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What is an API

What is an API? What can it do? Check out this article to learn everything you need to know!

Grazi Sabatini avatar
Written by Grazi Sabatini
Updated over a week ago

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

API stands for Application Programming Interface. For now, we don’t want you to worry about the A, and the P. Just focus on the I. 

API is an interface. An interface sits on a complicated system and simplifies certain tasks, a middleman of sorts that saves you from needing to know all the details of what’s happening under the hood.

In the simplest definition, API is a set of requirements determining how one application can communicate to another. It's what makes all the interactivity we expect and rely upon possible. 

Companies usually release their API to the public so that other developers can design products that are powered by its services. 

You can find Pipefy's API documentation here

What is an API?

The textbook explanation is: APIs are building blocks or open-ended processes designed to allow the software to interact and integrate with existing software, system, program, or application.

Plainly put, an API is the messenger that takes requests, tells the system what to do, and returns the response back to you.

There's a specific infrastructure we want access to within an application. Knowing that we'll need a way to connect to this application provides a safe way to do so without interfering with their system. 

We can’t let anyone (other than our software development team) have access to Pipefy's main code and poke around. However, we offer a limited way to access certain resources and information using our API.

So, the API has a list of commands (as well as these commands' format) that one application can send to another. This allows individual applications to communicate with each other directly and use the other's functions.

Let's say there's an application with a form on it and every time someone saves it, a new card is created on Pipefy with this information.

The idea is that the application will "talk" directly to Pipefy's API. Sending a request to create a card with the data in the format defined by the API documentation.

The user will only see one interface, but behind the curtains, many applications work together using APIs. This type of integration is called seamless because the user never notices when software functions are handed from one application to another.

But how do they send this data to each other?

To summarize, when a company offers its users an API, it means they’ve built a set of dedicated URLs that return pure data responses. 

So, to request action for an application API, just send the data to a specific URL, and this URL will give a response back. 

📌 Remember:

APIs make the rules: it determines how you ask, what you get, and how you get it. This forces users to organize the inputs according to the specifications and helps set expectations for the transaction.

APIs don't do anything independently: API is just a messenger! It takes requests, tells the system what to do, and gives a return response.

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