Do you own a wireless speaker?
When you turn it on, chances are your mobile gets paired to it instantly. That’s because an API integrates your speaker with your cell phone, enabling the wireless feature.
But wait, how does an API work? Read our guide to understand how APIs, which are essential to building apps, function.
Table of contents
- What is an API?
- Why use an API gateway?
- Application and usecase of API
- Types of APIs
- API protocol types
- How does an API work?
- Wrap up
What is an API?
An API or Application Programming Interface is a facilitator that enables apps, databases, softwares and IoT devices to communicate with each other, without which they won’t be able to interact. It's a set of tools and protocols used by developers to build user-friendly software apps.
But how, you may ask?
A series of commands by the end-user allows your app to interface with an external software via an API. The interface refers to the endpoints at which various software components can communicate.
Endpoints specify where the resources that can be accessed by third-party software are located. Typically, access is gained through a URL to which HTTP requests are sent and from which responses are anticipated.
Users interact with user interfaces, which are the graphical elements of a software. They're how you got to this particular screen. Of course, there is a lot of code on the backend.
Why use an API gateway?
Here are 6 reasons why you should use API to integrate web-based devices and applications:
Simplify app development
Developers can add unique functionalities to their applications using an API to make app development easier, saving both time and money. APIs also enable flexibility, simplify app and email design, and generate chances for innovation when creating new tools and products or managing current ones.
Ease of collaboration
APIs help business and IT teams collaborate by making it easier for developers to integrate new application components into an existing architecture.
Integrate third-party tools and apps
Allowing consumers to access data using an API lets you integrate third-party apps. So long as the API's behavior remains unchanged, you can modify its internal systems without affecting your customers.
Make data more secure
You can secure user data by determining the identity of your end-user and identifying the resources they can access. For example, in a REST API, basic authentication can be implemented using the TLS protocol, OpenID Connect or OAuth 2.
Trigger automated email campaigns from third-party apps
You can set trigger endpoints for journey emails using Mailmodo REST API and trigger automated campaigns from any external platform, including Zapier, Integromat, etc. For instance, you can send emails personalized to a specific event segmented based on event properties using a custom event API.
💡 Related read: How to Send AMP Emails From REST API Using Mailmodo
Monetize your data
Public APIs add a unique value to your business by helping you monetize your data. How so? Let’s assume you’ve created an app that enables users to find books they want using a publicly available API. You can leverage the API to make more sales or generate other business opportunities.
Google Maps API is another great example of monetized public API. Let’s take a look at other well-known examples of API.
Application and usecase of API
|Mailmodo||You can send transactional AMP emails using Mailmodo REST API. Upon enabling a transactional email api, you get the trigger endpoint URL.|
|Google Map||Let’s say you want to add a map to your website. You can’t access Maps directly since the code that powers it is stored on Google server. Google provides an API that allows users to download the map.|
|Google Nest||Google Nest uses an API to save energy by adjusting the temperature on a thermostat.|
|Google Weather||Google gets weather data from elsewhere to keep its Weather app updated. It uses an API that feeds it recent weather information in a format the app can alter.|
|When a user clicks the log-in button, a pop-up appears asking them to confirm they want to log in. When the user approves, the API sends identity information to FB, allowing it to identify who is logging in.|
|Paytm||Paytm sends an order request to the Paytm API when the user selects the Pay with Paytm button. The user is authenticated and their purchase is confirmed. Finally, the API returns payment confirmation to the app.|
|Airbnb||Airbnb collects airline and hotel availability from providers using a third-party API. Similarly, if you make a reservation, an API will be used to confirm the trip with the provider from whom it was sourced.|
Types of APIs
APIs can be available privately, publicly, in partnership or for commercial usage. They can also be classified as per the systems they’re designed, including operating systems, databases, remote access or web-based. We’ve talked about each one in detail below:
In-house developers can use private APIs to integrate a company's IT systems or applications. Even if the apps are made public, the interface is only accessible to individuals who work with the developers. This strategy gives a business complete control over API usage.
