The Internet Has Evolved Into a Massive API Cluster
APIs (Application programming interfaces) are all over the place. In fact, the website you’re reading this article on serves the information you’re seeing through APIs. It’s something that the common layman takes for granted, but if you’re a developer, you understand just how dominant this technology has become for online services, especially within the past few years. The Internet has evolved into a literal massive cluster of microservices all exposing and consuming each other’s information through this very useful technological concept.
When I first learned about APIs, the first thing I came to realize is just how elegant the technology is. When it comes to websites, once upon a time the entire website was computed, rendered, and delivered through a very tightly integrated platform. This may seem convenient at first, but it doesn’t allow any type of integrations. If you want to get the data from a system like this, you have a choice to either code directly into the database, which will have data stored in a proprietary format, or you would have to scrape the data from the rendered page. Not very efficient and prone to problems in the future if anything changes. APIs solve this problem by creating a service that another service can consume and therefore use that data to do its function. This allows all sorts of interesting things to happen, such as exposing the data to multiple services and allowing an open format that’s not strictly tied to proprietary concepts. These standards are what run the internet today, and pretty much any data on one website is able to be exposed to others in a very simple and efficient way.
There are all sorts of APIs out there – you can find something for anything. Do you want the weather? There are tons of APIs for that. Want the stock market quotes? This data is also served up through easy to use APIs. As a software developer, the ability to integrate with an API is almost mandatory in today’s environment. Most apps and web services run primarily on them, so it’s one of the first things you learn to integrate with. One thing you’ll quickly realize is that not all APIs are created equal. Take for example the location API. An IP Location API is a service that allows you to gain all sorts of information on a website visitor. However, most of these APIs are quite complicated. For this reason, the good guys at The API Company have created one of the easiest to use Location APIs known to man. It’s literally only one line of code to get access to information about your website’s visitors, such as their location, timezone, and even the location’s currency.
So the next time you’re browsing the net, think about what’s going on behind the scenes that you can’t touch or see. APIs have transformed the way we do pretty much anything online and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, they’ll continue to evolve and provide a means for even more services to be exposed and utilized.