BLOG Exposing APIs (1) - A Business Perspective
David Schmid

API usage is exploding. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are omnipresent in our increasingly connected world, serving as the backbone of software communication. They link services, data, and applications across both the internet and local networks. We interact with APIs daily, often without realizing it, whether it’s when we check the weather on our smartphones, make online payments, or even when using social media platforms to share updates with friends.

This first article of a series dedicated to APIs will uncover how these vital components facilitate digital interactions and drive innovation and strategic advantage for businesses in the digital economy.

Join the tech and explore the dynamic world of APIs where every connection opens a door to endless possibilities, but also poses critical challenges, from security vulnerabilities to management pitfalls.

Main Image Blog Article Exposing APIs Part 1

Table of Contents


Throughout my tenure as a freelancer in software and security engineering, I have observed APIs becoming increasingly crucial, not only from a security standpoint but also from a business perspective.

APIs and their endpoints not only support but can significantly boost business operations, bridging the gap between technical efficiency and business strategy. This intertwining is sometimes more profound than what is seen with pure web applications.

Initially, my intention was to write a single post on various technologies and their security implications. However, I quickly realized that API security, in particular, is tightly interwoven with business logic, necessitating a comprehensive understanding at multiple levels.

Furthermore, I have come to understand that the concept of APIs, while fundamental, often presents a challenge for executives to fully grasp - even though they are pivotal for their core businesses. Therefore, I have decided to create a blog series on APIs, trying to clarify APIs from a rather business logical perspective at an introductory level in this first article, attempting to bridge the gap between technical aspects and business strategy.

It is also important to differentiate between an API and an endpoint, terms which often used interchangeably but refer to different aspects of API technology: An API, also referred to as a service or an API product, is a collection of endpoints that collectively serve a broader business function. Each endpoint, on the other hand, is a specific resource or path (URI) where operations on data are performed. These operations - such as create, read, update, and delete - are typically mapped to the HTTP methods POST, GET, PUT, and DELETE in RESTful APIs.

APIs often interact with a backend database where the data is stored and managed. This interaction allows APIs to retrieve, update, or store data efficiently, serving as a critical link between the frontend applications that users interact with and the databases that hold the data. In the context of an MVC architecture, APIs usually operate at the controller level, orchestrating the flow of data between the model, which handles the data, and the view, which presents the data to the user.

Image API Schema

The Public World of APIs

Before going deeper into the key aspects of APIs, let's explore some examples of public APIs, ranging from well-known to more niche. This will provide a clearer understanding and context.

Important: This section is designed not for promotional purposes, but to illustrate the broad scope and adaptability of public APIs across various industries. The examples aim to serve as a practical guide to how APIs are implemented and documented effectively. By examining these diverse use cases, I hope to inspire and inform both developers and business professionals about how APIs can convert innovative ideas into tangible, practical solutions.

Unsurprisingly, big tech companies often lead the way in the API arena, highlighting the strategic importance of APIs in the expansion and evolution of services...

Image API Schema

Key Aspects in API Architectures

After a more playful exploration of APIs in various applications, let's now turn our attention to the more technical and serious aspects of API architecture. Management teams often focus on the end-user aspects of a product, as these are more straightforward to evaluate and improve. However, the strategic importance of APIs in achieving commercial success is still often underestimated. APIs serve as critical infrastructures that not only enable the integration of technology but also dictate the long-term viability and adaptability of software. From my experience in API development, there are several crucial aspects that businesses must address to secure their position in a competitive market and fully exploit the strategic potential of APIs.

Comprehensive Documentation

I placed this aspect at the top because I believe it is so crucial and still often overlooked!

The availability and quality of API documentation significantly influence how easily developers can understand and effectively use the API. Comprehensive and clear documentation lowers the entry barrier for programmers and can serve as a substantial business advantage, thereby attracting a broader developer community. This enhancement of the ecosystem around the product encourages innovation and integration in diverse applications.

There may be controversies regarding the necessity of commenting and documentation in software engineering, with some arguing that well-written code should suffice as documentation. Furthermore, given the usual constraints on resources in project management, documentation often receives lower priority. Nevertheless, I would argue that documentation is essential in API development, and I would even go so far as to provide code snippets for typical use cases. The easier it is for a developer to integrate an API endpoint into their application, the better for the business.

API Technology

The choice of the API technology can significantly influence a businesse's capability to innovate and integrate smoothly with other systems. While the technical details of different API architectures like RESTful API, GraphQL, HTTP API and gRPC might be complex, understanding their strategic business implications is crucial for decision-makers aiming to leverage technology for competitive advantage.

