What is an API, a simple explanation

Eray Eliaçik
Jun 20, 2023

Many people find themselves confused by the abundance of acronyms in the huge field of technology and the desire for simple definitions. API is one such abbreviation that plays a crucial role in the modern digital world. Application programming interfaces (APIs) have become indispensable in today's software industry because they allow for the smooth synchronization, development, and cooperation of otherwise disparate programs.

To demystify APIs, let's explore an analogy that brings the world of software integration to a relatable scenario: the dynamic interplay between a customer, a waiter, and a kitchen. Just as the trio works together to fulfill the customer's dining needs, APIs serve as the bridge enabling different software applications to communicate, share data, and deliver seamless experiences. Join us as we unravel the analogy and shed light on the inner workings and impact of APIs in the tech landscape.

What is an API?

In today's hyper-connected world, APIs are essential to keeping everything working together. They have changed the game for app development by letting programmers leverage existing features rather than starting from scratch. APIs provide a wide variety of building blocks that enable developers to construct new, feature-rich solutions with less time and effort, such as integrating social media sharing in an app, accessing payment channels, and leveraging location data. By leveraging APIs, companies may broaden their customer base, enhance their product's usability, and open up previously untapped income opportunities.

Imagine yourself as a customer in a bustling restaurant. You sit at the table, eager to order a meal. In this analogy, you represent an application or system that requires specific services or data. The waiter acts as the API, facilitating communication between you and the kitchen.

The waiter serves as the intermediary between you and the kitchen, taking your order and conveying it to the kitchen staff. Similarly, an API acts as a communication channel between applications or systems. It receives requests from one application, relays them to the intended destination (another application or service), and returns the response, just like a waiter taking your order and bringing back your food.

Behind the scenes, the kitchen is where the magic happens. It comprises various chefs, each responsible for a specific aspect of meal preparation. In the API analogy, the kitchen represents backend systems and services that perform specific tasks or provide data. These backend systems can range from payment gateways and user databases to external services like weather forecasts or social media integration.

As a customer, you place an order with the waiter, specifying your preferences. The waiter takes your request, relays it to the kitchen, and returns with the prepared meal. Similarly, with APIs, an application sends a request, including specific parameters and data, to the API. The API processes the request, interacts with the necessary backend systems, and returns the desired results or data to the requesting application.

The importance of application programming interfaces (APIs) in facilitating communication and integration across software programs might be better appreciated by considering how they relate to the customer, waiter, and kitchen triad at a restaurant.

APIs are the "waiters" of the IT world, bridging disparate systems together so that information and functionality may flow freely. Since modern applications rely on the cooperation and interaction of multiple components to offer novel, linked solutions, this example highlights the importance of APIs in software development. When you sit down to a satisfying dinner, think of the APIs behind the scenes that make the digital world work.

We have a firm grasp of how the API works now. If you want more advanced points, keep reading.

API types and architectures

APIs come in various flavors, catering to different needs and use cases. The two primary types are RESTful APIs and SOAP APIs. REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs follow a stateless, client-server architectural style and are widely adopted due to their simplicity and scalability. On the other hand, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) APIs employ XML-based messaging protocols and are known for their robustness and support for more complex operations.

Additionally, APIs can be categorized as public or private. Public APIs, often provided by tech giants like Google, Twitter, or Facebook, are accessible to external developers, fostering an ecosystem of third-party applications. Private APIs, also known as internal or enterprise APIs, are utilized within organizations to enable communication between internal systems, departments, or services.

API economy

APIs have fueled the rise of the API economy—a thriving ecosystem where organizations monetize their APIs or leverage external APIs to drive innovation and create value. The API economy has transformed industries, opening up new business models and opportunities.

With the rise of platform-centric businesses, such as Airbnb and Uber, APIs have become the bedrock upon which entire ecosystems are built. These platforms expose APIs that enable developers to build applications on top of their infrastructure, fostering innovation and expanding their reach exponentially.

You can see the API economy's effect on the Reddit blackout protest.


In this era of unprecedented digital connectivity, APIs act as enablers, fostering collaboration, innovation, and growth across the tech industry. From mobile apps to cloud services, APIs have revolutionized the way software is developed, allowing applications to communicate and exchange data seamlessly.

The power of APIs extends beyond technology companies, permeating various sectors, including finance, healthcare, and transportation. As technology continues to evolve, APIs will remain a crucial tool in the hands of developers, propelling the connected future and enabling transformative experiences for users worldwide.


