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API Guidelines: Meaning, Languages, and REST API

4 min read

We rarely think about how software-powered applications communicate. We, as humans, have our own ways of communication: diction, emotions, body language. But applications don’t have such means of interlocution. Instead, they use APIs, which are machine-readable interfaces.

Definition of API and Most Common Types of It

API are interfaces with which computer programs communicate, exchanging different types of information and sharing functionalities between one another. API is made of two main elements: programming code and the protocol of information transmission, responsible for the functioning of API.

There are many APIs kinds, but all of them could be divided into a few groups:

Public APIs. IT developers commonly use public APIs. They study, exploit and modify such APIs on a charge-free basis to create new applications, software or implement public APIs for their own purposes.

Public APIs could be toll-free or commercial ones (for which a developer should pay). Even though some public APIs are paid, developers can still use their protocols, documentation, and programming codes without payment, making public APIs related to the open-source software.

Private APIs. Such application programming interfaces were created to meet the needs of a particular organization or system. Companies usually develop apps, computing services, and software that could use only that particular API. Partner API. These interfaces can be used under the agreement of two companies. In other words, it’s a business strategy that allows one company to save funds for the development of its own API technology by applying someone else’s product for a particular sum of money or free.

Web APIs. It’s one of the most spread classes of API interfaces that constitutes a client-server architecture. Web API is responsible for sending, receiving, and managing incoming and outcoming requests between data centers and applications.

Database APIs. Database API helps us connect with data servers through specific protocols. When we use software, an API connects it with a database, allowing the exchange of requested information.

Operating Systems APIs. Any operating system includes a particular set of APIs, whether it is Windows or Linux. They define how installed software interacts with the functionality and intelligence resources of an operating system.

Remote APIs. Often used when a user wants to enter resources that are located outside his device. Remote APIs are mainly built on web standards since they involve a request from the user, a response from the remote data center, and a wireless connection between them.

Languages for APIs

Basically, any programming language can be used for API development. But some programming languages could be more efficient to use than others. That’s why it is so important to choose the right one while developing API software. In general, only a few criteria could be considered:

  1. Developers’ Experience. For a developer, it is much better to use already studied language during the development of API.

  2. Frameworks and Libraries. Coding languages are often supported by already scripted frameworks or libraries that consist of finished programming objects and functions. Such datasets help developers not to waste their time doing rough work.

  3. Community. Active community offers regular security updates, valuable blogs, help, and support to developers. Numerous publications, magazines, Internet blogs, up-to-date documentation, and other active, sustainable community elements are significant for any IT developer.

The most convenient and promising coding languages for API development include Ruby, PHP, Java, Python, and Node.js. All of them have related frameworks, which can considerably ease the API developing process:

RESTful API

RESTful API is one of the most popular APIs architectures. Initially, it was presented by computer scientist Roy Fielding in a recent 2000. www. abbreviation (from World Wide Web) stands for the REST API, which ensures data exchange between servers and devices.

REST API is not a standard or a protocol, it is an architecture, so it doesn’t have unitary documentation or a set of features. To superficially understand how this system works, it is better to provide an example from real life.

When we use a calculator, we insert a task and then press a button to get an answer. We’re getting it almost immediately, but we can’t see those processes and operations behind the screen - the same with any software or application. When we give a command, API systems perform dozens of actions, but we see only a result in front of our eyes.

Thus, REST API is a sophisticated system of communication between devices, servers, and data centers. REST API architecture allows gathering information from all available data sources and servers. While regular APIs are a general thing, REST APIs were created to bound users with web applications.

Best Practices for REST API Design

To develop and design efficient and convenient for customers API structure, which may transmit sensitive data, a few crucial matters should be implemented:

  1. Use JSON protocol. JSON is a data transferring standard commonly used by nearly all network technologies.

  2. Maintain a decent level of security. API functioning always implies communication between clients and servers. So security should be a priority, as always.

  3. Cache data. It increases performance since the user doesn’t need to receive data from the server anytime he makes a request.

General conventions and standards must be followed to make an API service sustainable and safe for its users. APIs are an integral part of communication between devices and users. It is a language of global digital communication.

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