The appropriate API technology should be carefully selected based on the specific needs of the business use case. For instance, while RESTful APIs are widely used for their simplicity and statelessness, they might not always be the most efficient choice, for example in scenarios requiring real-time data exchange a socket API, which enables a continuous two-way communication between the client and server, can be significantly more effective.

Interface Stability

Interface stability is one of the most crucial aspects: Frequent changes to an API can break compatibility with dependent clients, causing significant disruption and forcing developers to continuously update their applications to maintain functionality, leading to increased development costs and making the platform less attractive commercially. Ensuring long-term stability of the API can therefore be a major factor in product's success, as it promotes developer loyalty and reduces the likelihood of incurring additional maintenance costs.

Versioning Strategies

To manage changes without disrupting existing users, businesses should adopt a clear versioning strategy for their APIs. This involves maintaining older versions while introducing new ones, allowing developers to transition at their own pace. Effective versioning helps maintain backward compatibility and reduces the friction associated with upgrade.

Clear API Policies

Clear API policies should cover aspects such as access rights, rate limits and permissible uses cases. A well-defined API policy helps in managing user expectations and ensures that the API's capabilities are used effectively and ethically, aligning with business objectives and regulatory requirements.

Security Measures

With the increasing reliance on APIs for critical business functions, securing these interfaces becomes paramount. As highlighted by several reports such as Akamai's "State of the Internet", exposed APIs to the public become prime targets for cyberattacks. Implementing robust security measures, including authentication, encryption and regular security audits is a crucial aspect to protect sensitive data and maintain trust in the API's reliability.

Monitoring and Analytics

Implementing monitoring and analytics for APIs can provide insights into usage patterns, performance issues and potential security threats. These metrics are invaluable for continuous improvement and can help buisnesses understand how their APIs are being used and how they can be optimized to better meet developer needs and business goals.

Performance Optimization

Performance can be a critical factor in the success of APIs, especially when they serve high volumes of requests or are used in performance-sensitive applications. Optimizing API performance involves strategies such as caching, load balancing, efficient programming languages, efficien algorithms and concurrency management.

Database Interaction

The ways API endpoints interact with databases is critical in defining their efficiency and reliability. Key considerations include database design, connection pooling, query optimization and data integrity.

API Hosting

Selecting the appropriate platform for hosting an API is a critical decision that can significantly impact the operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a digital service. Often cloud platforms offer scalable and flexible environments that are ideal to ensure availability and can handle peak loads effciently. However, choosing the right provider is not just about scalability and uptime, but also about cost management. Entry costs can be deceptively low, attracting businesses with the promise of affordability and ease to setup, but costs can increase dramatically, especially if the pricing model of the cloud service is based on the number of API calls or the amount of data transered. Beware!

Image API Design

Endpoint Examples

Embedding A YouTube Video

To better understand the relationship between APIs and endpoints, let’s explore how to integrate a video using the YouTube API. YouTube greatly simplifies the embedding process:

  • Locate the Video: Go to the YouTube video you wish to embed.

  • Embed the Video: Click on the 'Share' button below the video, then choose 'Embed' to access the HTML code needed for embedding.

  • Copy and Paste: Copy the provided embed code and paste it into the HTML source code of your website.

Image API YouTube

Here's what the embed code looks like for the specific video below:

   title="YouTube video player"
   allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share"

This embed code utilizes the YouTube API endpoint at The URL specifically targets the API endpoint that retrieves content from YouTube, using the unique identifier of the video. This process illustrates a practical use of an API endpoint to easily integrate dynamic content into your website.

Note: By embedding YouTube videos on your site, you are automatically agreeing to the YouTube API Terms of Service, which can be found linked in their API Reference.

By the time of embedding Tom Scott's video in this post, it has amassed 71,897,122 views. Some say the day the title breaks is the day society collapses. It is also one of my favorite videos, offering a ingenious take on APIs.

Fetching A Weather Forecast

In this example, I will demonstrate how to retrieve a weather forecast for Vienna using the OpenWeatherMap One Call API. To follow along, you will need an API key, which you can obtain by registering on the OpenWeatherMap website. This API allows up to 1000 calls per day for free, providing a robust platform for essential weather data.