Pro tip: You should consider interface stability when an API is made public. Changes to the API, such as adding more parameters to any function, could break compatibility for clients who rely on it.
All open or public APIs features are accessible to the general public and can be used without restriction. The API-related documentation must be publicly available, and the API can be freely used to develop and test applications. Google Maps is a perfect example.
Subscribers to commercial APIs pay a fee to use it. Free trials are a typical strategy used by API publishers to allow customers to test APIs before purchasing subscriptions. For instance, Weather Underground is a commercial API that sells access to its weather data API.
Partner APIs are only shared with business partners who have signed a contract with the API publisher. Software integration between two companies is a prominent use case for partner APIs. An example of a partner API is eBay’s API.
💡 Related read: How to send AMP Emails from Zapier using Mailmodo
Database APIs allow an app to communicate with a database management system. Developers work with databases by writing queries to retrieve information, change tables, etc. An example is ORDS database API used by Oracle REST Data Services.
Operating Systems API
Operating Systems API specifies how programmes interact with operating system resources and services. Each operating system has its own set of APIs, such as the Windows API or the Linux API.
Using a remote API, two distant applications communicate across a communications network, primarily the internet. Two examples of remote application programming interfaces are the Java Database Connectivity API and the Java Remote Method Invocation API.
Web APIs allow machine-readable data and functionality to be transferred between client-server architecture. These APIs mostly use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to transmit requests from apps and responses from servers. An example is Mailmodo’s REST API, a type of API protocol.
💡 Related read: How to Send AMP Emails From Integromat Using Mailmodo
API protocol types
To use APIs, we must adhere to specific procedures. A protocol specifies the rules for API calls. An API call is a message sent to a server requesting an API to provide information or a service. Let's look at some of the most used API protocols:
Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs are used by apps like Uber, Amazon, and Netflix. You must follow the following requirements for a REST API:
Changes made by a user should not influence the server and vice versa.
Caching client responses makes them faster and more efficient, which improves the user experience.
The API should support a layered design, with each layer contributing to a defined hierarchy. REST uses a layered-system architecture where you deploy the API on server A, save data on server B and authenticate API requests on Server C.
SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol is a well-known protocol that, like REST, operates as a type of Web Application Programming Interface. According to Microsoft, which created SOAP, it enables the communication between systems over HTTP or the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) for email transfer.
Payment gateways, identity management, CRM systems, and banking and telecommunication services all favor SOAP APIs. One of the most renowned SOAP APIs is PayPal's public API.
The RPC protocol is used to make a remote procedure call. They are the most basic and earliest Application Programming Interfaces available. An RPC's purpose was to allow a client to run code on a server.
GraphQL enables the client to specify the data they require and simplifies data aggregation, allowing the developer to make only one API call to get all the information they require.
Apps that use GraphQL like Yelp, Shopify, GitHub, and Coursera have more control over the data they need from a server, allowing them to function quickly even when the mobile connection is slow.
How does an API work?
The following are some of the use cases of APIs in Mailmodo:
Trigger transaction emails on user actions like sign up or purchase in Mailmodo.
Trigger email journeys from an external app.
Import contacts in Mailmodo from your software.
Export data from email campaigns.
Use emails to send dynamic forms.
Let’s consider one use case i.e. triggering transactional emails in Mailmodo and see how the REST API works.
Step 1: Visit the transactional page.
Step 2: Click on the ‘New Transactional Campaign’ button.
Step 3: Choose the email template and select ‘Next’.
Step 4: Add the details of the campaign and select ‘Next’ to trigger it via API.
Step 5: Click on the ‘Rest API’ option and select ‘Next’.
Step 6: Review your campaign and select ‘Enable the Campaign’ to get the campaign ID which is your API endpoint.
Step 7: Select ‘Copy URL’ and paste it into your system to complete setting up the transactional campaign.
Sending AMP or HTML transactional emails with Mailmodo's REST API can be done easily, quickly and efficiently. Take inspiration from our guide on 17 AMP email examples to create an interactive email experience with API integration today.
What you should do next
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