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What is an API? (Beginner’s Guide)

What is an API? (Beginner's Guide)

Technologies are making advancements daily that are helping us create helpful applications. But the process of creating applications can be too time-consuming. However, developers have found its solution by implementing application programming interfaces. All this process takes place by requesting an API call. But what is an API call, and what is an API?

APIs work to make our applications more interactive. Moreover, we don’t need to write code from scratch to implement an API for our applications. Hence, APIs are time savers and efficient tools we can use to help our software communication. A set of protocols and definitions help APIs communicate between two different softwares.

what is an api

Let’s explore what is an API call and save time for our upcoming projects.

What Does API Stand For?

An API stands for an application programming interface. But what is an application in the context of APIs? Well, a particular software helps perform a particular function.

We can also say that an interface is similar to the contract of service working between two different software.

It is the contract that defines the communication of APIs using requests and responses. It is important to note that every API consists of documentation. This documentation is assigned by the developers of the particular API.

When we want to implement an API in our program, we use documentation to use responses and requests of an API.

web API or google maps API provider

How Does An API Work?

First of all, we must understand that API architecture is based on two terms – server and client. Two applications are working by using an API. The one that sends the request is referred to as a client. While the other that receives the request and sends the response is known as a server.

Let’s take an example.

We get the daily weather data by using weather bureau software. Now, if we want to receive the weather data in our mobile app, we will implement the weather bureau software’s API.

We can say that the weather bureau database acts as a server, while the mobile app is performing as a client input.

web server API gateway for REST API

It is interesting to note that the working of an API also depends on why and when it was created. On the basis of this case, APIs have four main types:


Developers use REST APIs most often these days. The reason is the flexibility of these web APIs. Our clients perform by sending requests as data to the server. Internal functions take place, and the server sends back the output data.

This is how REST APIs work to ease our software development speed and the whole process.


SOAP stands for simple object access protocol. We must know that SOAP APIs are the oldest version of APIs. Therefore, these APIs are less flexible APIs found. What’s more, it takes the use of XML to exchange messages between a client and a server.

Since there were no other APIs in the past, SOAP APIs were the most popular, despite being less flexible.

java API keys or own API calls


RCP APIs are the “remote procedure calls” APIs. As the name suggests, our client completes a function or procedure in these APIs. After this, the server sends back the response like many other APIs.

WebSocket APIs

WebSocket APIs are those types of APIs developed in the modern era. These modern web APIs make use of JSON objects. It helps them send back the requested data.

It is interesting to note that two-way communication between the server and the client apps is ensured. The server takes action to send back call messages to our connected clients.

software components for internal APIs

It is also important to note that these APIs are even more efficient than REST APIs.

What Is API Documentation?

As mentioned earlier, the API documentation helps us implement APIs. We understand the structure process for requests and responses using API documentation. Some people may think that using API documentation may not be that important. However, we should not skip it for the effective integration of our APIs.

Lack of knowledge and poor documentation renders our APIs useless. On the other hand, we save costs and time by using well-written API documentation. Some documentations also come with a demo section that makes our work easier.

javascript object notation API client representational state transfer api endpoints or api requests

How Are APIs Classified?

APIs are classified and built for different use cases and release policies. Therefore, we can expect many types. Let’s dig into some of the most common types of APIs.

What Is An API: Classification On The Basis Of Use Cases

When we want to achieve a particular goal, using APIs becomes essential. Therefore, a developer’s design is on the basis of what we want to achieve. Let’s take a few examples here.

Operating systems APIs

It is interesting to note that operating systems also come with amazing APIs. The two most common examples are Linux Kernel User-Space API and Windows API.

Apple has also provided some APIs that they added to their developer documentation.

Database APIs

This API is helpful when we want to communicate between a database management system and an application. For example, we can also use Firebase, which stores data in real-time. Google owns this API, and the best part is that we don’t have to write server-side code or manage servers.

Web APIs

Web APIs are the most popular APIs used these days. These APIs send requests from a web application. Moreover, these APIs send responses using HTTP from servers. Web APIs help us increase functionality and have a better experience with our apps.

Remote APIs

These APIs perform interaction using a communication network.

Classification Of APIs By Release Policy

Sometimes, developers build APIs just for the sake of internal use. It happens mostly in large companies, while other APIs are designed to integrate with different software for customer use. On the basis of this logic, APIs are categorized into the following types:

Private APIs

Public APIs

  • Open APIs
  • Commercial APIs

Partner APIs

What Is An API: Final Thoughts

APIs carry a lot of importance in the world of information technology. Therefore, following the right documentation and choosing the right API is also important. Resource exchange and communication methods are required in an increasing number of applications. All of this is possible by using APIs. APIs are playing a key role in the expansion of technology.

What Is An API: FAQs

What is an API with an example?

API helps us communicate between two software. For example, if we want to add a feature in our app that helps with booking, we may add the API of booking.com. This will direct the user from our application to the booking.com platform.

What exactly does API mean?

APIs are application programming interfaces that help us integrate and develop applications using protocols.

What are the 4 types of APIs?

Public, private, partner, and composite APIs are the four main types of APIs.

Why is an API used?

We use APIs to link different software for a specific purpose. It might include data exchange and execution of a predetermined process.

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