Modern Media

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What Is An API And Why Should You Care? (Even If You’re Not A Programmer)

Image courtesy of Muhammad Mahdi Karim via GNU Free Documentation License v 1.2

Are you an API monkey? You should be! (Image courtesy of Muhammad Mahdi Karim via GNU Free Documentation License v 1.2)

I’m an API geek. I like my airport status reports in JSON format.

An API, or Application Programming Interface, allows different bits of software to communicate with each other, without necessarily knowing the nuts and bolts of how the other bits work.  In order to display tweets onscreen at an event, I don’t have to know what flavor database Twitter uses or what language it was programmed in. I only need to know a simple set of rules and methods that Twitter has defined in its API.

Ok. Right. But why should non-programmers care about APIs? First off, they’re what makes the modern Internet work.  More importantly: your business will probably not survive the next ten years without providing a way for outsiders to interact with your data in a way that they  — not you — define.

This does not mean a better website. Your business will need its own API, or at least use other APIs to expose its data. Think about it: at the end of the day, doesn’t your business–especially if you’re in the media business–fundamentally use data to create value? How many ways could you create more value, more quickly, by providing an easy way for partners and customers to interface with that data?

You don’t need to be a techie to figure this out.  It’s a business challenge, not a technical one.  ProgrammableWeb lists 8,841 separate APIs, with everything from social media to content to e-commerce to chat. No matter what business you’re in, you will find APIs relevant to your business and customers. (If you don’t, let me know — you’ve probably discovered a business opportunity.)

Also check out my growing bucket list below.  These are some of the cooler API’s I’m planning on checking out. If there are any I’m missing, you can add them to this list.