API stands for Application Program Interface.
In the context of software development, “API integration” refers to a way for two applications or tools to communicate with each other. One application makes calls to the API exposed by another tool, and the latter responds accordingly. This overall process creates an environment that allows tasks to be automated.
APIs are used in many ways, but their most common application is to glue together other services. When a company releases an API, it’s often because many people would find value in building an app on top of their data.
Developers use some APIs for internal applications or apps that have not been released publicly to the public.
Many people who work with APIs (application programming interfaces) will tell you that they are drinking from a fire hose of data, about which they have very little understanding.
Quality is suspect, quantity is overwhelming, and the rate at which it all flows makes it nearly impossible to keep up with or do anything intelligent.
Nonetheless, the fact is that developers use most APIs for internal applications.
Types of API Integration:
APIs allow communication between two applications. For example, messaging APIs can be used to send messages from your program’s services to another, giving your app access to new features or capabilities like working with different platforms, data sources, etc.
There are three main categories of integration methods— messaging APIs, webhooks, and event APIs.
1) Messaging APIs
Messaging APIs let you build bots and integrations with other messaging platforms like Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. They allow your users to connect to the services they already know and love – while also providing you with the flexibility to build something new.
Examples include: Slack’s API, XMPP/Jabber
A webhook is a way for an app to provide other applications with real-time information. It’s like getting an SMS, but instead of sending a message via SMS, you send data via an HTTP POST request. These POST requests contain JSON-formatted data that you can use in your app to respond appropriately, such as sending a message, replacing the content of a page, triggering analytics tracking, or simply storing it into the database.
In addition, it sends notifications from Bitbucket Server to external services like other apps. Receiving a webhook triggers a callback which you can use to update another service – suppose a bug tracker when certain events occur in Bitbucket Server. Consequently, you could create a webhook workflow that automatically updates your bug tracker as new issues are created in Bitbucket Server.
Some webhook services provide templates and examples to make integration more accessible, which is helpful when working with APIs for the first time.
Examples include: Event API, Twilio API, HTTP API
3) Event APIs
Event APIs let you receive information about user actions, so you can respond accordingly– for example, showing a message or promoting an offer to that user based on their activity or profile data. They also allow mobile and web apps to receive push notifications.
Event APIs are the best choice when you want to delve deep into your customer’s profile and find out all kinds of details about their activity.
The event-driven architecture uses decoupled components to process messages or perform tasks at a specified time.
Some Event APIs provide real-time data, while others only offer it after they process the data in batches (e.g., Mixpanel), making certain types of integrations more efficient.
Examples include Google Analytics API, Stripe API, Mixpanel API.
API integration resources:
If you are looking for an API to integrate into your app, don’t forget to read the docs, check integrations examples and review pricing tiers before deciding.
For example, Slack’s API has ~5k apps built with it right now. They have an official app directory that includes categories, top apps by monthly active users, integrations for other platforms, and more.
API Tools To Check Out
- Twilio API: Twimlets and Actions on Google (now in public beta)
- Stripe API: Stripe Elements and Stripe Checkout for building eCommerce experiences
These tools allow you to integrate with Stripe and Google Payments or build an eCommerce checkout flow for selling physical goods or digital products. They let you build products without having to manage the complexity of payments yourself.
And just as important as knowing what APIs exist is understanding the limitations and differences between them so you can pick one that’s best suited for your needs.
When it comes to picking an API, think about whether you want to build something new using the data the APIs provide or providing existing services with extra functionality.
APIs are the future of integrations. Messaging APIs, Webhooks, and Event APIs are the top categories for any app that wants to provide new features or capabilities to customers or other software.
With so many tools out there to help you build amazing apps, it’s getting easier every day!