API For Dummies: What Is An API And How Is It Used?

What Is An API?

The term API is an acronym and stands for "Application Programming Interface". It is a set of rules and protocols that acts as a software intermediary between two different applications and enables them to communicate. APIs allow developers to access the functionality and data of another application and incorporate that functionality into their application. This allows for more efficient and streamlined integration of different software systems. As users, we see the use of APIs all around us without realizing that a lot of the information or functionality we see on a website or application may be coming through APIs.

How Is An API Used?

Some examples of APIs used regularly include the following:

Google Maps

Using Google Maps on a website's "Contact" page to show a company's office location is one of the most common uses of APIs. Also, several mobile applications use the Google Maps API for various reasons. For example, all food delivery applications such as SkipTheDishes or Uber Eats use the Google Maps API to help their drivers find delivery locations and also use the same API to show the customer the driver's route and how far they are from their house. The whole Uber platform is in essence built from API calls rather than custom code. The Google Maps API is a key component of the Uber application used to help drivers and riders find and connect through the Uber app.

Social Media Web APIs

Embedding YouTube videos or social media posts on a website is done with the use of web APIs. Providers like Facebook or Twitter provide a free and open API to developers to add to a website to access Facebook's or Twitter's data and services.

Various Partner APIs

Companies like Amazon, Shopify, Spotify, and other private corporations share their APIs with partners so that their partners can access their data and generate revenue for both parties. An example of this is Google Flights. Google accesses the APIs of several different airlines and then makes this information available to users in the Google Flights portal and allowing them to search and find the best itinerary and price across several different airlines, for their next flight.

What Are The Benefits Of Using APIs

There are many benefits of using APIs for both developers and businesses.

For Developers:

The primary benefit of an API is that it allows a company (their development team) to access information or software capabilities from another source, and provide greater value to its customers without an additional investment of time, money, and resources. As mentioned earlier in this post, a good example would be the Google Maps API which is a key component for businesses like Uber, or food delivery applications such as SkipTheDishes or DoorDash. By using Google's "Google Map API", these businesses save on development costs (as they don't need to develop a brand-new state-of-the-art mapping system for their apps). They also provide their customers with the benefit of using one of the best mapping applications available, an application their customers are most likely already very familiar with.

For Businesses:

As discussed earlier, in addition to the benefits that APIs offer businesses through the software development process (for their developers), they also present an opportunity for businesses to leverage their data and internal tools and solutions into new revenue streams and business opportunities. Companies like Google or Amazon generate revenue by selling access to some or all of their APIs.

Many companies also monetize their APIs in different ways, such as encouraging customer loyalty or using the APIs as marketing tools to become integral to their customers' business, driving awareness for their brand, or exploring new business opportunities. Good examples of this are Google Maps (an API which is mostly offered at no charge from Google), or Slack's basic API which allows companies to integrate Slack's messaging tool into other applications they use. By doing this, Slack becomes integral to this company's business and eventually can upsell them a different (for a fee) API option.


There are tens of thousands of APIs available for use today, each providing access to prebuilt functionality businesses and development teams can use to provide better customer experiences faster than trying to build that functionality in-house from scratch. Alternatively, businesses can also develop APIs and offer them to their clients for free (for marketing/sales purposes), or for a fee. Either way, APIs are an important part of modern software development as they provide important opportunities and innovative ways for companies and development teams to improve their offering and grow their business. Based on this, it's only fair to assume that the potential and opportunities of APIs will only continue to grow in the future.

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Meet Evan Kordakis

Project Manager


Evan is a Project Manager and a digital delivery professional with a strong background in the business, technical, and financial industries. He has an MBA focused on digital strategies and has managed several successful projects for many of the biggest brands in Alberta. Outside of work, Evan enjoys travelling and watching, playing, and coaching soccer.

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