APIs, short for Application Programming Interfaces, allow one system to talk to another. You may be familiar with the concept of an API if you have ever used a service like Twitter or Facebook. These companies offer software developers access to their services via an API which enables them to build and design new programs that fit in with their company's model. 

API enables the creation of custom-made integrations between existing systems. They also give developers a way to access data quickly and with fewer issues. However, APIs must be managed carefully as they can open up an organization's most sensitive data to unscrupulous people. 

API-driven tools, platforms, and interfaces are becoming increasingly important in powering digital experiences. With that in mind, can we really say that APIs are becoming the internet?

Why Are APIs Important for the Modern Internet?

Modern business demands have forced organizations to accelerate their digital transformation efforts, and APIs power the applications, services and devices that enable such digital projects. APIs form and exist in an ecosystem — similar to how a TV comes with a number of subscriptions to third-party streaming applications. They connect and collaborate with each other to deliver an organization’s full potential. 

When asked about the importance of APIs for the modern internet, Asanka Abeysinghe, Chief Technology Evangelist at Mountain View, CA.-based WSO2 said that “the reason why APIs matter so much for the modern internet is because they allow for faster innovation, create a seamless customer experience and even allow the economy to grow by enabling third-party to develop a range of new services.”

Related Article: What Is API Management (and Why Do I Need It)?

Why APIs Power the Internet

Before APIs — and Cloud and SaaS and integration platforms — creating software involved an immense amount of undifferentiated infrastructure investment just to have anything at all, let alone the added value you imagined for your software. 

Today, according to John Thielens, CTO at Rockford, Il.-based Cleo, “APIs and cloud platforms allow new software to quickly and narrowly productize an idea, but with rich integrations into existing ecosystems of applications that are already available. This creates wave after wave of innovations, APIs on top of APIs, that expand the reach of ecosystems to new users and new use cases”.

APIs have emerged as some of the top products of the 21st century, powering applications, services and connected devices for every industry imaginable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of businesses would not have survived had it not been for the flexibility and power that APIs provide. 

“People turned to the web or mobile devices to order groceries and food online, perform financial transactions, attend lectures, etc. APIs act as the glue to make sure that these apps and services can interact with one another — and APIs were always there, just now digital has become more than just an option for consumers, it’s become a way of life,” said Abeysinghe. 

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What Are the Benefits of Using APIs?

It’s undeniable that enterprises have been going through major transformations within the past years. These transformations have often revolved around efficient resource utilization, cost reduction, higher performance and lower management overhead. Let’s take a look at the benefits of using APIs:

From providing multiple industries with improvements in speed, agility, consistency, and accuracy, companies continue to recognize the potential of extending and integrating application data flows via APIs, allowing for smoother business process integration across applications in conjunction with other types of B2B technology. 

  • Greater data flow integration: “An API can be a critical component to integrating data flows with customers and partner systems. It can even add increased flexibility to traditional types of robust exchange such as MFT and EDI,” says Thielens.
  • The possibility of scaling up and down: APIs enable granular scaling for companies wishing to grow. For example, Abeysinhe says that “depending on overall usage, APIs can handle automatic failover to route traffic, scaling up and down as necessary.” 
  • Introduce new business models: APIs also have the power to introduce new business and revenue models for enterprises, as they can be monetized and/or reused for reduced time to market.

How APIs Are Set To Impact Tomorrow

Connectedness is the name of the game in 2021 and beyond. Enterprise-grade applications often need to connect with distributed systems, numerous teams, archaic legacy applications, overly complex third-party systems, commercial systems and much more. 

These integrations were never meant to be simple, and they involve complex data mappings, transformations, filtering, and protocol conversions.  

This is where API technology comes to play; it makes coding drastically easier than traditional system integration, and ultimately more efficient, more seamless, secure and less costly for IT teams. Abeysinghe also considers that “with reduced budgets and a shift in IT deployment, developers and solution architects are struggling to keep up with surging demands. Programmability and automation will become the tool for development teams to optimize processes yet still capture data points across the enterprise.” 

In the end, it seems that working with APIs is becoming mandatory for digital platforms in the future and that both developers and consumers will need to understand the logic behind them and how to properly use them to leverage all their capabilities.