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An API or an Application Programming Interface as the name suggests is to do with computer programming. An API is highly technical and used only by well experienced programmers to develop their interface. It is usually a small section that fits into their big project. An API will general provide a set of routines, protocols and tools to build a software application. For example an API makes it possible to create applications that are based on the analysis of data collected by a third party application, be it a mobile app or software from some other interface.
Any system, program, database or application can have their own API. The API of a system defines their software component in a different method by specifying the inputs and outputs as well as the operation and the types. The API provides an interface along with a set list of functionalities for the programmer using the API to be able to retrieve data, make custom queries as well as design customised functionality for their main application which is based on an API for another system.
When programming GUI components if an API is available for the relevant system it makes it possible to develop a system that is fully functional and practical.
An API can help an application share its data with other interfaces and the data can be of further used to integrate and enhance the functionality of the application.
The API will generally be in the form of a library and will include specifications for everything. This includes routines, data structures, and variables and even object classes.
An API can also specify the remote calls to expose the SOAP and REST services.
An API has many applications and can be of many different types. It can include an international standard lie POSIX or vendor documentation like the Microsoft Windows API, this even includes the STL of C++ (Standard template library) or a Java API.
It is important to note that an API is different from the ABI, application binary interface. A simple example of this is that the Linux Standard base provides an ABI while the POSIX is an API.
Here is a short list of real world APIs (as an example) to help you get a better idea of how they work and their purpose:
DirectX for Microsoft Windows
ODBC for Microsoft Windows
Google Maps API
You Tube API
Amazon Product Advertising API
eBay shopping API
An API can take any shape and form and be implemented in several different platforms like for your desktop operating system or a website. Most of the operating systems provide an API as do several websites like Amazon and eBay.
There are several business applications and benefits of using an API. For example Facebook is one of the most popular social media applications. This makes it the perfect place businesses to advertise. Facebook provides an API for its social media network and this API is quite comprehensive one. From the ability to develop a like button for your Facebook page on your website to displaying recent posts there are innumerable possibilities. In addition to which Facebook also allows to analyse statistics on any advert placed in Facebook.
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