Information is knowledge, information is power, information is… API. In some cases, we will find it in payment services, in other cases it will be free and in other situations, the use of the information will be conditioned.
When we talk about Open Source, it comes to our mind the idea of applications, libraries, tools and similar. However, the values behind the Open Source Term could be and/or should be extended to the information. Information that we use very often within our applications.
When we talk about open data, in this case focusing only on APIs, we would be talking about all that information stored somewhere, and we can access remotely using our application. It is important to mention that maintaining this information, the systems which present it and so on, all have a cost.
The access to this information opens us a range of possibilities to create different applications, libraries, and so on, to exploit, transform and show the information in different ways. A clear example is that updated COVID-19 information, which different applications, media, libraries collect to show such information. However, How do we get that information?
Formerly, when we wanted to consume data from a certain place in an application, the most used options were developing our application under an MVC architecture with everything integrated or by consuming external SOAP. Even in some occasions, nowadays, we keep finding big entities which keep exposing their data through XML, for example, IATA.
We cannot forget the well-known RSS neither, which are also distributed in XML, commonly used for blogs, news, and similar.
However, the format extending the last years, and even that has been integrated in some legal regulations for banking, are the APIs. According to Redhat, it is “a set of definitions and protocols which is used to develop and integrate the software of the applications. API means Application Programming Interface”. That means a new way of consuming data and integrating them in our applications.
The most interesting part is that actually on the internet, there are different places where we can obtain costless information to offer our services which help people and/or to create amazing applications. Even the Spanish Government offers us a place to obtain information about different areas.
What should we take into consideration when using these APIs?
From payment to costless: although there are some places where information is free, most of them are payment services. For example, the use of Google Maps which was formerly costless.
Security: to consume most of them, it is necessary to integrate a security system. This must be at the level of security demanded in our application.
Updates: some of these APIs will provide us updated information but others may provide us information which is already outdated.
Reliability of the information: as any other content, we must analyse where we are getting that information from. This information may not be correct or may compromise the security of our application.
Even so, if we consider that the Open Source is a philosophy that has allowed progressing big steps in software and has also allowed that is available for many applications, operating systems, etc. In a world where the information is more and more restricted, distorted, censored… All the contributions we can offer will generate a bit more freedom in society. “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating” (Kofi Annan).
Translation by Santiago Moreira
More articles by Jesús Cuesta (English version)