What Is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface.

An API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.

An API is the messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you’re requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you.

Therefore, a good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing the building blocks.

When developers create code, they don’t often start from scratch. APIs enable developers to make repetitive yet complex processes highly reusable with a little bit of code.

drupal modules for ecommerce

The speed that APIs enable developers to build out apps is crucial to the current pace of application development.

Developers are now much more productive than they were before when they had to write a lot of code from scratch. With an API, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they write a new program. Instead, they can focus on the unique proposition of their applications while outsourcing all of the commodity functionality to APIs.

If you have a clock application, it might want to use information from a weather application to sync with it. So, Mr. Clock connects to Mr. Weather instead of the programmer writing a separate weather application.

If you have a clock application, it might want to use information from a weather application to sync with it. So, Mr. Clock connects to Mr. Weather instead of the programmer writing a separate weather application.

How Do APIs Work?

When you search for flights online, you need to interact with the airline’s website to access the airline’s database to see if any seats are available on those dates. You need to access that information from the airline’s database from an online travel service that aggregates information from multiple airlines.

The API is the interface that delivers the data from the application you’re using (seat inquiry) to the airline’s systems over the Internet. It also then takes the airline’s response to your request and delivers right back to the travel application you’re using (seats available).

APIs Make Life Easier for Developers

Let’s say you want to develop an app for an iPhone. Apple’s iOS operating system provides a large number of APIs.

If you want to embed a web browser to show one or more web pages, for example, you don’t have to program your own web browser from scratch just for your application. You use the WKWebView API to embed a WebKit (Safari) browser object in your application.

If you want to capture photos or video from the iPhone’s camera, you don’t have to write your own camera interface. You use the camera API to embed the iPhone’s built-in camera in your app. If APIs didn’t exist to make this easy, app developers would have to create their own camera software and interpret the camera hardware’s inputs.

This applies to every platform. For example, do you want to create a dialog box on Windows? There’s an API for that. Want to support fingerprint authentication on Android? There’s an API for that too, so you don’t have to test every different Android manufacturer’s fingerprint sensor. Developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over.

Understanding Drupal’s API-first approach

So, what is meant by API-first? It refers to the interaction between a central web service and several other applications to enable the two systems to exchange information over a network. Not only is this exchange limited to websites but also extends to mobile apps. Using API-first, Drupal basically refers to the decoupling of the front-end and utilizing a different technology for the presentation and the theming layer.

Drupal has many advantages, the key one being that it is free and open source from end-to-end unlike other API-first content-as-a-service options like Contentful. Thus, all layers constituting accessing and retrieving data, exposing and consuming that data through software development kits are free.

How Is Drupal Moving Toward Becoming More API-first?

With an API-first initiative at the forefront, Drupal 8.0 was shipped with a built-in REST API which spelt the beginning of Drupal’s transformation as an API-first platform. Since then, subsequent releases in Drupal 8 have introduced remarkable web service API improvement.

Drupal is perpetually moving toward offering a more robust API-first ecosystem. Significant market trends paved the way for endorsing this strategy which includes the incorporation of other technology solutions, an increase in the adoption of JS frameworks, and the snowballing of new devices and digital channels among others.

Although Drupal 8 was launched with a basic REST API, the Drupal community has been contributing with new REST API features in further releases of Drupal. For instance, the Drupal community is working on shipping Drupal modules with web service APIs instead of depending on a central API module in the further releases of Drupal.

Drupal is API-first, not API-only. And rather than leave editors and marketers behind in favor of developers, it gives everyone what they need in one single package.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

Stay up to date with our insights by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.