What Is an API and What Is It Used For? Some Popular Examples

As part of the business world, you’ve probably heard about APIs by now. Here’s the question, though: what exactly is an API? More importantly, what is it used for? 

You can find the answer to this question directly below, along with lots of useful information that will encourage you to add APIs to your business. 

What is an API?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is code that allows two different software programs to communicate with each other. From software development to financial services, APIs are now used just about everywhere that you could imagine on the internet. 

Big companies like Meta and Amazon now use APIs so that companies can access their services without having to integrate fully into the systems. In the case of Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram), it uses a HTTP-based API that enables companies to extract relevant data and complete the functions they need to. 

Essentially, it’s a little bit like letting a stranger into your home for a brief period of time. This is why it’s important to monitor APIs for security purposes. Through efficient API monitoring, you can maintain data privacy and stronger security.

Three Examples of APIs 

Now that you know what an API is, the next phase is to show you some popular examples of APIs. The likelihood is that you’ve encountered at least one of these examples in your life, perhaps without even knowing it. After reading through the examples, you’ll be eager to start using APIs in your own business. 

1. Sign in with Apple 

Do you own an iPhone? Great, this example will be relevant to you. 

Over the past few years, you’ve probably signed into different apps using your Apple ID, right? For example, when you create an account with Twitter, you can create it by linking your Apple ID to it. Then, whenever you sign into your Twitter account in the future, you simply use your Apple ID. 

This is a prime example of an API, as Apple is communicating with the application you want to use and authenticating your account as a viable sign in option. Interestingly, you can do this without even sharing your actual Apple ID, as Apple has the power to hide your email and relay everything to a unique, randomly generated email instead. 

2. Google Maps 

Google Maps’ API works by allowing developers to retrieve data from Google Maps, such as your specific location at a particular time, send directions, and much more. 

For example, when it first came out, Pokémon GO used Google Maps for its in-game display. Without it, the magic of going out to different places looking for different Pokémon simply wouldn’t have been possible. Now, though, Pokémon GO has replaced Google Maps with OpenStreetMap (OSM)

3. PayPal 

With PayPal, users can connect their personal financial information to their PayPal accounts without giving PayPal access to sensitive information, such as their actual bank card information or address. Thanks to the API, people feel much more relaxed using the PayPal platform knowing that their personal data is safe.