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 that determine 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 text book explanation is: APIs are building blocks or open-ended processes designed to allow software to interact and integrate with an existing software, system, program, or application.
Plainly put, an API is the messenger that takes request, 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. This application, knowing that we'll need a way to connect to it, 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. We do, however, 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 for the creation of a card with the data in the format defined by the API documentation.
The actual user will only see one interface but behind the curtains there are many applications working 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 it, when a company offers their users an API it means that they’ve built a set of dedicated URLs that return pure data responses.
So, to request an action for an application API, just send the data to a specific URL and this URL will give a response back.
Pipefy's URL is: https://app.pipefy.com/graphiql
API's 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.
API's don't do anything on their own: API is just a messenger! It takes requests, tells the system what to do and gives a return response.