There are more than 24.000 web-based APIs around the internet according to programmableweb. Providing services for businesses and clients around the world.
The importance of web-based APIs for today’s businesses is vital since companies are now either relaying on it to power a core part of their business, or providing it as a business model since it is proven to be a sustainable income stream.
With all the talk that’s going on, you maybe be asking yourself what APIs are? why are they so popular? and how can you use them?
In this Article we explore the world of third-party web-based APIs. We will understand what they are, why companies provide them, why businesses use them, how to use them, and finally check out of real world examples of companies using or providing it.
Understanding APIs and Web-Based APIs – Web-Based Application programming interfaces
General Meaning Of An API
In general meaning, an API, or Application Programming Interface, is a computer science-related term that refers to a way for two applications to talk to each other.
One important information to keep in mind is that when people talk about API, there is a 95% chance that they mean web-based APIs.
Web-based APIs are the gateway to access a company’s data or services. Whether it is Google, Facebook or Lunarcrush. If that company has data or services and want to provide them, it will do that through one or multiple APIs.
For instance, Google is an empire built around the use of APIs. It has over 92 APIs available, such as Google Maps, Analytics, Calendar, and Contacts.
Another example would be Facebook. The company has an API that allows the user to retrieve Posts, User and Groups from their Data Centers. Meaning that APIs provide an entire infrastructure for anyone to take advantages of, and at a fair price. Otherwise, you need to build the entire infrastructure yourself to collect such information.
The reason companies Provide Web-based APIs – The lucrative business model
The market of web-based APIs generates Billions of dollars annually. Logically companies would want to have a piece of that. From adapting it as a partial income stream, to an entire business model, companies are using it in all sorts of ways. That’s why it is said that 55% of companies are using web-based APIs as revenue stream.
An example that is interesting to note here is that the cloud API market alone, which is just a small part of the whole API market, is estimate to be worth 1.7 billon dollars by 2026 according to alliedmarketresearch.
In simpler term, companies provide APIs as an industry standard way to solve problems and make revenue on their investment.
Why Businesses Use Web-Based APIs
By analyzing a recent SlashData survey. And according to nordicapis, we find that 89% of developers use APIs and just 10% of them don’t use them. The 89% that use the are divided in two, 69% use third party APIs, 20 use private internal APIs.
Other studies have shown that there are 19.1 Million API Developers in the World, which pushes us to ask, why does one need or want to use the API?
The answer to that differs! Each one using an API has his own needs for that. One may use it just to collect some data for an analysis study that he is working on. Another would use it to build a fully-fledged business upon the data he gets.
Maybe you sell items, and you would use a web-based API to get the products that were sold the most on a website in order to start selling them yourself.
One famous case nowadays would be for investors. If you are an investor in stocks or cryptocurrency coins, and you need live data of a specific stock or coin to apply a specific algorithm on that data to help you make better decisions, an API is what you will use.
Other uses of APIs are meant to automate certain tasks or workflows through the use of Bots that advantage of APIs to automate Posting, liking and commenting on Social Media..etc.
Examples of that would be the Messenger Chat Bots that replay to clients’ messages automatically. Or Telegram Bots that post specific messages in specific channels or groups when an event occurs.
To simplify it, if you have a problem, as a developer, business owner or investor, there is probably an API that can solve that for you.
Important information to have about a Web-Based API Before start using it
To use a specific API, you usually need to understand the following steps:
Does that Company/Business have an API?
The first step is to always check if a specific company has an API. If the company has it, check it out, else search for another company that does the same thing and that may have it. For example you want data about the Tesla Stock, Some Companies have APIs that will provide you wit live data, and others don’t.
Is it a free API or a Paid API? – The companies business model
Companies provide APIs at different price points, and wrapped with different limitations.
For example, the Twitter API is free of use and allows you to tweet, like, comment get and save data.
On the other hand, Lunarcrush API is a paid one, the price and limits will be applied to each user differently built upon an agreement with the company once he contact them.
What data does that API provide?
One import information to have is what data does the company provide through their API. One should always check out if the provided data is helpful to his use case or not. Let’s say you want to get live stock data, but the company provides data with 2 minutes delay. that would be beneficial to you if you are using it for an analysis study, but not if you are a day trader.
That’s why it is very important to understand what exact data you will get.
What are the limits of that API?
Limitations are put together by each API provider to prevent the excessive use of their resources like servers, which usually, translates to money that they will have to pay. Paid Web-based APIs usually come up with different plans for different use cases. The less the limitations, the more you usually pay.
example: When using the Twitter API, one can only post 300 Tweets or Retweets during a 3 hour period.
How to use an API? – The Technical Part
Using an API is purely technical. The developer using it usually needs to have a basic understanding of the HTTP protocol, requests, and responses. The whole process is referred to as API calls.
In simple terms, we send requests to the API using the HTTP protocol, and then get back a response that hold that data we want.
A good information to have is that most API calls nowadays are made using Python and the Requests library.
Some APIs are easy to use, and others are highly technical, requiring prior knowledge to understand how to implement them. Complex APIs have a ton to offer but unfortunately, they’re not available to the masses.
Real World Examples Of Extremely Successful Companies that Use Or Provide Web-Based APIs
Companies Using Web-Based APIs
Many startups and companies nowadays function mainly by data that they get from a third-party web-based APIs. Either relay on it partially, or heavily in one or multiple core sections in their business.
To name examples:
Uber is famous for having A large part of the underlying technology is not created by the company itself, but called from third-part web-based APIs. Like using the Google Maps API for all navigational purposes from taking rides to delivering food.
Socialblade provide data on users from YouTube, Twitch, Instagram and Twitter. Their application relays entirely on the web-based APIs of these platforms.
Lunarcrush is a service that take advantage of many social media related APIs to output insights that help investors make decisions on their next investment.
Companies Providing Web-Based APIs
Stripe is one of the most successful and best known API-driven businesses. This payment platform provides their APIs for business the facilitate the transaction clients make.
Their API is based on GUI, meaning it is user friendly and don’t require high technical skills to use it. The platform is focused on professionals by connecting accounts from different platforms to share data.
Salesforce is a cloud-based software company that provides customer relationship management service as well as enterprise applications aimed on customer service, marketing automation, analytics, and application development. Today, 90% of Salesforce revenue is via their API.
Twilio is a cloud communications platform-as-a-service. Meaning developers can use their APIs to programmatically make and receive text messages and phone calls. In the latest quarter, revenues soared by 75% to $295.1 million and the market cap is about $16.4 billion.
Web-based APIs are a force that’s driving entire industries forward, and it is getting popular and more lucrative each day. Any business today can take advantages of it either by using or providing it. When using it, one needs to keep in mind the price and limitations.
To access and read about an API, you just need to search for it on google.