What the Heck is an API Call?


APIs have always been a somewhat vague, mysterious thing to me. From the many discussions I’ve had, I assumed that the general idea was that one thing pulls information from another thing. The API was like a road to the other thing. Or a phone line. Or a slip ‘n’ slide.

Today I had the treat of meeting with two of my fellow Product Managers to talk about APIs. Here’s what I learned:

  • An application programming interface (API) specifies how software components should interact with each other

  • When you build software, you have to configure it in a certain way to allow for API calls

  • There are two types of APIs: SOAP, and REST. SOAP is old school (Vanilla Ice),  REST is new school (Kendrick Lamar). Configuring your software to account for either one is a complex project. You can also account for both at the same time.

  • When a company (let’s say, Marketo), decides to integrate with another software tool, they partner with that company and they have to request access to that company’s API functions. Once the partnership is approved, Marketo will be granted access to that company’s development sandbox so they can understand the partner’s functionality and design how that software is integrated. Once the  partner approves the design, Marketo builds the integration.

Conclusion: APIs are more than just a pathway for transferred information. They take a lot of planning (both on the technical front and the business front) and they can have a big impact on the success of a company. Who knew?