If you prefer command-line tools, you can use cURL to make the API call in the following way:

curl -X GET ",minutely,hourly,alerts&appid=<API_KEY>" -H "accept: application/json"

This command sends a GET request to the One Call API endpoint, requesting weather data for Vienna (by providing altitude and longitude) and excludes current, minutely, hourly data, and alerts to focus on daily forecasts. The request specifies that the response should be JSON formatted. An example of the returned data might look like this:

  "lat": 48.2082,
  "lon": 16.3738,
  "timezone": "Europe/Vienna",
  "timezone_offset": 7200,
  "daily": [
	  "dt": 1715508000,
	  "sunrise": 1715483924,
	  "sunset": 1715538185,
	  "moonrise": 1715494560,
	  "moonset": 1715467740,
	  "moon_phase": 0.15,
	  "summary": "Expect a day of partly cloudy with rain",

Note: Data such as "sunrise" time is returned as Unix timestamps (e.g., 1715483924), which need to be converted to a human-readable format for usability.

If you prefer a graphical interface, try making the API request directly in your web browser. Construct the URL with your API key, paste it into your browser's address bar, and observe the structured JSON response. It's a practical way to quickly validate the API's output.

Image OpenWeatherAPI

For more comprehensive API testing and development, I highly recommend Postman. After registering on their platform, you can create a new GET request by copying the above cURL command directly into the GET interface. Postman automatically extracts the parameters from the command, or you can play around more manually. This will look similar to this:

Image Postman Request Example

Note: The tools and APIs highlighted here are chosen for their educational value and ease of use. I don't want to promote of any specific product. Feel free to explore API tools and endpoints on your own.

APIs by Usage Intent

The strategic deployment of APIs varies significantly based on their intended usage. Understanding their specific purpose can help organizations to make informed decisions about how to integrate these tools into their systems effectively.

Public APIs

Public APIs, often synonymous with external APIs, are typically exposed over the internet to increase an organization's reach and influence by making its services available to a global audience. They are available to any developer, allowing wide usage and integration into diverse applications. Public APIs require rigorous management and excellent documentation to ensure they are accessible and secure for external developers.

Private APIs

Private APIs, often synonymous with internal APIs, are designed to be used within a secure environment of an organization by allowing different departments or internal systems to communicate more efficiently, such as a company's data center or cloud infrastructure and are acessible only to trusted developers. Essential practices include robust validation on incoming requests and limiting API access to internal networks to protect these APIs from vulnerabilities such as Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF).

Third-Party and Partner APIs

Third-Party APIs provide access to external services or data, enabling developers to incorporate new features into their applications without the need to build these functionalities from scratch. These APIs can dramatically reduce development time and costs, facilitating rapid innovation and agility within companies.

Partner APIs are a specialized subset of third-party APIs. They are selectively shared with strategic business partners to enable more tailored interactions or functionalities that are mutually beneficial. These APIs often serve critical roles in creating synergies between allied businesses, allowing them to integrate their systems in ways that enhance both their offerings. For instance, a travel booking platform might use a partner API to access hotel room availability directly from major hotel chains, enabling seamless booking experiences for users and, in turn, driving higher conversion rates.

Authenticated vs. Unauthenticated

Authenticated APIs require developers to provide credentials, such as API keys, to access them. This authentication process ensures that only authorized users can utilize the services, which is crucial for protecting sensitive data and functions. The use of API keys or tokens is a common method for managing access, which not only secures the API but also allows for tracking and controlling how the APIs are used. In a business context, authenticated APIs can be a revenue stream, as access might be monetized based on usage rates or tiered access levels. This model supports the development of a controlled ecosystem where API access can be a valuable commodity.

In contrast, unauthenticated APIs do not require credentials, making them more accessible and easier to integrate into various applications. However, this ease of access also makes them potentially more vulnerable to misuse. Unauthenticated APIs are typically used for public data and services that do not require user identification or are low-risk in terms of security. While these APIs can improve user experience and accessibility, they require careful management to mitigate security risks and prevent potential abuse.

Contextual Use Cases

In contrast to the direct business interactions outlined in the "APIs by Usage Intent" section, the application of APIs can also be viewed through the lens of internal data flow management. While some terms used here may seem similar to those discussed earlier, the contexts in which APIs are employed introduce nuanced differences that are crucial for understanding their specific roles within an organization.

B2B vs. B2C

Business-to-Consumer (B2C) APIs power features that reach end users (more or less) directly, typically through fronted experiences in web or mobile applications. They can provide functionalities for front ends such as logging in, payment processing or accessing personalized content. In contrast to public APIs, B2C APIs interact often directly with a business's digital products and are developed internally. The end goal is to faciliate user interactions with the business's digital interfaces rather than to provide developer tools.

Business-to-Business (B2B) APIs facilitate interactions between companies, often to provide services that benefit the partner organization directly or to enhance service delivery to joint customers (B2B2C scenarios). The distinction between B2B, Third-Party and Partner APIs can sometimes be sublte. B2B APIs are usually developed specifically for and controlled by the interacting business, while third-party APIs are broader in scope, designed for use by any organization that finds the service useful.

