When building your online business, you’ll be using tons of different software.
Getting your programs to pass information back and forth so they are ‘talking to each other’ is called “integrating” them. For web-based software, these integrations happen through a little piece of software called an “API.”
API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s kind of like a phone connection in the old landline world. You pick up the phone’s handset and put it to your ear and you hear a dial tone. That dial tone is an indicator that there’s an open connection available for you to make your call. You dial a phone number and you hear ringing. The ringing means that the phone service is attempting to connect to the other end of the connection. When the other end answers the connection is “open” and you and the other person can talk, until one of you hangs up.
In this analogy, an API is the phone — the thing that makes it possible for the connection to open and close.
The phone number you dial tells the service where to ring the phone on the other end.
APIs work like this too. This piece of software on one end “calls” the API over on the other end. The software tells the API what it needs (the request), and the API complies and answers back with the results (the response).
For example, when someone puts their email address into the opt-in box on your website, that email address needs to get sent to your email campaign manager and deposited into the correct mailing list. So your website (e.g. WordPress) connects to your email provider’s API (e.g. Mailchimp) and passes the email address to it, along with the name of the list it needs to go in. Mailchimp complies by locating the list and inserting the new email address into it.
Check out these examples of APIs you may be using every day and not realize it:
- The “Search Now” button on a hotel comparison website that you hit once you’ve entered your search criteria.
- The area on your phone screensaver that shows the current temperature.
- That blue “Share” button that allows you to share the article you are reading on Facebook with one click.
Hopefully this gives you a basic taste of what an API is and how it works. At some point you will need to integrate two platforms using an API key, and it will be helpful to have a basic understanding of that connection.
You may want to learn more about APIs and integrations, today or at a later date. With a little deeper knowledge you’ll be able to create more advanced products and offer more options to your customers. In my Digital Product Launch course I go into more detail about what APIs can do, and I give step by step instructions on how to make API connections between platforms. Look out for it later this year.