from another web service through an API. Then one side of the API is the client website that sends the request to the travel web service. When a user clicks on the search button with the search criteria, the website will generate an API call to the corresponding web service URL. Web service will process the request and send the requested data back to the website in response. The website will decode the response, format the data, and display the information to the client.
What are Endpoints (API Endpoints)?
Many websites expose API endpoints to get details through their sites so that other websites do not have to develop independently, reducing the redundant work they otherwise have to do. For example, booking.com exposes four endpoints for getting destination information such as /countries, /cities, /districts, and /regions. Another example is API endpoints exposed by Facebook for getting business-related information. For example, a user can get all the items for a particular order id using /<order-id>/items endpoint and payments using /<order-id>/payments endpoints, and many more.
Why Do We Need an Endpoint (API Endpoint)?
Organizations worldwide leverage several APIs for retrieving important information related to finance, weather, entertainment, sports, and many others. These APIs help them provide many different client functionalities without writing separate services internally. API endpoints are the vital parts of these communications that serve as those services that receive the information.
Endpoints guarantee that the information requested comes from authorized sources, and without the successful authentication and authorization, endpoints will not provide the requested information. Also, the performance of the API calls relies on the endpoint. Companies that provide endpoints always test the endpoint performance to reduce the response time as much as possible. Therefore API endpoints affect the overall user experience of the software product, and without endpoints, APIs cannot exchange information with each software system.
How to Use an Endpoint (API Endpoint)?
Using an Endpoint (Api Endpoint) follows three simple steps:
1. Getting an Endpoint (API Endpoint)
Today, many companies provide API endpoints of many websites to leverage their functionalities freely or at a cost. For example, ipstack.com provides a free IP geolocation API to get accurate location information from an IP address. However, you must first check the company website’s API documentation and find out the base URL of the APIs and endpoints they provide.
To access any API, first, you need to register with the company and get the API key provided by the company. The API key helps users prove their identity, consisting of numbers and letters. Some API providers may require you to pay for the API key. Once you get the API key, you can move forward with testing and integrating the endpoint into your application.
2. Test an Endpoint (API Endpoint)
The API endpoint testing is important to ensure that it works fine, providing the response you expect. The provider may have a tool to test the API endpoint. If not, you can use an API testing tool such as Postman, SoapUI, Apigee, etc., where you can easily test it using an interface.
To test the API endpoint, specify the endpoint URL, add the API keys and provide the API request data within the request body. For REST-based API, most of the time, you will have to define the body using the JSON format, and for SOAP-based endpoints, XML format. If your required information is correct and the API endpoint server correctly processes the results, you will get the correct response. If not, it will return an error code that specifies what has caused the error. You can repeat the test by changing the parameters and authentication keys to check its behavior for different scenarios to ensure it has the right functionality you want.
3. Create Your First App
After confirming that you receive the correct information from the endpoint and it works according to your expectations, you can write a code to integrate it. The majority of the programming languages provide libraries or modules for you to call API endpoints and process the responses. For example, Node.js and Python provide request, http, and unirest modules, PHP provides modules like HTTP v1, HTTP v2, and cURL modules.
Check if the API provider offers free code snippets you can directly integrate into your application. Otherwise, use the appropriate library, specify the URL, Method, request data, and call the corresponding send method of the chosen module. Finally, you can write code to process the response received by the endpoint.
What about enterprise usage of an Endpoint (API Endpoint)?
API endpoints are heavily being used in enterprises as a convenient way to connect different systems. For example, many businesses integrate social media platforms through APIs to attract more clients, and financial companies integrate stock market data from third-party websites. In all these cases, companies take advantage of their reusability without re-inventing the wheel and promote low-code development.
API endpoints are also used to break down the silos mindset of having different solutions that are difficult to integrate. When both parties communicate through an API endpoint, they have a mutual agreement about the API they use.