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What is an API? The (Complete) Application Programming Interface Definition

What is an API? The (Complete) Application Programming Interface Definition

You’ve most likely heard the phrases API, Public API, or Web API earlier than. These are sometimes utilized by software program firms when talking about an utility, working system or web site. They are used all over the place in at this time’s world and supply an incredible profit. But have you ever ever puzzled what an API really is, or tips on how to use it? 

What is an API?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of capabilities that permits purposes to entry information and work together with exterior software program elements, working programs, or microservices. 

To simplify, an API delivers a person response to a system and sends the system’s response again to a person. You click on “add to cart;” an API tells the location you added a product to your cart; the web site places the product in your cart, and your cart is up to date.

You could hear the time period “microservices” come up in relation to API. These nonetheless, should not the identical. Microservices are a mode or structure which divides performance inside an internet utility. While API is the framework which builders work together with an internet utility. Microservices can really use API to speak between one another. 

API lets a developer make a selected “call” or “request” to be able to ship or obtain info. This communication is accomplished utilizing a programming language known as “JSON.”  It can be used to make an outlined motion comparable to updating or deleting information. There are 4 primary request strategies that may be made with API:

  1. GET – Gathers info (Pulling all Coupon Codes)
  2. PUT –  Updates items of information (Updating Product pricing)
  3. POST – Creates (Creating a brand new Product Category)
  4. DELETE – (Deleting a weblog put up)

So What is JSON and why is it used?

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is used to signify information on a server. It’s pretty straightforward to learn by people, and simple for machines/purposes to grasp. Let’s have a look at an instance of JSON from a product on BigCommerce:

This is straightforward to grasp because it’s outputted in key/worth pairs, with the key on the left, and a worth on the fitting. Keys are a hard and fast object outlined by the applying and can stay the identical as with “category.” Whereas the values will probably be distinctive, comparable to “Shirts.”

What is an API Request?

There are a number of elements of an API Request to ensure that it to perform. Let’s go over these individually and the way they can be utilized to construct a request.


There are two key components to an endpoint which are used when making an API request. One of which is the URL. BigCommerce makes use of https://api.bigcommerce.com/shops/ because the URL for all API Requests. This could appear to be an everyday URL however for those who plug this into an internet browser, you’ll obtain a 404 error message.

The second half is the trail. The path will differ relying on what you are attempting to perform. You can discover a checklist of obtainable paths for BigCommerce by visiting our developer documentation: https://developer.bigcommerce.com/api-reference. For this instance we’re going to use the product path which is /v3/catalog/merchandise. 

When we put these two components collectively, we get a whole endpoint https://api.bigcommerce.com/stores/store_hash/v3/catalog/products. Now you might be saying to your self “What is the store_hash?“ “Where did that come from?” This is what is often called a variable. Variables are distinctive elements to an endpoint and can differ relying in your retailer’s info. You can spot a variable by the open and closed brackets “”.


Headers present info to the shopper and server. Common examples of a header can be authentication credentials comparable to a “Auth Token” or “Client ID”. These credentials are supplied to you mechanically once you create an API Account. Another frequent header is known as the “Content Type,” which informs the server about what sort of content material will probably be despatched. For instance, a generally used content material sort is  “utility/json” which let’s the server know, we’re sending JSON information throughout. 


Methods are the actions taken when sending a request. Think again to the start once we mentioned GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE. These are all API Methods. 


The request information, additionally generally known as the “body,” is info that will probably be both despatched to or returned by a server. In the earlier dialogue of JSON, you possibly can see an instance of API information. The physique of a request will typically require particular info earlier than it may be delivered. An instance of this is in case you are enhancing a single product, the Product ID will probably be required earlier than any change may be made.

What about REST & SOAP APIs?

While API follows a selected algorithm that decide how packages talk with each other. REST & SOAP outline how the API is offered. Each are comparable in performance however have a number of key variations and use instances. 

REST stands for “Representational State Transfer” and is the algorithm that builders comply with when creating an API. REST is learn utilizing JSON as we lined beforehand. One of those guidelines is that the API needs to be designed in a means that is straightforward to make use of and can make sense for builders. An instance of not following this rule can be to have the product endpoint “prod_839” as a substitute of simply “products.” As this might trigger the API to be pretty disagreeable to work with. 

SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol is one other design modal for internet providers. Instead of the everyday JSON that REST API makes use of. SOAP makes use of a language often called Extensible Markup Language (XML). XML is designed to be machine- and human-readable. SOAP follows a robust normal of guidelines, comparable to messaging construction and conference for offering request or responses. 

This article on the whole refers to REST API requirements because it’s largely utilized in at this time’s world. Major firms comparable to Google, Amazon, eBay, and even BigCommerce use REST APIs. REST is usually the popular selection amongst software program builders.

Everyday Examples of APIs

API helps builders rapidly ship info to shoppers and is used daily in at this time’s world. From procuring on-line, searching a social media app, or enjoying a sport in your smartphone. Every time you go to a web page on-line, you’re interacting with API. Here are some real-world examples of the way you work together with API and will not even understand.

Going to a financial institution.

Think of your self as a person and a financial institution teller as an API, whereas the financial institution is the system you work together with. When you need to take some cash out of your account, you stroll as much as the teller(API) and say “I’d like $1,000 from this account”. The teller (API) then goes to the again, tells the financial institution supervisor (the system) “Mr/Ms.X would like $1,000”, the financial institution supervisor (the system) provides the teller (API) $1,000 who finally provides it to you. As you possibly can see the API, is a messenger between your wants and the system. 

Searching for inns.

When you go onto a journey web site, it might be linked to 10 different journey websites to seek out the perfect deal for you. When you enter particulars like Atlanta, 2 nights, 1 Room, you ship this request to these 10 totally different journey websites. The API takes your request for that particular location, date vary, and room and pings the 10 websites, who ship again the offers they’ve discovered. You look by means of the 10 offers and decide the perfect one. Again, the API is a messenger in your requests.

Finding a Facebook profile.

Stalking your ex? Hopefully not, however because of APIs, you are able to do it simply! If you sort in “John Smith” on Facebook, the API informs Facebook’s servers that you just’re in search of John Smith. Facebook then sends you an inventory of all of the profiles that match that identify (with components like neighborhood to you, or mutual pals). Now you will discover John Smith! 

Finding a brand new restaurant.

Let’s say you’re touring to a brand new metropolis or state. You’ve simply dropped every part off on the resort and determine to seize some lunch. You seize your good telephone and search for eating places close by. Quickly you’re proven dozens of native eating places proper outdoors your resort. Thanks to Google Maps API; they can simply show enterprise hours, opinions, telephone numbers, and even occasions they’re prone to be busy. 

Staying updated on social media. 

You’re caught in a cab whereas in rush hour site visitors. The worst, I do know! You determine to kill a while and determine to atone for what’s occurring on the planet of sports activities. You open Twitter and navigate to the ‘Sports’ part. Twitter’s API permits you to simply see varied tweets regarding your favourite crew profitable the play-offs. You’re even ready rub it in your mates face that his crew misplaced by retweeting the ultimate rating. From right here Twitter is aware of to take this tweet, and show it to everybody who follows you.

Why Modern Ecommerce Sites Use APIs

API’s supply a variety of advantages for Ecommerce Sites. They can assist shoppers simply discover merchandise, develop an organization’s model, and even develop their incomes potential by promoting merchandise on varied marketplaces comparable to eBay, Amazon, and Facebook. Listed under are some advantages of why API is so essential to ecommerce websites at this time.


Security is enhanced when websites use APIs. Whenever you ship a request, you aren’t straight linked to a server. You ship small quantities of knowledge, the API delivers it, and the server sends it again. This minimizes the chance of a breach or somebody accessing the backend of a server.


Without APIs, you would need to name a retailer and ask them to have a look at their stock from all their suppliers, which they’d finally get again to you. This, as a substitute of getting an API the place you would simply see what a product was, the worth, or it’s inventory degree.


APIs enable scalability and suppleness when increasing your retailer’s catalog, safety, or information wants. Your retailer can develop at a sooner price once you don’t must think about new code for each single product or person.

What are some sorts of API used? 

There are three sorts of APIs used generally at this time: 

  1. Open API
  2. Partner API
  3. Private API

Open APIs are publically out there for anybody to make use of. BigCommerce, for instance, makes use of roughly 25 totally different APIs, which is out there for the general public to make use of.

