What is an API?

This new role I’ve been in has thankfully brought me close to understanding how digital products are developed. One of the concepts I’ve been interacting with a lot are APIs. At a high level, APIs enable two products to connect to one another.

Many “partnerships” created between two tech companies, the technical infrastructure of how that works is enabled through APIs. One example is the Google Maps API. Uber and Lyft for example, saved a ton of time and money by connecting to the Google Maps API, rather than going through the effort of creating their own maps product.

As the API or “application programming interface” becomes the primary interface for business (in much the same way physical storefronts gave way to applications and websites), we’re seeing a new chapter in the story of software emerge. While it’s playing out against the backdrop of other trends, the big idea here is that traditional programs are being broken down into services. But more importantly, these pieces and services are being recombined by other companies to create something new. Now someone whose passionate about art who would like to develop a product that showcases their work can focus more on the creative output, rather than to learn how to code everything themselves. APIs enable what folks call the “no-code” revolution – which is rapidly making software tools accessible to non-technical folks (like me).

There a ton more examples you interact with on a daily basis. I believe understanding these concepts can be helpful for you, regardless of the industry you’re in. This article is a great start, and this video by Andreeson Horowitz is an extremely informative place to start.

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