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home > Journey to the Interface

Journey to the Interface

Posted by openkent on June 6, 2011

Have you ever been in conversations where people suddenly start talking about APIs? If you're not a web developer, don't read any further and instead check out visualisations that have been created.  But if you are a web developer or would like to find out what an API is, do read on!

So what exactly does this mean? Application Programming Interface (API) relates to the tasks and tools programmers use to build software applications. If the API is satisfactory it will provide the building blocks a programmer can use when developing software.

MS Windows and many other operating environments already offer an API that allow programmers to write applications matching the particular operating environment. Any programs that feature a common API will have corresponding interfaces making it simpler for the user to learn new programs.

How would you use such software? Adrian Short developed Sutton Bookshare with the London Borough of Sutton using an API. The service was made using open source code, on a site known as Github. Fortunately this code is free and accessible, meaning developers anywhere in the UK can use the code to create their own bookshare services.

It is then necessary that ‘rest API’ provides communication with the library catalogue database. Adrian Short commented at the NESTA Make it Local event that “API’s and data can be complex, yet we use websites every day. The website as the API really is the core idea behind what they call a ‘rest’ or ‘restful’ API.” This means that an innovative web application can be built with the capacity to serve up data, as well as HTML pages.

He explains that “a HTML page of events for the month can just be pulled out in calendar format, or as an RSS feed? It is the simplest way of designing an API, and essentially documents itself – You’re building API’s that work with the way websites already work.” In a sense, it should become more common that web applications are built in this way when working on similar projects.

If that's got you excited about using APIs, then why not try ours here.