Partner APIs are designed by firms to supply API entry to strategic enterprise companions as an additional income channel for each events. For instance, Ticketmaster provides a Partner API to permit it’s purchasers the flexibility to order, purchase, and retrieve ticket/occasion info.

Private APIs should not designed for public use and are designed for inside use. Let’s say you’re touring to a distinct metropolis for a enterprise assembly. You have to make a fast journey to the financial institution. You stroll into “ABC Bank” and provides the teller your account quantity. She rapidly pulls up your account and also you make a withdrawal. The teller was in a position to pull up your info by utilizing ABC’s inside system, which makes use of an API to tug your account info and to replace your new account stability.

Common Ecommerce APIs

Ecommerce APIs are utilized in some ways. From displaying merchandise on an on-line retailer to transport them all around the world. APIs assist house owners handle their on-line enterprise and join with clients quick and reliably. 

Product info APIs

Product info APIs are on each ecommerce web site, grabbing the details about your merchandise and serving it to clients. 

Site search APIs

The capacity to web site search isn’t automated. Site searches want APIs to look by means of all of your merchandise containing a sure question and retrieve it in your person. 

Payment APIs

If your on-line store collects any type of digital funds, you’re utilizing a fee API because the intermediary between your store and your processor.

Shipping APIs

Ever been to a web site that asks you to place in your zip code to calculate transport? That web site is utilizing an API with its transport system or service to get you your finest price.

Currency conversion APIs

Buying shirts on a British web site from a US IP was once arduous, now with foreign money conversion APIs, your favourite worldwide shops can convert foreign money in an immediate. This API opens a whole lot of 1000’s of on-line retailers to worldwide clients. 

The APIs Fueling Your BigCommerce Site

BigCommerce provides a variety of APIs, under are some examples of our Catalog API, Login API, and Cart API that assist energy your BigCommerce retailer. 

Catalog API.

Streamline catalog creation and enhancing to work smarter. Our catalog API makes use of quick automation to sync massive catalogs in a matter of minutes, retaining stock ranges correct with out bogging down storefront efficiency. It takes only one API name to create a father or mother product with all variants and information. The BigCommerce catalog itself is the perfect within the business, natively supporting a number of classes, complicated merchandise, bodily and downloadable merchandise, and reward certificates.

Login API.

Our Login API permits you to seamlessly join your BigCommerce person accounts together with your most well-liked login programs. Allow customers to log in through your present CMS software program, single sign-on (SSO) programs or id supplier options. Using the confirmed SAML normal, you possibly can help login through Active Directory, Google Apps, Okta, SailPoint, OneLogin and lots of others.

Cart API.

The BigCommerce Cart API permits you to faucet straight into your retailer’s procuring cart. Access insightful cart information out of your customers to be able to energy advertising and marketing initiatives and make higher enterprise choices, with the flexibility to move info into exterior CRM programs and analytics instruments. You also can customise your cart expertise with full learn and write entry.

Why use a custom API resolution?

Don’t get me mistaken, already constructed integrations comparable to these out there on the Apps market are great instruments. However, there are occasions when a custom integration is merely higher for enterprise. Custom-built integrations supply one added-bonus over pre-built apps, management. They are custom-tailored to your small business’s particular wants. 

Let’s say you’re utilizing an OMS (Order Management System/Software). While we’ve many integrations out there on the Apps Marketplace, there isn’t one particular to your system. This is the place a custom API resolution is smart. No coping with the hassles and complications that include utilizing a distinct system simply because it is already built-in. You don’t must do issues comparable to retraining staff to make use of a brand new system, worrying about transferring essential information throughout programs, and many others. With the assistance of API, you possibly can nonetheless use your present system, whereas having info mechanically synced between BigCommerce and your OMS. 


API is a strong software that may assist pace up your small business operations, develop your model’s attain, join your customers to the merchandise they need, and a lot extra. If you’re involved in discovering out how API can assist gas your small business. I’ve supplied some extra sources under. 

The API Developer Documentation will present you guides on totally different API capabilities you should utilize. 

Our Apps Marketplace can assist you join with issues like Google Shopping, rapidly back-up your essential information with Rewind, and even assist you construct lovely custom internet pages with instruments like Shogun. 

Finally our Partner Directory can join you with varied Certified BigCommerce Partners who’re educated within the BigCommerce API and might be able to assist with a custom integration that most accurately fits your small business.


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