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What is an API?
2/14/2023 - Brian O'Neill

What does the acronym “API” stand for?

The term API Stands for “Application Programming Interface.” Despite its association with modern web architecture, the term originated in the 1970’s.

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What are the different categories of APIs, and how are they different from one another?

There are two basic, high-level categories of APIs: OS (operating system) APIs and Web APIs. The key difference between these categories is that OS APIs make it possible for developers to access resources within a specific operating system (such as Mac, Windows, Linux, etc.), while Web APIs make it possible to access resources from web servers.

Some common examples of OS APIs include System Call APIs, GUI (Graphical User Interface) APIs, and Network APIs, all of which define access to their namesake resources within a given OS architecture. Web APIs, on the other hand, are defined quite differently; they most often either adhere to REST (Representational State Transfer) architecture or follow SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) protocol. Please note that there are several other types of OS and Web APIs beyond those listed above; these examples are simply among the most common.

How do Web APIs work, and how do they benefit us day to day?

Simply put, Web APIs make it possible for two separate web resources to communicate with ease. Many of the web applications and tools we use day-to-day benefit enormously from sharing data with each other, and for that relationship to be possible, these applications need to access each other’s code efficiently. A Web API serves to establish the way in which its underlying web resource can be accessed, allowing an external web developer to send, modify, and receive important data by structuring their request to that resource in a specific way.

To provide a basic example, if a social media application wants to display daily weather reports for its site visitors, it can do so efficiently by accessing an external Web API created by an independent weather reporting application. The weather application’s Web API will likely follow a common architectural guideline (like REST), making it easy for the external web developer to understand and create a connection with the underlying weather reporting resource. The Web APIs various rules and protocols will also serve to ensure that the social media application receives a secure and timely response after information is requested.

Without a Web API to facilitate this connection, the web developer working on the social media application would be forced to either develop their own weather reporting functionality – a very significant undertaking in time and resources – or abandon the inclusion of this feature all together, leaving their users with a less enticing product. In this way, APIs benefit everyone involved. The social media application can use the weather API to efficiently expand its features, the weather application can monetize its API service (compensating for what it might consider a marginal drop-off in website traffic), and the client-side user can gain access to more information in one place, increasing the likelihood they’ll enjoy and recommend this app to their friends.

What are Cloudmersive APIs?

The Cloudmersive API platform allows individual web developers and enterprises to add dozens of unique and powerful services to their applications quickly and at low cost. These APIs enable developers to add scalable data and file format conversions, advanced security policies, media processing services, optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities to their applications through a single, all-encompassing account. With a suite of scalable APIs in their arsenal, a developer can more easily create a multidimensional application and bring it to market quickly or flesh out an existing application with useful new features.

For more information on Cloudmersive API products, please feel free to contact a member of our sales team.

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