What is an API and why use it?

9 september 2022 | KPN Developer Portal
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In simple terms, an API (application programming interface) acts like a messenger that runs back and forth between applications, databases and devices. In more technical terms, an API is a set of protocols, standardized programming instructions and requirements.

What do APIs actually do?

An API enables one software system to use a service component from another software system. This way separate software systems can work together to deliver a service. A useful analogy is Lego; the brick size and color represent a service component (e.g. online maps, login), while the Lego brick’s studs and tubes represent the API (e.g. how the service components can be linked together).

For example, when you use the Uber app, you will see cars nearby on a map. The Google Maps API is used to provide this service component. Technology heavyweights like Facebook, Google, and Twitter allow other companies to piggyback on their service components - such as Google Maps - through APIs.

Why is it smart to use APIs?

Stop reinventing the wheel! Many available APIs already cover essential software capabilities. You can develop a new service much easier, better, and faster by using APIs that offer all the required building blocks.

Benefits of using APIs

APIs offer many different benefits for users, we list the three most important for you:

Speed up time to market

When you use APIs, you don’t have to build each component from scratch. Many APIs are ready to use and have a standardized interface. This makes APIs easy, consistent, and predictable to integrate, minimizing your development time and effort.

Improve customer experience

Your customers’ needs change over time. APIs help you to react to these changes through their flexibility. In addition, APIs enable you to customize your applications to match your customers’ needs. APIs make it easy to add specific functionalities, provide personalized data and make your application interoperable (usable with other applications). It is even relatively easy to migrate to other API providers.

Innovate and co-create

Once you start using APIs, the next step is to engage with customers and possible partners in the co-creation of innovative new solutions. Through direct partnership, companies can design and build new services together.

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