API Definition | Glossary of eCommerce Terms | 3dcart

What is API?

API is an abbreviation for “Application Programming Interface,” which is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software to smoothly integrate with an existing system. APIs can be used by all types of software and hardware, and make programming easier by providing “building blocks” to be assembled by the programmer. This ensures that the new application is seamlessly compatible and works well with the system for which it is intended.

How is an API accessed and used?

In order to program for a certain platform, a developer must be able to access the API. It is up to an individual technology company as to how they control their API and whether or not they allow its release. The three main ways to release an API are:

  • Private: The company does not release its API and its usage is restricted to within the company.
  • Partner: The company only allows certain business partners to access the API, in order to allow those partners to create applications for the company’s technology.
  • Public: The company makes its API publically available, to allow anyone to program for its platforms.

What are some API examples?

  • Google and YouTube APIs allow you to embed maps or videos into your website.
  • Instagram and Flickr APIs allow you to access posts and photos for similar purposes.
  • Facebook and Twitter APIs allow you to integrate those forms of social media with your site, such as displaying likes, shares, and tweets, or providing buttons to immediately share or post your content.
  • DirectX and OpenGL are APIs for displaying graphics, for multimedia applications such as computer games.
  • REST API is a comprehensive framework intended to ensure smooth operation and communications across the Internet. 3dcart’s API is organized around REST.

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