What Is an API? The Answer in 300 Words or Less

What Is an API? The Answer in 300 Words or Less

Here's a brief definition of an API, followed by some key information on how to make one work for your business. APIs allow for an application to extract information from a piece of software and use that information in their own application, or sometimes for data analysis. It's important for websites to function well so they can become secure and supportive endpoints for developers looking to share their data. One of the first questions many marketers ask is: Why do all of these businesses share their data openly, for free? How to Use an API Understanding the value of a particular API is essentially about understanding what information is available through an API and how it can be accessed. Many developers require you to request this key before using the API, while others may assign it to you upon your first API request. APIs As a Marketing Platform Marketing in an inbound world is about companies developing useful applications and services to sustain customer retention. API Terms of Service No matter the project, it's critical that you actually read and understand the terms of service for an API you're considering for your website. If you don't take the time to understand the restrictions of an API you're interested in, you could invest more time and money in developing a marketing asset that's rendered useless once the API provider determines you've violated the API's terms of service (and revokes your access). With this in mind, an API call limit is the number of times you can request information about an API from a web service within a given time period.

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When the marketing industry first shifted from outbound to inbound marketing, many marketers dropped their old roles of content interrupters for new ones as content creators.

But that shift is still producing aftershocks, and to keep up with your competitors today, you need to understand what APIs are, how they integrate with your content strategy, and the social insight they bring to your website.

Don’t worry — APIs might seem complicated, but by the end of this post, you’ll know how they work and what using them entails. Here’s a brief definition of an API, followed by some key information on how to make one work for your business.

What is an API?

An API, short for automatic programming interface, is a series of rules. To be even clearer, it is an information middleman. APIs allow for an application to extract information from a piece of software and use that information in their own application, or sometimes for data analysis.

In the plainest terms, an API is a blueprint that enables “your stuff” to talk to and work with “their stuff.” Your stuff, in this case, is known as the “API endpoint.”

What is an API endpoint?

An API endpoint is the destination of the API requested by a website owner. If a content management system (CMS) requests access to an API, the CMS serves as the API’s endpoint. It’s important for websites to function well so they can become secure and supportive endpoints for developers looking to share their data.

Why are APIs important?

One of the first questions many marketers ask is: Why do all of these businesses share their data openly, for free?

Normally, the answer is: scale. As software companies grow, the staff within those companies quickly realize they have more ideas than they have time and resources to develop them.

By creating APIs, companies let third-party developers create applications that can improve usage and adoption of the main platform. In that way, a business can build an ecosystem that becomes dependent on the data from their API — a dynamic that often leads to additional revenue opportunities.

How to Use an API

Understanding the value of a particular API is essentially about understanding what information is available through an API and how it can be accessed. To find out what a particular API can do for you, you can do one of two things.

  1. Ask a web developer to look at an API and discuss it with you.
  2. Do the research on your own. If you don’t have access or budget to use a web developer, this is an appealing option. But don’t panic — many online services have good API documentation.

API Documentation

Let’s take a quick look at Twitter’s API reference index as an example:

twitter-api-reference-index

Much of Twitter’s growth has been because of outside developers, and the first Twitter API started as a basic wiki. Since then, it has evolved into a detailed index of APIs that a savvy marketer can use to determine what information might be available to a developer in the form of an API — and how to include this API on your website.

Looking at the screenshot above, you can see there are…

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