What is an API? | API Explained In Layman's Terms Skip to content
API In Layman's Terms

What is an API?


An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a set of rules and guidelines (known as protocols) for building computer software and applications. An API tells you how software parts should interact with each other, allowing communication signals between different devices. APIs allow third parties to access the functionality and data of a service, such as a website or application, in a controlled and secure manner.

To access an API, you typically need to register for an API key or developer account with the organization that provides the API. Once you have an API key, you can include it in your API requests to authenticate and access the API's functionality and data. You may also need to agree to terms of service or a license agreement before accessing an API.

Registering and getting an API key can vary depending on the company. Some companies may require you to provide information about how you plan to use the API, while others may have no registration process at all. It's also important to read the document and understand the limits and any other information the API company provides.

Programming Language Used for APIs

When using an API, the type of coding involved will typically depend on the programming language and concept of your application, as well as the API's requirements.

Most modern APIs use REST (Representational State Transfer) or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) protocols, which are based on the HTTP protocol used by the World Wide Web. Therefore, the coding will often involve making HTTP requests to the API's endpoint using the appropriate method (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc.) and handling the API's responses.

For example, to retrieve data from an API, you would make a GET request to the API's endpoint and then parse the JSON or XML data returned in the response. To send data to an API, you would make a POST or PUT request and include the data in the request body.

The specific coding will depend on the programming language you are using. However, most modern programming languages like Python, Java, C#, JavaScript, and PHP have libraries or modules that make it easy to work with APIs. These libraries provide functions for making requests, parsing responses, and handling errors.

Example of an API

import requests

# Replace with your API key
api_key = "YOUR_API_KEY"

# API endpoint for getting weather information
endpoint = "https://weather-api.com/forecast"

# Parameters for the API request
params = {
"city": "New York",
"units": "imperial"

# Adding api key to the headers
headers = {
"Authorization": f"Bearer {api_key}"

# Making a GET request to the API
response = requests.get(endpoint, params=params, headers=headers)

# Parsing the JSON data returned in the response
data = response.json()

# Printing the temperature
print("Temperature in New York:", data["main"]["temp"])