Many of the apps and web services you use on a daily basis rely on APIs.

Without APIs many of these apps would be as useful as a brick.

But what are APIs and what do they actually do?

Let’s break it all down today.

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are a set of procedures and protocols that allow for the access of data from an application, database or operating system.

This is generally done to allow other users or businesses to access data that your company has generated.

For example, a company like PayPal creates APIs to allow for payment processing on all sorts of different websites. This API allows for a Shopify website to send in order details, PayPal then processes the users’ payment and sends back the payment confirmation data the Shopify website.

How do APIs work?

The availability of an API is up to the owner of the original dataset.

As a result, the owner of the API decides who gets to use it, how much they can charge for it and any limitations the API might have.

This can often result in some APIs being too expensive, limited, or too exclusive. In some other scenarios, companies might not even offer an API for the data you need to access.

What if there’s no API available?

Like we mentioned before, in some cases, the owner or provider of a data set might not provide an API.

In these scenarios, you might need to access the data yourself manually. However, this can be a pretty slow and tedious process.

After all, this would involve tedious copy-pasting and manual labor.

A good way to automate this process and create an API from any public dataset is to use a Web Scraper.

A Web Scraper can automate the process of extracting data from a website and turning it into an excel or JSON file. You can also schedule these scrapes to always have access to the most recent data you need.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide on how to scrape from any website.