Demystifying APIs (Application Programming Interface)

Jamie Royce


October 15 2021


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If you’ve come across the acronym API, yawned and clicked off to another page, you are not alone.

This term is commonly misunderstood.

In this article we will break it down with examples so you will no longer be prompted to walk away when you hear or read something about an “API.


But What Does “API” Actually Mean?

API: Application Programming Interface

Application: A computer software package that performs a defined function.

Programming: A series of commands and instructions directing computers to behave a certain way or work together in a specified manner.

Interface: A program that connects up two points and allows them to communicate with each other.

An API is a set of commands that dictate the behavior between two or more units (computers, applications, programs) and allows them to connect up and accomplish the desired function requested by the user.


Are Applications Like PayPal and Stripe APIs?

That’s a good question and will lead to a simple explanation of how an API works.

PayPal and Stripe are both popular financial applications used daily by millions of people around the world.

We will use PayPal to illustrate this example.

When you log into PayPal, you are using it as service to connect your bank or credit card to a merchant.

Let’s say you want to buy a new stereo system from Walmart.

You have the money in your bank account.

In order to get that money from your bank account to Walmart, you choose PayPal to be your broker.

PayPal acts as the middle point to safely and securely take money from your bank account and transmit it to Walmart so you can get your stereo system.

The way PayPal does this is by using an API. This is a sequence of software commands that have been already pre-programmed by a software engineer and embedded into the PayPal application.

This sequence of commands (the application programming interface) directs the connection between your bank, PayPal and Walmart and allows the entire transaction to take place.


Are the Terms “API” & “UI” Interchangeable?

No, they are not.

They don’t mean the same thing.

When you log into PayPal, you are utilizing the user interface (UI). This is what allows you as a user to access and experience the application of your choice.

Most likely you will remember and go back to applications that have friendly and intuitive user interfaces.

And you will probably avoid like the plague applications that don’t.

User interfaces make an application or program inviting and simple to use. They provide you as the user with the ease and comfort of taking advantage of the services being provided by that company (PayPal, Facebook, Walmart, Amazon, etc).

An API is not something you as a user will see or need to be concerned with.

Normally, the only person who views the API is the programmer that constructs it in the first place. Or someone who is computer savvy and wants to get into making changes in the API or adapting it to fit specific needs.

Sequentially, you talk to the computer by logging into PayPal and putting your data in the user interface.

PayPal then takes the data and using the API transmits the information in order to talk to your bank and the merchant and complete the transaction.

All combined there is a series of actions and teamwork starting with you as the user and ending with the API executing the desired action.


Are You Lacking a Connection?

The field of APIs is one of unlimited potential and promise.

With technology increasing at breakneck speed and more online businesses being formed each day, the need for connections between applications and programs has never been greater.

Consider how many different platforms now need to be able to talk to each other electronically.

This number is only going to increase as time goes on.

To solve this and cater to the need, MindCloud has devised cutting-edge technology to solve all the connections you need.

Contact us today to find out more.

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