We know that if you read our blog, you probably know a lot about web development. Let’s check your knowledge about API. Why are Web APIs so popular and widely used? What is web API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it lets developers integrate any two parts of an application or any different applications together. It consists of various elements such as functions, protocols, and tools that allow developers to build applications. A common goal of all types of APIs is to accelerate the development of applications by providing a part of its functionality out-of-the-box, so developers do not have to implement it themselves. There are APIs for all types of systems, including operating systems, libraries, and the Web.
To be able to communicate with applications on remote machines, developers use remote APIs. By using remote APIs, developers make it easy for applications to interact with remote resources and systems in a standardized fashion. A good example of such a standard is ODBC, or Open Database Connectivity, which allows applications to consume different databases by accessing the same functions.
A Web API is a unique type of interface where the communication takes place using the Internet and Web-specific protocols.
In fact, Web APIs started to become popular with the advent of internet services that let users store content online. In general, you serve Web APIs through an HTTP interface. The API itself defines a set of endpoints, request messages and response structures. It is a standard approach also to identify the supported response media types. XML and JSON are two favorite examples of response media types that can be easily interpreted by API consumers. While initially Web APIs were also called Web services, nowadays the use of the latter form signals that the API is RESTful, as opposed to following the SOAP standard.
The origin of Web APIs can probably be tracked down to the root of UNIX itself and how different applications, or processes, used to communicate with each other. UNIX was characterized for being a modular system where different applications, or processes, are built simplistically with the goal of having them working together. This approach, also known as the Unix philosophy, is one of its biggest strengths and key to the development of Web APIs.
The World Wide Web, or WWW, was born in 1989 by the hands of Tim Berners-Lee, an English scientist, and became the primary way of accessing information and communicating online. During its initial years, the Web consisted simply of interconnected pages where you could consult information. Information was updated by hand by what were called at the time Webmasters, or the people responsible for maintaining the Web pages. Over time, and with the rise of commercial Web initiatives, some different services were created that would let you upload and serve personal information such as photos, and blogs, and other types of multimedia. These services created the need to build desktop applications that would let users interact with such services more efficiently. While initially those applications were meant to be used to download information, with time they also allowed users to upload content. The communication between those content creation desktop applications and the Web services that were being launched was the precursor of what we now call Web APIs.
Feel free to find more about the history of API here.
p.s. If you are a kind of a person who likes to explore sources, or, put it simply, a book worm, don’t be shy to read also a brief history of programming languages!