‘APIs for dummies’: five ways of finding out what an API is

APIs for dummies: five easy ways to know more about them

What is an API? An API is a set of functions or procedures used by computer programs to access operating system services, software libraries, or other systems. However, there are other more attractive ways rather than this sober definition to know more about the benefits and uses of APIs. Websites, the media and specialized companies have attempted to explain it as didactically, graphically and creatively as possible. 

16 Mar. 2018

An API is a set of functions or procedures used by computer programs to access operating system services, software libraries, or other systems. However, there are other more attractive ways rather than this sober definition to know more about the benefits and uses of APIs:

1. By scrolling

The New York Times has designed a detailed interactive infographic on APIs, where the user can choose how deeply he wants to delve into the subject by simply scrolling. It is an invitation to think about things that can be done today but couldn't be done 15 years ago, and to think about things that companies are now doing but could not do in the year 2000. Behind all these actions there is something "greasing" the exchange of information, a modern-day Rosetta Stone known as application programming interface (API). 

The user can explore the history of APIs through the various milestones and relevant data, moving downwards. He can also see how two companies are using them to enhance their digital futures: L'Oreal and IceMobile, with testimonials from their management.

At the end, the infographic proposes a game. Modern companies do not waste time or money building applications from zero, without taking advantage of the power of APIs from multiple providers, so they invite the reader to do the same. The reader has to choose the industry for the development of their app and the type of API that will be needed. The animation confirms why using these specific APIs can be innovative and make a difference.

2. At a glance

At BBVAOpen4u, there is an infographic that explains at a glance what is an API. This is an easy, quick, visual way to make the concept understandable. It explains what it is but also includes a graphic that shows how this market has grown, an illustration on how APIs work and an interesting classification by types.

SmartFile.com also has its own infographic proposal. Among other things, this includes a ranking of the industries with the highest development of APIs; the API protocols that are used the most, distributed by percentages; and the APIs registering more calls.

Along similar lines, SmartBear.com has created its own infographic, which includes sections dedicated to security, third party APIs, and even the future of APIs.


3. In depth

To propose an introduction to the world of APIs through an e-book is a very interesting resource that certain leading companies have been able to exploit. Apigee or IBM have both created their own "APIs for dummies”, with similar formats but contents structured differently.

For example, they include a series of logos that reveal content to the reader, or graphics that imitate other objects to better understand the nature of APIs and their operation (an iceberg, a Formula 1 car, etc.).

BBVAOpen4u has also used an e-book format to explain what an API is. It invites the reader to delve further and learn the advantages entailed in the development of projects or what an API Rest is. You can find it here: “101: Introduction to the world of APIs”.

Another example of an e-book developed by BBVA along these lines is “The API Economy”, by Upwork. It may be too long for a first contact with the subject, but the first part is dedicated to understanding the API concept and well-structured: what it is, its ecosystem, what it can be used for and how it works.

The following chapters cover subjects such as: private APIs versus open APIs, the new API economy, or things you should know before building your own API.

4. In motion

The video format may be one of the most attractive ways to show what an API is... but only if you can do it in two or three minutes. It also requires skills for synthesis and teaching, as well as a high degree of creativity.

Among the best examples are this video by Visa, which has demonstrated that APIs and "fun" are not at odds. It presents a simile between electrical outlets and APIs: the latter connect two softwares, while the former connect the power supply to a given device.

Mulesoft and Apigee also have videos with animated explanations that are easy to understand and well paced. The video by Mulesoft starts, like the one by the New York Times, with what is easiest – everything that is possible with APIs and that most people don't know about. For example, placing an order, booking a restaurant or buying an airline ticket. This is when it captures the viewers attention. Apigee, on the other hand, focuses on improving user experience, which is evidently possible thanks to APIs.

5. By installments

Nevertheless, users also continue to demand articles that make it easy to understand what an API is and that, in addition, provide information in small doses that summarize everything that has to be known.

BBVAOpen4u has a variety of articles on this subject, such as what an API is and what it can do for my business; the features that an API should have, and the 'unicorns' are applying them. That, as far as beginners are concerned, since there is much more intended for developers and other specialists.

The fact is that now not only specialized media, pusblish this sort of information, but large general media have signed up for the race to disseminate everything there is to know about this new Rosetta Stone that the New York Times speaks about.

Enter the world of APIs with the e-book 101: Introduction to the world of APIs

Are you interested in financial APIs? Discover all the APIs we can offer you at BBVA



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