The API – Application Programming Interface – is a programming interface for the connection and interaction between software systems. APIs are widely used in computer technology and enable the development of programs and extensions for operating systems and applications by converting the software into machine language. Web APIs are particularly important for Web services. Without them, the development of networked and integrated social media and Web 2.0 systems would not be possible.

APIs of operating systems, applications and web platforms

Operating systems provide an API with which drivers, application programs and other software can access the functions of the operating system. These include file and directory operations; user and application management; memory and processor functions; network and disk access; and much more.

Many applications include a programming interface for plug-ins and scripts. With such an extension interface new modules, functions or automation can be programmed without having to change the actual program code. For this purpose, easy-to-learn programming languages are used, which are also suitable for amateur programmers.

Extension interfaces are also included in many web platforms such as WordPress and Magento. In addition to the simple operation, it was above all the plug-ins that helped WordPress to succeed. It was only through them that the once small blog software became a serious web application platform with its diverse application possibilities.

An open, well-documented API is generally considered an important competitive advantage. For operating systems, they increase the number of programs available, and for applications and web platforms, they allow individual customizations.

The Web API – Importance for Web Services and Social Media

Web APIs form the basic framework of social media and Web 2.0. Rather, the programming interfaces enable the seamless networking and integration of different platforms and services. APIs enable websites, mobile apps, and PC applications to have controlled access to the data and functions of the service.

The wide range of possible applications includes:

  • Integration of search engines, news tickers, social media functions, map and navigation services in websites
  • Combining several web services into one new service (so-called mashups)
  • Integration of external SEO, site analysis and marketing tools
  • Single sign-on: central authentication and login via PayPal, Facebook, Microsoft or OpenID accounts
  • Mobile apps and PC applications for Facebook, Twitter, Google, Wikipedia, eBay and more

As with operating systems, open programming interfaces represent a competitive advantage. The integration of your own service into other websites increases its awareness and reach. An open API allows third-party developers to make the service available on new platforms. The development of easy-to-use mobile and PC applications increases the number of customers and user satisfaction.

However, the development of a Web API places high demands on programmers. Poorly designed or programmed APIs represent a security risk that should not be underestimated. Interface errors allow a variety of misuse options such as hacker attacks and data theft.

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