Enhance Visitor Experience with Free Web Services

Today people are constantly updating, posting and sharing videos, pictures and more. Yet with so many different areas of the internet to update, Facebook connect and others have simplified the log in process across other channels and websites. Actually some websites will only allow you to log in through those other partner channels.  How do these websites share information and talk to each other so quickly? The answer is that your favorite websites and apps use what are known as “web services” or more specifically Application Programming Interfaces or APIs.

What is an API?

A very simple way of thinking about APIs is to think of them as the FedEx delivery service of the internet: assigning tracking codes to senders, getting delivery confirmations and handling your pictures, videos, and data with care.

APIs are the lightweight service layer that allows your favorite websites and applications to create the dynamic and entertaining experiences that can text your phone, embed YouTube videos, or sync your status messages between Facebook and Twitter. Once you’re logged in, it’s easier for you to engage across apps and social platforms.

APIs Get Technical

In more technical terms, APIs are a set of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) request messages, that are combined with a definition of the structure of response messages, which is usually in an Extensible Markup Language (XML) or JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format. That jargon essentially means there is a defined standard for how websites can send information back and forth safely and in real time.

The internet and, by extension, the rich mobile applications we use daily, just wouldn’t be what they are today without the prevalence of APIs. So, let’s walk through what happens in that mobile app registration example with a more popular one, Facebook. When you click on a “log in through Facebook” button, a formatted request is sent from the server powering the app you downloaded to the Facebook servers. That request includes (at a basic level), the name of the requesting service (video app), the nature of their request (get authorization), and a tracking code (API Key).

The Facebook servers ensure that everything checks out, you click confirm and then another similar message (package) is sent from Facebook to the video app service (send data) that most likely includes your first & last name, profile picture, and email address. In seconds, you went from unknown to a registered user of a new app without typing a thing, all thanks to APIs.