Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I need some help here.

What's an API call, for one thing?


Rick Tuttle said...

OK, here is my attempt at a layman's explanation of an API all. You're probably familiar with the concept of a function or formula used in Excel, e.g., DoThis(A, B), where A and B are parameters passed in to the function. Technically, that function is an API call. API = Application Programming Interface, is simply a publicly defined for programmers to interact with a product without knowing the internals of that product. So, as it relates to the Internet, you have things like Google Maps, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook which each have their APIs to allow for web programmers to interact with their products from another web site without exposing their proprietary technology. APIs existed before the web. I remember it starting to be used with Microsoft Windows and the infamous Windows API which allows programmers to write software for windows. Of course, you probably already went here after you used the Google search api to pass in your parameter of "api" which resulted in the following url



is passing a parameter named "q" (query?) to a url (http://www.google.com/search) which then passed that on to a program on Google's servers which return the results of your query among other things.


Rick Tuttle said...

Also, Macon mentioned "the internals" and that would mean what goes on behind the scenes.

Maybe regarding his example some people might think of prayer as...

API Definition:
getWhatIWant(prayer, urgency, description);

Example Usage:
getWhatIWant("I need a job, Lord", "Right Now", "$150,000/year, full benefits, 6 weeks of vacation, able to set my own hours");

Macon said...


Thanks Rick!

My comment is really just a slight iteration on the old "God is not like a machine, where you pull the right lever and get your desired result."

And, like Rick says, APIs existed before the web. But the internets have made the term more known among laymen, since these Big companies (like Google) make their APIs known so that other little tiny programmers can write a tiny little web application that harnesses the power of the Big Guys.

Paul said...

Thanks for your help! I think I've got it.

"Get what I want" is the API that connects you with something whose complexity is really beyond you and whose essential nature is really not all that important to you, provided that it gives you what you want when you invoke its API.

Ben Ostrowsky said...

I'd add that an API is created entirely as a means to an end, and is not an end in itself. (Forgive my Kantian cliché, but I *am* married to a Kantian ethicist.) So the entire value of an API derives from its utility.

So if God is a proper target of our interest, perhaps it's prayer that functions as an API to God.