signalkraft

An Introduction to APIs

An API is an interface, intended to be used by machines. It’s an easy way to offload more advanced interactions with your data to existing services, without reinventing the wheel. After all, if it’s an idea worth anybody’s time & money, it’s probably been done before.

Almost every large web endeavour now offers their functionality to computers and people alike. Google is the strongest contender, with Maps, Search and YouTube, as well as a host of smaller services.

Enough paragraphs, here’s a list:

  • Pixlr.com

    Demo & Documentation

    Pixlr is Photoshop for your browser. It has the toolbar, the filters and even the dialogs of the popular image editor and can be integrated into your project via their API.

    So get this: Users can upload pictures to your website, select Edit (which is a link, just like Demo above) and see their image loaded into the familiar UI of Pixlr. After they are done drawing penises photoshopping, the Save dialog directs them and their new image right back to your website.

  • TinyURL.com

    Demo & (unofficial) Documentation

    This is much simpler than Pixlr, but equally useful. You call a script on tinyurl.com (see Demo link) and get a shortened link in return. Very useful for Twitter interactions; or referral links, if you are a smug bastard.

  • Google.com

    Playground & Documentation

    I’ve mentioned Google and it may not seem like an insider’s tip, but not many people some to know that apart from mapping and searching, you can also create charts, translate texts & load JavaScript libraries through their AJAX interface.

    If you’re not comfortable with their monolithic approach to web services, you can try ProgrammableWeb and search for the desired functionality there.