Okay, you might not have had that two billion dollar idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t partake in its features. APIs (Application Program Interfaces) allow programmers to access publicly available services from widely known services, which can make your “web 1.0″ (sorry about the moniker, folks) site more welcoming to users looking for something new.
The concept and utilization of APIs is simple. Many well-known sites share some portions of their site code so that you can experience similar functionality on your website without having to navigate to the original site. One of the most well-known APIs available is the Google Maps API, which allows you to embed Google Maps on your web page with just a little bit of code. Ever track a package on a website and see a Google Maps page showing your package’s progress as it travels from shipping facility to shipping facility? Didn’t it look cool to see Google Maps on that third-party website? That’s what you can do by unleashing the power of APIs.
APIs are available for just about any well-known online community or site today. Take a look at what’s available at your fingertips:
- Google APIs (includes Google Maps, AJAX Search, Google Calendar, Google Checkout, and others)
- Yahoo! Answers
- MediaWiki, which includes Wikipedia
These are just some samples of APIs that you can reference for integration into your website application.
What does this mean for me? Let’s take a look at an example in one of our very own client websites, JohnnyJetAways.com. We combined Google Maps with the client’s vacation home system data, and the information can be plotted on a very familiar map, provided by Google, as seen in the screenshot below:
You don’t necessarily need a whole website overhaul if you already have an established site, so APIs make it much simpler and more fun for you and your users.