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Application Program Interface: What is it and why is it important? 18 May 2010

Posted by greti79 in GeekSpeak.
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API is the reason why my slideshare file can be embedded on this blog.  It’s also the reason why I can load my presentation from my computer to slideshare.  Simply stated, APIs are the means by which a data request is sent to the slideshare server which then replies with the data requested.  Another way of stating it is via programming terms:  APIs are made up of routines and protocols that perform a specific task. When they are in an agreed upon format, such as HTTP, they allow devices to talk to each other. 

Although APIs were initially built as building blocks for programmers, to make it easier for them to write programs and connect devices.  In web 2.0, APIs have made mashups not only a possibility but an expectation for end users.  For example, how many of us would sign up for a web service that only stored our photos?  None of us would.  Instead we would expect the web service to store and share our photos with other users, such as family members.  We would also expect the photos to be displayed in other programs and social networking sites.  What we didn’t we expect, or know, is that the sharing of data between devices is made possible by APIs.   APIs are magical connections that allow Yelp to combine directory information on services with user reviews and display them based on zip code or address search. 

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