What Is an API? - Montana Webmaster

What Is an API?

What Does API Mean?

If you have a website, “API” will show up in many places. When you look up the meaning of API, you will see words like protocols, interface, integrate … which may not do much to help you. The words that it stands for,  Application Programming Interface, probably isn’t much help either. An API comes in when two programs have to share information. It’s a little piece of software that makes sure that the receiving program can use what was sent, without getting into the sending program’s business.

API Example 1: a newsletter sign-up form

YScreenshot of Substack APIesterday, I worked with children’s book writer Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, to add a little Substack sign up form to a page on her website. When someone fills out the form, their email address has to go from the website to Substack without giving them access to the software that makes Substack work. Also, it should not give them access to anyone else’s information stored in Substack. That is why we have API’s. They allow a very specific function to happen, but protect both sides of the transaction from accessing unauthorized functions.

Other newsletter services, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact also provide API code that you can add to your website to gather signups. You can copy this code from your online account with the newsletter service. But, many of these services have also figured out that copying code is more than many website owners can do. So, they provide a plugin that works with WordPress to make it easier. They also have software that works with other systems, like SquareSpace.

In these cases, the API is important because it protect the privacy of all the subscribers’ email addresses.

API Example 2: transaction processing

Whether you use PayPal, Stripe or some other system, your website needs to pass data to the transaction service. What you don’t want is for any customer related information to be passed. Unlike a newsletter signup, where an email is required, everything about that customer should be processed in the secure setting of the transaction service.

But, that doesn’t mean that there is no API for transaction processing. For one, you want that sale to be tied to your site and only your site.

How Do You Get an API?

Web services, such as PayPal, Substack, Constant Contact, Google Analytics, etc. provide the code for you to use on your website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.