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  1. bruh said on August 18, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    Uhh, this has already been possible – I am not sure how but remember my brother telling me about it. I’m not a whatsapp user so not sure of the specifics, but something about sending the image as a file and somehow bypassing the default compression settings that are applied to inbound photos.

    He has also used this to share movies to whatsapp groups, and files 1Gb+.

    Like I said, I never used whatsapp, but I know 100% this isn’t a “brand new feature”, my brother literally showed me him doing it, like… 5 months ago?

  2. 💥 said on August 18, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    Martin, what happened to those: 12 Comments (https://www.ghacks.net/chatgpt-gets-schooled-by-princeton-university/#comments). Is there a specific justifiable reason why they were deleted?

    Hmm, it looks like the gHacks website database is faulty, and not populating threads with their relevant cosponsoring posts.

  3. 45 RPM said on August 19, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    The page on ghacks this is on represents the best of why it has become so worthless, fill of click-bait junk that it’s about to be deleted from my ‘daily reads’.

    It’s really like “Press Release as re-written by some d*ck for clicks…poorly.” And the subjects are laughable. Can’t wait for “How to search for files on Windows”.

    1. owl said on August 20, 2023 at 12:51 am

      > The page on ghacks this is on represents the best of why it has become so worthless, fill of click-bait junk…

      Sadly, I have to agree.

      Only Martin and Ashwin are worth subscribing to.
      Especially Emre Çitak and Shaun are the worst ones.

      If ghacks.net intended “Clickbait”, it would mark the end of Ghacks Technology News.
      Ghacks doesn’t need crappy clickbaits. Clearly separate articles from newer authors (perhaps AIs and external sales person or external advertising man) as just “Advertisements”!

      We, the subscribers of Ghacks, urge Martin to make a decision.

  4. chessandonions said on August 20, 2023 at 12:40 am

    because nevermore wants to “monetize” on every aspect of human life…

  5. Frank Rizzo said on August 20, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    “Threads” is like the Walmart of Social Media.

  6. Ashray said on August 21, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    How hard can it be to clone a twitter version of that as well? They’re slow.

  7. Paul(us) said on August 21, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    Yes, why not mention how large the HD files can be?
    Why, not mention what version of WhatsApp is needed?
    These omissions make the article feel so bare. If not complete.

    1. Paul(us) said on August 21, 2023 at 5:18 pm

      Sorry posted on the wrong page.

  8. Marc said on August 21, 2023 at 6:00 pm

    such a long article for such a simple matter. Worthless article ! waste of time

  9. plusminus_ said on August 21, 2023 at 7:54 pm

    I already do this by attaching them via the ‘Document’ option.

  10. John G. said on August 21, 2023 at 11:43 pm

    I don’t know what’s going on here at Ghacks but it’s obvious that something is broken, comments are being mixed whatever the article, I am unable to find some of my later posts neither. :S

  11. Tom Hawack said on August 23, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    Quoting the article,
    “As users gain popularity, the value of their tokens may increase, allowing investors to reap rewards.”

    Besides, beyond the thrill and privacy risks or not, the point is to know how you gain popularity, be it on social sites as everywhere in life. Is it by being authentic, by remaining faithful to ourselves or is it to have this particular skill which is to understand what a majority likes, just like politicians, those who’d deny to the maximum extent compatible with their ideological partnership, in order to grab as many of the voters they can?

    I see the very concept of this Friend.tech as unhealthy, propagating what is already an increasing flaw : the quest for fame. I won’t be the only one to count himself out, definitely.

    1. Tom Hawack said on August 23, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      @John G. is right : my comment was posted on [https://www.ghacks.net/2023/08/23/what-is-friend-tech/] and it appears there but as well here at [https://www.ghacks.net/2023/07/08/how-to-follow-everyone-on-threads/]

      This has been lasting for several days. Fix it or at least provide some explanations if you don’t mind.

  12. Tom said on August 24, 2023 at 11:53 am

    > Google Chrome is following in Safari’s footsteps by introducing a new feature that allows users to move the Chrome address bar to the bottom of the screen, enhancing user accessibility and interaction.

    Firefox did this long before Safari.

  13. Mavoy said on September 16, 2023 at 2:17 pm

    Basically they’ll do anything except fair royalties.

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