Social Media Jargon Buster: What is an API?

Social Media Jargon Buster: What is an API?
The first and easiest question to answer is…

What does API stand for?

API stands for application programming interface. If this hasn’t cleared things up for you, don’t worry, we’re here to simplify the jargon. Essentially, an API is a set of rules and guidelines that, when abided by, provide access to a particular system, program or website. It is the part of a server that deals with requests from external programs and sites. An API opens up internal segments or functions of a program to third parties in a controlled environment with limited access. These generally involve separate entities partnering up to aid the usability, enjoyment and efficiency of a program, therefore enhancing the fluidity of the overall user experience.

API Examples

Popular online platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter all make the most of APIs. Ever logged in to a website – such as an online shopping or streaming service – using your Facebook details? How about integrating a Google Map on your website for navigational purposes? Maybe you’ve booked a flight and it has automatically appeared on your Google or Outlook calendar? All of these are examples of companies making the most of APIs. Each of the above instances – and any like them – have been achieved through one server communicating with another. In other words, Google’s server has given your website permission to integrate the Map on your page, or Facebook’s server has allowed ASOS to use its server to access your personal details... after you have given Facebook permission to share your data of course.

What is the difference between first and third party APIs?

Third party APIs

A Third Party API is one that has been developed by a party that is external to the system or program it is designed to access. This can be likened to an app on a phone. Apple may have developed your phone, but a third party has developed your internet banking app, which had to earn permission from your phone and the app store’s operating system to make it onto your device. So, using this metaphor: a third party API is one that has not been developed by the system it utilises. For instance, sites such as Buffer and Hootsuite are third-party APIs that have been given permission by the likes of Facebook and Twitter to publish content on said platforms.

First party APIs

Examples of first party APIs are Apple’s Location Services, Google Maps and the Facebook Newsfeed. A first party API is one that is developed internally, with maximum control over its design and implementation. Sometimes referred to as in-house APIs, all permissions and the overall lifecycle involved in the software or system is dealt with internally.

Why do I need to know about APIs?

While you don’t need to be an expert in all things code, as business owners and marketers, it’s important that you’re aware of the latest updates involved with social media and the online world. Missing out on a breaking update could result in you falling behind your competitors. Having read this article, you’ll have a basic understanding of how various websites and programs integrate. Now, when news breaks such as Facebook revoking the permissions of APIs such as Buffer and Hootsuite on personal profiles, you’ll have a better appreciation of how this potentially implicates your business. Oliver Wilkinson Content Marketing Executive Knapton Wright
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