Introduction to APIs
What is an API?
The term “API” stands for “application programming interface” and is defined as “a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a Web-based software application or Web tool.” I look at it as the way two different software applictaions can communicate.
While you may interact with apps that have mapping features, odds are that the app is actually reaching out to maps.google.com, via APIs, to pull down the information that you requested. In fact, there are APIs for search, payment, location, social, sms, call completion, and more.
The ability to display a map is bording, but when restaurant data from Yelp is overlayed on the map, things get interesting! So how does this work? The mobile app would first have to query the Yelp API with your GPS location, gather the results of the restaurants around you and then use the Google Maps API to display the restaurant information in a nice fashion. A fantastic example of this kind of “mashup” is fourwhere.com.
An important point to remember is that if your company has APIs open to the public, where any developer can pull up a webserver with a command like this
and receive a response like this (http://www.yelp.com/developers/documentation/search_api#sampleResponse), these APIs can be accessed from applications with a network connection. This means that mobile apps, Linux apps, Unix apps, Windows apps, Mac Apps and even Xbox and PS3 apps can access APIs.
Why Have or Use APIs?
APIs are used within a software application to simplify coding. Instead of having to rewrite duplicate code over and over again, developers simply created an API to lessen the amount of code they needed to write and so that different parts of the progam, created by developers within the company, could easily talk to each other.
More recently, APIs have been used to expose data to a wider audience of developers outside of a company. Examples salient to your app usage experience would most likely be Google Maps, Paypal, Yelp and Facebook. Remember how if you had a website and
By releasing APIs that expose the capabilities of Google Maps, Paypal or Yelp, developers like you and me can now integrate online credit card payment, mapping and restaurant reviews into our applications with ease. These APIs considerably speed up development cycles and can even provide access to users that we couldn’t access before.
APIs can dramatically change the way that users and applications interact with data as Josh Kopelman noted in his article here about Google’s Location API and Facebook’s Social Graph API. By opening up access to data, developers can create apps that otherwise wouldn’t have existed before by simply using the capabilities exposed by APIs. From the corporate side, companies can keep their data fresh and drive/explore new usages of their data in ways they never thought possible.
Does AT&T Have APIs?
We sure do! You can find a list and description of our Network APIs via these two links:
With our AT&T APIs, you can do some cool things like SMS, MMS, Carrier Billing, poll for device information, and get GPS coordinates all from the comfort of your app.
Have a great week!