API API API !! We often hear this term nowadays a lot. So the question that comes to our mind is what does API stand for? Although it sounds cool, it is pretty confusing and difficult to grab for most of you out there.

An API is an abbreviation, and it stands for Application Programming Interface.

You might have read it somewhere. If not, then don’t worry. Moreover, you don’t need to be a programming guru or any kind of dev superhero to understand what an API is. By the end of reading this article, you will be familiar with the ‘What and Why’ of it.

Further, you might be having a second thought: What the heck is this Application Programming Interface(API) means to a typical person like me? Probably a little, you can figure it out just by its name that it has something to do with programming application/software.

A Deeper Dive into Understanding API, Not Just What does API Stand for-

Let’s dive deep into “what is an API?” and explore what does it mean in general.

First, let’s break it down Application+Programming+Interface

Application– It can be any web application, mobile application, standalone application, or just a piece of code that performs an operation.

Programming– All the applications are built using a programming language.  Programming languages such as C, C++, Python, Java, Node Js, .Net, etc.

In addition, if you are wondering? Please note multiple programming languages can be used to build one single app. For instance, Facebook is built using various programming languages such as PHP, Java, React JS, etc.

Interface– One can think of an interface as exposure or some kind of gateway from where the exchange of data takes place. For example, your keyboard is a hardware interface used to give instructions to your computer. Likewise, in terms of application, an interface can be as simple as a button that performs an action.

Analogy: Think of a calculator, for day to day calculations it’s a handy device. You don’t care what lies inside the calculator or how it functions. What you really care about is the output or the result.

Similarly, you can think of an API as a simple service of a small, medium, or large application. And you don’t need to care about the logic behind it and how things really work at the backend.  The only thing you need to be concerned about is the output that you get from the API call by providing some set of commands.

In technical terms, the API call and output are referred to as API Request and API Response respectively.

Moreover, sets of commands can vary depending on the programming language used. These sets of commands can contain access tokens(key) for authorization of the request calls.

So, Why do we need API’s? Why are they important?

  • If there were no API’s, then we will have limited functionality in an application.
  • As a result, it will require more time, cost, and resources to build an application.
  • Limited or no possible expansion/scaling of the application because of no modularity.
  • Interaction of one application with another application to work as a whole system would have been impossible.

Ohh!! that was easy, isn’t it?

But what about the API “the real API” that I often come across and hear so frequently? Well, this definition doesn’t explain to me the answer I was looking!

If this is the feeling you are getting right now then hold on, there are a lot more.

API’s evolved since when object-oriented programming(OOP’s) started. Moreover, evolve truly means it became systematic and architectural as more and more complex applications came into existence with time.

Popular APIs or “the real API” that you hear a lot these days and for which you might be looking for an explanation is called REST APIs.

What are REST API’s? What does REST API stand for?

REST API stands for REpresentational State Transfer and uses an HTTP/HTTPS request to access, transfer, and use data.

REST is a leading architecture to build modern web applications. These web APIs can be used for mobile and all sorts of applications you can possibly think of which require the internet to work. In other words, uses HTTP/HTTPS protocol.

Moreover, RESTful API’s are more flexible and has their own set of advantages.

Request that we can make using REST API’s are GET, PUT, POST and DELETE. These requests can be referred to as Reading, Updating, Creating, and Deleting requests, respectively.

A Simple REST API Demo

The below demonstration uses REST API built using Node Js for an online Bootcamp Courses web application-

We will see the GET request to retrieve all the Bootcamp available.

List of All available API

To get all Bootcamp our API is : https://{{URL}}/api/v1/bootcamps

making GET rest API call

NOTE: The above URL value is localhost:5000 as we are running the app in development mode on our local server. Also, in the image below we are making the request using Postman.

What does API Stand for

You can see the list of available API and the Request Type(GET) we are making using the API URL. As we make a request you see the count as well as all the Bootcamp courses available in the response.

JSON response

  • Success: true
  • Status: 200 OK
  • Response Type is JSON

We started from what does API stand for and have come a long way in knowing about REST API. To sum up, exploring REST API in depth is out of the scope of this article.

3 Most Common Examples of API’s We Use in Our Daily Lives

1.Weather Today- Weather report that you see on google search relies on weather.com API. You can check it on google search just by typing today’s weather.

weather example

2.Payment using PayPal- Most of the website relies on a Payment gateway for receiving payment. Paypal is the most popular of them. You can refer to the image below.paypal api example

3.Login using Google, Facebook and Twitter, etc- Similarly, you might be using the Sign-in feature on websites that provide Sign-in such as Google and Facebook.

login using social api

All this is only possible due to API’s.

In conclusion, The basic fundamental of an API remains the same. I hope you enjoyed reading the article about- what does API stands for? and understood it from a general point of view. Leave a comment if you loved it or Share if you like it.