The world is opening with APIs
Posted February 23, 2022
Written by Terry May, Xpanxion Technical Writer
The time for APIs is here and it’s happening now. Though APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have been around for decades, they are today defining the standard for modern businesses. APIs are also the cornerstone of many digital transformation efforts.
The market for APIs is exploding. According to IDC, overall spending on API projects will reach an all-time high of $6.8 trillion by 2023. This is because the ability for APIs to transform how we do business is now crystal clear.
APIs are critical to the operations of today’s modern businesses. This trend extends across all industries and verticals (not just software companies). This is why today’s IT leaders, CIOs, and the like, should learn not only about APIs but also the industry standard specifications for open APIs and their advantages. Businesses of all kinds and sizes can benefit when API technology is used.
But first, what is an API?
Simply put, an API is code that lets two software programs communicate or exchange data with each other. Two elements of an API makes this possible:
- the specification or set of rules that describe the environment for the data exchange.
- the software interface written to adhere to these specifications.
Together, they facilitate many types of transactions to let organizations fulfill essential business processes and fundamental transactions in today’s digital world. These include logins, product searches, secure payment transactions across different payment providers, connecting banking accounts, and much more.
Open APIs open the front end (web apps) for consumer access
Open APIs are publicly available on the internet to software developers and shared freely. This lets API owners make them universally available to consumers. They can be designed in various ways, but the main objective of any open API is to be easily used and consumed by as many clients as possible. For this reason, using proprietary code or custom data schemes doesn't make much sense. Conversely, open-sourced technology and community-driven standards (open APIs) make the most sense for publicly consumed APIs.
Private APIs open the backend for businesses
A private API is an interface that connects (or opens) an organization’s backend of data and apps with its partners, and its in-house or external developers. The apps can be shared publicly but the interface itself is restricted to only those who the API owner provides access.
What is an API specification?
An API specification is a set of rules that create a standard for the exchange of data between two web services. They're often referred to in the industry as ’contracts’ because API specifications also serve as a binding agreement between the two systems. Developers depend on the specification (contract) to understand how the API should act and how it should connect with other APIs. It’s important to note the API should be agnostic to any programming language in which the specification was written.
The source of truth for open APIs
Today there are more than 24,000 open APIs available by organizations that developers can choose from to design their web APIs (open APIs). These include the Service Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web API Description Language (WADL) which have been around since the early 2000s. But these days, the specification that marks the ‘industry standard’ for web APIs, or REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs, is called the OpenAPI Specification (OAS).
OAS was originally known as the Swagger Specification when created in 2009. When version 3 came along in 2017, it was renamed OpenAPI or OAS. OAS is currently on version 3.1.0, and its source of truth resides on the popular code-hosting repository GitHub.
The following alluring features set OAS apart from other open API specifications:
- It defines a common programming language-agnostic interface to describe RESTful APIs.
- It can be read and understood by machines and humans.
- Both machines and human consumers of the OAS can understand the capabilities of the service without access to the source code, documentation, or network traffic.
Importantly, OAS is part of the Linux Foundation and the standard is contributed to and used by large brands including Bloomberg, eBay, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, to name a few. This makes OAS more trustworthy, and therefore, more likely to remain supported.
The recurring value of APIs
API-driven businesses develop open API apps to easily share information with customers. The company developing the open API app may receive revenue from those consuming the data, and the consumer of the information gains easy access. This efficient process leads to happier customers, and ultimately, more revenue for everyone involved.
Private APIs are used to keep a business’ internal processes and applications connected, and to stay connected with partners. In this manner, they drive digital transformation. So, APIs are not only about generating new revenue streams, they’ve become fundamental to how modern businesses operate.
APIs propel innovation and create efficiencies in the business world, and they allow developers a self-service type of framework to create powerful RESTful APIs. This makes the potential for APIs virtually limitless as a business transformation agent.
There’s little to lose and plenty to gain in efficiency and cost savings with APIs. At Xpanxion, we are API experts with deep knowledge of the modern infrastructures and microservices they traverse, and the Agile development methodologies required to create APIs. Let us help your business pave the way to the open world of API innovation.
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