North-South vs. East-West

North-South and East-West are terms that refer to the direction of the data flow in an API's deployment.

The term "North-South" typically refers to API traffic that moves in and out of a data center, or between the organization and the internet or other external networks. These APIs are commonly utilized for integrating external services with internal systems or directly providing services to end users. They serve as interfaces for customers, partners, and other external stakeholders engaging with the organization's digital resources. Given their exposure to the broader internet, North-South APIs require robust security measures and must be scalable to manage potentially large volumes of traffic effectively. Importantly, while North-South interactions are often public, they can also include private exchanges, such as confidential data transfers to and from cloud environments, necessitating stringent security protocols to protect sensitive information.

Conversely, "East-West" APIs facilitate communication within the internal network of an organization. These APIs are crucial for interconnecting internal applications, services, and data across different departments or business units. East-West traffic generally flows laterally across the network, supporting the seamless operation of backend processes and enabling efficient data sharing and functionality integration between internal systems. This kind of API is vital for maintaining operational efficiency and coherence within the organization's IT infrastructure. East-West APIs are a subset of Private APIs that specifically manage the lateral movement of data and processes within an organization.

Recent Controversies

The year 2023 witnessed significant controversies that highlight the challenges and debates surrounding the monetization and accessibility of APIs. These controversies not only affect the developer communities but also raise questions about the wider implications for digital rights and the innovation ecosystem. Specially with the rise of AI development, APIs have become crucial resources as they faciliate access to vast datasets, making limitations and costs associated with API access particularly significant. The monetization of APIs poses critical questions about who can afford to access and utilize these technologies.

The Reddit API Controversy

In April 2023, Reddit, a major discussion and news aggregation platform, announced its decision to start charging for access to its API, which had been freely available since 2008. The decision had profound implications on third-party applications, which relied on free API access to operate, like the popular Apollo app. This culminated in a large-scale protest and numerous subreddit moderators planned to privatize their communities.

The X (aka Ex-Twitter) API Controversy

Similarly, a platform formerly known as Twitter, now known as X, faced its own controversy when a new owner named Elon Musk announced a shift from a free API access to a paid basic tier which was part of a broader strategy of this new owner. However, the policy quickly became mired in confusion and criticism for its lack of clarity, particularly after a subsequent announcement that a free, write-only API would still be available for bots deemed to be "providing good content."

The Dynamics of API Providers and Consumers

Up to this point, the focus has largely been on the business models of API providers. However, understanding the dynamics between providers, consumers, and integrators, as briefly mentioned in the controversies section, is equally crucial:

  • API Providers: These are businesses or organizations that develop and offer APIs to external parties. Examples include major tech companies like Google, Amazon, and X, which provide a wide array of APIs for various functions (as detailed in the examples section above).

  • API Consumers: These entities, whether businesses or individual developers, utilize APIs provided by third parties to enhance their own applications. They leverage these external APIs to add features, integrate services, or manage data without the need to develop the underlying functionalities themselves.

  • API Integrators: Similar to consumers, integrators specialize in combining multiple APIs to assemble more complex systems. Their role is pivotal in ensuring that different APIs work seamlessly together to serve broader business functions.

  • API Marketplaces: These platforms act as intermediaries where API providers can list their APIs and consumers can easily find and utilize them. Marketplaces facilitate the discovery, comparison, and integration of APIs across diverse industries.

The interplay between API providers and consumers involves more than just technical transactions; it's a relationship built on trust and dependability. As an API consumer, it's important to understand the level of support and stability offered by your provider.

Relying on external APIs introduces risks, as service disruptions can directly impact your operations. As Tom Scott highlighted in his video on APIs, "Eventually, they [the APIs] will break. And so will everything." But this doesn't mean that you shouldn't build anything.

Building applications with APIs does mean embracing a certain level of uncertainty, but with careful selection and management of those relationships, developers can mitigate risks and build resilient systems that capitalize on the power of external integrations.


APIs play a substantial role in modern digital ecosystems. As the glue that binds various software applications, they are pivotal elements that bridge the gap between complex data systems and user-friendly interfaces. They not only enhance business operations but are also critical in security and strategic business planning. Moreover, the controversies from ongoing debates and challenges facing the API community - such as issues of monetization, accessibility, and ethical use - are significant. These discussions are crucial as they influence how technologies are adopted across industries.

I have covered a range of API examples, use cases and technologies in this post. Now, I would like to hear from you in the comments section further below: What are some of your favorite APIs? How do you utilize them in your projects? What are your favorite API technologies? Feel free to share your experiences and recommendations...

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