API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is basically a bit of software which is made to allow two computer systems to talk to each other. For example, if you have a system that holds the customer records in a bank, and a system which lets a customer manage their budgeting, you could write an API to pass messages between these two bits of software.
There are numerous ways of implementing API’s which provide a range of broad functions such as accessing libraries and frameworks, interacting with operating systems and applications within an estate, and interfacing to other applications via web services (covering protocols like REST, WSDL, SOAP).
The term has transcended from the technical world (where it was quite happy minding its own business) to the wider world of business. You’ll frequently find people throwing it around in conjunction with words such as strategy, interoperability and disruption.
Unfortunately, the admission of API into the modern lexicon of business, while justified, can lead to complacency. API’s, especially web services, are undoubtedly the framework connection which will enable the development of our massively interconnected future.
Sadly, a lack of standardisation across companies and industries means the quality of APIs are massively variable. This impacts the ease of physical integration, the ability to understand the data contracts within them and the usefulness of the business logic written into the software.
APIs of today can be everything from a panacea to integration nirvana, to a badly thought out and I’ll structured set of junk code which helps no one in any meaningful way. Sadly they are all too often the latter.
Disagree or want to add something? What does API mean to you?