04:11 PM, 06 26, 2018

What is API?

API or application programming interfaces, it may sound like some strange IT code that you’ll never need nor use. But, guess what, you’re already using it. Every time you’ve paid online with your credit card, sent a message on Facebook or searched online for the best holiday flights, you’ve used it. So, what is it?

As a basic break down, API is the thing that allows programmes to talk to each other, the go between if you like. Mulesoft describes it well by comparing it to a waiter in a restaurant. “Imagine you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant with a menu of choices to order from. The kitchen is the part of the “system” that will prepare your order. What is missing is the critical link to communicate your order to the kitchen and deliver your food back to your table. That’s where the waiter (API) comes in. The waiter is the messenger – or API – that takes your request or order and tells the kitchen – the system – what to do. Then the waiter delivers the response back to you; in this case, it is the food” [1].

API Diagram

API’s aren’t actually that new, they’ve been in your computer for years; they’re what connects one programme to another. It’s API that runs the world time on your computer and it’s what allows you to quickly fill in your address using only your postcode when you’re ordering something. That’s partly why they’re so great; they save you loads of time.

APIs are great time savers, they’re what let you sign into the apps or websites using your Facebook login. They can also be wonderfully convenient, if you’ve been reading an article that you’d like to share on social media but don’t want to leave the page, those social media share buttons that let you do that are APIs. But, perhaps most importantly, they’re safe.

Your data and the server never become fully exposed to each other because of the API. The data is sent via the API, which is in essence is a URL (or a website) which no one can see. All these transactions to and fro are encrypted and unreadable to the human eye. As an additional level of security, API’s typically have a special sort of authentication where you have to pass a token (those distorted letters and numbers they ask you to copy out) and a password. These then generate a temporary password which gets you the information you want. All this prevents the so called “man in the middle” attacks. If I’ve lost you in all that, just imagine you’re sending a letter to a friend and the letter is the API. No-one else can open that letter except your friend because its double padlocked and even if they did manage to get in the message wouldn’t make sense. I hope this has explained what an API is, at least enough that you’ll now what people are on about next time you hear it. But what use is it to you?

At SVM, our API means that when you order from us we instantaneously get those eCodes or gift cards from the requested source eg TUI. We then automatically send those TUI gift cards back to you. Imagine you were ordering from Deliveroo, you place your order and then Deliveroo contacts the restaurant and sends you your food; it’s exactly the same principle when you order with us. In addition to this, we also offer a further service which also provides fulfilment. This just means that if you provide us with the receiver’s information we can send their gift cards/eCodes directly to them, cutting out any extra hassle for you. In short, our API make it; faster, easier and safer for you.

  1. https://www.mulesoft.com/resources/api/what-is-an-api

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