on February 02, 2015 Technology News

APIs 101: 9 Awesome Things You Can Do With An API

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APIs (application programming interfaces) are "what makes it possible to move information between programs” (Readwrite.com). This is done by “exposing” a program’s internal functions in a limited, useful fashion. With an API you can write a program to do the same thing that a human would do. How can you share your Trivia Crack score on Facebook within seconds? Facebook’s API allows Trivia Crack to link their game directly to your Facebook profile, as opposed to logging on to Facebook and manually pasting a link to your score. APIs allow different programs to integrate without completely sharing their software’s code. Developers implement APIs to extend the capabilities of an application. Whether you realize it or not, APIs make your life easier. 

Here are 9 awesome things you can do with an API:

1. Share anything on social media 

As I mentioned earlier, an API can share a video game to Facebook, but the “sharing” doesn’t stop there. A game, website, or app, whether it be on your laptop or mobile device, can be shared onto any social media platform. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Linkedin, all have APIs that allow users to upload information, statuses, news, etc. onto their sites from various applications instantaneously.

2. Chronicle your life from social media

An API can work both ways. Instead of sharing something TO social media, why not archive your statuses or pictures FROM social media into Google Calendar? Your calendar will display what you tweeted, ‘instagrammed', or posted onto Facebook on the exact day you did it. In a few years you can look back and laugh at all the crazy things you did and shared. 

3.  Sync your app with Google Maps

Say you have an idea for an app that pinpoints the best pizza places in Boston. How would you go about creating a map of the city? Would you have to buy map software? With the Google Maps API, you can use their software on your app. All of a sudden you have an up-to-date map of Boston, and all you have to do is label the restaurants (similar to how Yelp uses Google maps to locate all of the restaurants/businesses they review).

4. Schedule payments with Dwolla

Paying people just gets easier and easier. Set an amount of money you want to give somebody and Dwolla will transfer the same amount of money from your bank account into theirs at the same time every day, week, month, whenever. Your kid will never beg for allowance money again.

5. Yahoo! Answers, delivered

Hate when Yahoo! doesn’t have the answers to your ridiculous questions? With the Yahoo! Answers API you will be notified whenever your question, somebody else’s question, or a question in a specific category is answered. Track the topics you want and get the answers you deserve. 

6. Automatic face tagging

Face.com’s software and API can recognize a face on Facebook or Flickr and tag the person to whom it belongs. Whether it’s a solo shot, a group picture, or your graduating class, Face.com will automatically have the name linked to the face (this program has yet to be released). 

7. Talk like a pirate

Tired of speaking like a normal human being? Pirate Translation’s API will take your boring words and expressions and translate them into pirate vocabulary. Your friends will want to text you all day long.

8. Wheel of lunch

Can’t decide where to eat lunch? Wheel of Lunch is an application that uses Yahoo!’s Local Search API to put all of the restaurants in the area on a Wheel of Fortune-type circle to spin. Be careful though, you can potentially land on “invite a co-worker,” “skip lunch,” or “spin again.” 

9. Watch Netflix even MORE instantly 

Instantwatcher.com is an app that lists only the shows and movies on Netflix that you are able to watch instantly. It uses Netflix’s API to enable viewers to click on the video they choose to watch and add it to your Instant Queue on Netflix right away. Go to Netflix and start streaming. 

With an API, you can build a program inside a program. Any program with an open API can end up changing the way we use applications. The possibilities are endless.

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Nick Shanman

Intern at large. Movie buff.