You’re planning to go on a vacation & want to book a good hotel. So, you go online & use any reliable fare aggregator website to check the best deals for a particular hotel. In this process, you just type the name of the hotel and the website will pull up the booking prices from multiple travel & hotel websites. You can then choose the best deal & enjoy your vacation. Convenient, isn’t it?
But the brains behind this entire process is Application programming interfaces or simply APIs. They act as digital messengers and do the following:
- Carry requests from a fare aggregator website
- Check the database of various hotels/services
- Bring back the desired results and show it to us
APIs facilitate seamless communication between digital applications and also enable them to share the desired results as per query. So, in the above example:
- A fare aggregator website is a digital application
- An API helps the website to communicate with the rest of the hotel/travel websites
- The result – list of prices for a particular hotel or a bunch of hotels
Some real-world examples of APIs are:
- Facebook & Twitter – These renowned social media platforms reveal/expose their web APIs. This is done to help systems/web apps to readily consume and publish content.
- Google – The company behind the “Search Engine of the World” usually exposes its features & functionalities so that they can be easily embedded on a website.
Three Important Considerations in API Development
- Ensure That API Standards are Met
You might’ve seen a USB port on your laptop or a computer. It helps other electronic gadgets like mobiles, tablets and others to connect to the laptop/computer for seamless data transfer. It has become the standard when it comes to connecting devices to computers or laptops.
Similarly, API standards are implemented to ensure that each & every digital application follows a given set of common rules and regulations. To put it simply, all digital applications that leverage API will speak the same language.
But who sets the API Standards? The answer is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It is a global community that defines the rules & updates the standards periodically. Some standards that you should keep in mind for a hassle-free API Development process are:
- Web APIs must be delivered over an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) System – Data must be encrypted before sending them over a highly secure internet connection.
- SSL Certificates – These must be installed, signed & used by the sender as well as recipient websites/digital applications.
- Responses – The responses of Web APIs should be in JSON or XML format.
- URIs – Uniform Resource Identifiers are a string of numbers or text which specify a particular resource (Ex: User Profile). These must be used as well.
- Robust Security is Very Important
Security must be an integral part of the Application programming interfaces development. This is very crucial as APIs act as entry points to an organization’s system data and other information including functionalities.
A multi-layered approach for securing APIs is highly recommended as such systems can readily thwart any foreign intruders (hackers, viruses, ransomware).
Here are some security best practices for APIs:
- Network Layer Security – Secures communication channels & blocks sniffer programs.
- Application Layer Security – These act like bouncers and protect digital applications against any malicious attacks.
- IP Whitelisting – Users can easily access a digital application via a list of trusted IP addresses eliminating any chance of foreign elements like viruses or Trojans.
- User Identification – This security process is mostly done for sensitive applications. This is usually established with the help of authentication schemes like Open Authorization or Basic Authentication.
- Good Documentation Is the Key
You might’ve leveraged a great API Platform to develop a world-class API. However, if the same API doesn’t have proper documentation, then it can be likened to a ship without a rudder.
So, if the functions, structure & the value of an API that you developed are not well communicated to others (clients, customers, general people), then they will most probably ignore your API and use one that is provided by your competitors. Digital applications won’t leverage your API simply because of lack of documentation.
Some important aspects of good API documentation:
- People should find it easy to read & intercept.
- It should contain relevant information such as –
- URIs used
- Developer Environments
- Security Mechanisms
- Response Formats & Parameters
These are the three important considerations in API Development processes that any API developer must address.
ARSR holds expertise in API development and offers various services like Modification Timestamp APIs, JSON Support/REST, Authorization APIs and more to enterprises who want to leverage APIs for their digital applications.