What is an API?

Application Programming Interface (API)

Application Programming Interface (API) is a software intermediatory which allows two separate applications to communicate with each other. These two applications might be totally different and are built using two different languages but can communicate in a defined format that both understand. Everything we play a video on YouTube or stream music, we are essentially using an API for this purpose.

When a client communicates with a server or a different application to retrieve information that can be shown to a user, the communication happens via an intermediatory, which is often an API. An API makes it possible to exchange information between an application and the server or for two separate applications to exchange information.

Does API provide more security?

API never exposes a server to the application or vice versa. API carries the request from the client, and the server processes that request and sends the information accordingly. API also carries some rules which make only the necessary information with a certain format viable. If the format is not fulfilled or all necessary information isn’t provided, then API may fail to carry back any relevant information, which can reduce data exposure or other such attacks.
Most companies provide paid API for other developers to use. API such as stripe can provide developers with the tools to quickly develop an app with a payment gateway by using stripe’s API. Google, eBay, and Amazon also expose such APIs, which can generate revenue for the company without being a security risk.

Features of an API

API provides some characteristics and features which make it more developer-friendly, secure, and accessible throughout the web. Some of them include:

  • APIs adhere to strict standards (such as HTTP, Rest, or GraphQL), which makes API developer-friendly, and easily understood by many.
  • API are treated as mini-applications or products and is targeted towards web or mobile developers. APIs are usually well documented and are versioned and updated. API developers also listen to the community and keep updating, maintaining the API throughout its lifecycle.
  • API do carry heavier security, governance over the access of the service. There are API keys associated which are required to access the API. APIs are also monitored and managed, as well as scaled according to the performance being monitored.