Opaque acronyms pepper the digital space. Whether you wear your membership in the exclusive jargon club as a badge or drown in the endless stream of capitalized letters, you ought to know API because APIs are currently driving the Web (and our lives) to new levels of interconnectedness.
API stands for Application Programming Interface (or some variation thereof). A technical definition cobbled together from around the Web could be “a set of commands, functions or protocols that enables an external program to communicate with a control program.” Or more simply (and in human words), “shortcuts that enable coders to get and put data where they normally could not.”
You say an example would help? Thought you’d never ask. The popular web platform Twitter stores a lot of data — billions of 140-character accounts of what’s for dinner, along with associated information like user, time and location. Whether it’s through the web application or Twitter’s native applications, Twitter’s primary offering is access to that data. Particularly when Twitter was first finding its feet (or wings), the platform gained popularity by exposing access to its data (via API) for anyone to use . A slew of applications cropped up, each with a different flavor of interface and focus, and each with a different individual or team responsible for creating and supporting it. Without a Twitter API, these apps (that made significant contributions to the platform’s success) could not have retrieved or stored the platform’s lifeblood, its data.
Some of Twitter’s success is attributable to its API and the way its API gave people multiple access points to the same data. But APIs don’t simply allow coders to create apps that connect people to data in unique ways; software utilizing APIs can also connect data between systems to synthesize information and streamline communication. Check outIFTTT, a web application that leverages 150 different APIs and a simple interface to allow anyone to connect different web services. Or Hubspot, marketing and sales software that aggregates all your social media accounts on one platform and tracks the effectiveness of your activity.
So now you’re wondering: What can API do for me? Connect you. Does your digital magazine take advantage of the APIs available through social networks (like Facebook and Twitter)? Could you increase your organization’s efficiency by streamlining redundant data via existing APIs? Best of all, could your publication expose your content in a way that would increase reach?
Journey Group has built (and is building) WebEdition, a platform for publishing digital magazines. One of our priorities is connecting with existing APIs: Twitter and Facebook, your customer relationship management software, your subscription fulfillment service. Another priority is maintaining a robust WebEdition API that makes your content available for use by other websites and applications, be it your organization’s corporate homepage or a native news app that sources your content.
The world in which we live is increasingly interconnected. Understand the technology available to you and leverage the power of APIs for your digital publication.
 Twitter still provides generous access to its data via API. However, they understandably hold the keys a little tighter than they did in days of yore, presumably in the hopes that they can somehow turn a profit.