When you want to gain insight into the current stage of a business and how best to expand it, it’s useful to consider as many options as possible. This way, as the leader, you can home in on the best solution and avoid wasting precious time.
For companies wanting to encourage other independent developers or organizations to work with them, an API is one way to accomplish this.
In this article, we take a deep dive into APIs and how they can change a company’s whole trajectory.
What Is An API?
An API is an application programming interface. What this means in laymen’s terms is that it is a way to connect to a company’s information stores in an approved manner.
For instance, Amazon has an API that permits other websites to connect to its site to extract real-time product pricing and approved images for use on their third-party site. This helps these sites to refer more customers to Amazon and earn a commission from affiliate sales.
As laid out clearly in the API basics article from Appetiser Apps – who produce highly sophisticated mobile and web apps for businesses – using an API extends the reach of a company. By making it possible for third parties to connect and access certain company information, other apps or websites can include your brand and user interaction in a controlled manner.
This works well for Facebook and other social media companies where widgets on websites provide social share counts for an article, how many Likes it has already received, etc. Without APIs, this wouldn’t be possible.
Create One Solution, So Other Companies Don’t Repeatedly Do So
By developing an API, other companies through their app or website can provide more useful information to users or visitors.
There is no need for each developer to create a complicated programmed solution to get access to the data (and ask for approval to do so, of course). This is repetitious and inefficient for each company in turn.
Unless it was absolutely needed, they usually wouldn’t put in the development time. However, where a company has already provided an API to do just that, it takes a fraction of the time to include this useful resource.
How Can an API Expand the Reach of the Company?
Let’s say, hypothetically, that you run a weather-predicting service. You see value in enabling mobile apps to access your storm predictions because it extends your brand’s reach.
Eventually, thousands of mobile apps include the weather feature for their users – for instance, one app is about hiking tips where including weather reports is relevant for users planning to take a trip.
Don’t worry about giving away your service data though. The weather prediction information would be limited to key data points and limited mapping information, not the whole package. For that, a customer would need to visit your site and sign up as a paid subscriber.
By offering an API, it extends the potential exposure of your brand. Other businesses and independents that may have never heard of the company can create a new relationship when looking to incorporate the data. And by using the API method, it’s something programmers are familiar with and can utilise quickly which increases the usage growth too.
Are There Any Limitations to Be Aware Of?
The company needs to ensure that there’s the technical infrastructure to manage the growth in the API’s adoption. The more connections being made to the API to look up information, the greater the server resources are required to handle the load.
Therefore, whether running a data centre in-house or using a cloud server service, it will need to scale up as the API grows in demand. Otherwise, apps or websites would make an “API call” to request the information required and this required would fail.
The company must be willing to invest what’s required to support its decision to create an API. Otherwise, it’s unwise to do because it risks damaging their reputation. It’s important to understand that many websites and apps will later rely on this access once it’s been set up.
Is This Only for Technical Companies?
The short answer to this question is no. The point of making an API available is to provide limited access to specific data so it may be used by third parties.
APIs are now used across every sector of the economy because it allows the sharing of data in a safe, controlled manner. Whether that’s providing current stock level information between a supplier and a business customer, making social account information available for any industry to use or something else entirely. The industry or sector is completely immaterial.
Companies looking to expand their presence, create significantly more brand awareness, and encourage other companies to work with them can benefit from introducing an API. Rather than remaining in a world where all data is ring-fenced to keep everyone away, seeing where there would be a real benefit to opening up is an excellent start. Without this change in perspective, companies like Facebook would never have acquired billions of users.