5 Examples of APIs in Use Today
What is an API?
APIs are mechanisms that enable two software components to communicate with each other using a set of definitions and protocols. For example, the weather bureau’s software system contains daily weather data. The weather app on your phone “talks” to this system via APIs and shows you daily weather updates on your phone.
What are the Applications of API?
We've produced a list of seven of the most relatable instances of API usage in our daily lives to assist our readers better grasp what is API and how they operate. You've probably encountered these API connections elsewhere, from checking in with Facebook to buying with PayPal!
1. Weather Snippets
One common API usage example we come across on a daily basis is weather data. Rich weather snippets seem to be commonplace, found on all platforms, like Google Search, Apple’s Weather app, or even from your smart home device. For example, if you search “weather + [your city’s name]” on Google, you’ll see a dedicated box at the top of the search results (called a rich snippet) with the current weather conditions and forecast.
Google isn’t in the business of weather data (yet!), so they source this information from a third party. They do so by means of an API, which sends them the latest weather details in a way that’s easy for them to reformat.
2. Log-in Using XYZ
Another prominent example of API usage is the “log-in using Facebook/Twitter/Google/Github” functionality you see on so many websites instead of actually logging-in to users’ social media accounts (which would pose a serious security concern), applications with this functionality leverage these platforms’ APIs to authenticate the user with each login.
3. Pay with PayPal
Another popular API example is PayPal. PayPal is a fintech service that allows users to connect personal financial information to their PayPal account. This paves the way for easier, more secure money transfers.
You'll see PayPal intentionally embedded into any number of websites that require financial transactions, from eBay to Airbnb.
The Google Maps API gives users the privilege of nearly limitless geographic aptitude at their fingertips. Search nearby restaurants, niche shops, and whatever else is in relative distance to your location.
You may have been using this API example more often than you realize. Each time you glimpsed business hours, reviews, contact information, or anything of that nature from that handy box on your screen, that is the Google Maps API in action.
To that same effect, clicking on the map icon in that box will open the Google Maps app for you or take you straight to the Google Maps website.
5. Travel Booking
Ever wondered how travel booking sites are able to aggregate thousands of flights and destinations and showcase the cheapest option? Often, the answer is by using third-party APIs to collect flight and hotel availabilities from providers. Likewise, if you make a booking through one of these services, they’ll use APIs to confirm the trip with the provider they sourced it from.
APIs are great for travel services since they make it easy for machines to quickly and autonomously exchange both data and requests — in this case, trip availabilities and reservation requests. Without using APIs, an employee of the booking service would have to manually email the airline or hotel to find out their availability. Then, after an email comes back from the provider, they’d have to confirm it with the traveler. By the time the travel broker sends yet another email back to the provider, confirming the trip, it’d probably no longer be available!
There are many APIs at work within the travel and booking industry.