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APIs Demystified: What they Are, How they’re Used, & an Amazon API Example

APIs are all around us. Many of us interact with them every day without giving it a second thought. In this blog, we will explore what APIs are, how they're used and Amazon’s API first strategy.

Blog series (1/5)

A brief history of APIs

APIs have been around in some form since the second half of the 19th century. The concept of open APIs was first proposed by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

The real change in their use came about in the early 2000s with the advent of the Semantic Web and Semantic APIs. The Semantic Web-enabled data on the internet is accessible and usable by machines, rather than the need for human intervention. Semantic APIs took this a step further by making it possible for machines to interpret and understand the data that passes between them. This allowed for more seamless and efficient interaction between applications and has led to a growing number of open APIs. 

APIs Definition

APIs or Application Programming Interfaces help software and applications talk to each other. This enables departments and organizations to share their data easily and relatively securely, even if they rely on different IT systems. It also means they can open up their data to external developers, who can use this information to build valuable applications and services.

An API includes three important elements:

1. Procedures 

Also referred to as routines, procedures refer to the specific tasks or functions a program performs. For example, Twitter provides a search API for developers to explore data for analytical purposes.

2. Protocols

The protocol is the format used to communicate data between applications. This can get complicated, though. Applications may not rely on the same format.

3. Tools

Think of tools as a set of building blocks – the components needed to construct new programs.

APIs are needed to bring applications together in order to perform a designed function built around sharing data and executing pre-defined processes.  Companies such as MuleSoft let you use APIs to connect your business’s data, applications, and devices.

The concept and benefits of APIs

APIs are extremely important for our increasingly interconnected world. They are the glue that binds the building blocks together, allowing different apps and services to work together seamlessly.

Benefits of API for consumers

Using APIs internally enables the workforce to streamline operations, foster collaboration, and strengthen transparency across the company.

User Satisfaction

Companies want to provide the best experience for their users. Rarely can one product satisfy and anticipate every need and expectation. That is why they use APIs to extend the functionality of their products.


By allowing developers, whether third-party or internal members of a workforce, to reuse software components, APIs empower them to focus on developing new solutions rather than repeat work that’s already been done.

Without APIs, our digital world would be a lot less functional than it is today.  View how we uncovered new API possibilities for the Eneco Group.

Amazon’s use of APIs

Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world, has been pursuing a strategy of becoming an API-first company. Amazon has been opening up its APIs to allow more businesses to use its data and functionality. This strategy is part of Amazon’s pursuit of being a platform company, which would allow it to expand beyond its core retail business into new areas such as cloud computing and home automation.

In 2002, Jeff Bezos mandated that all teams within Amazon would expose their data and functionality through service interfaces. This made an API-first approach a reality, which has had a significant impact on the company’s success. By making APIs available to developers, Amazon was able to create a more comprehensive and integrated customer experience, as well as increase its market share.

By making its APIs available to developers, Amazon allows customers to seamlessly integrate its services into their own businesses. This strategy has been incredibly successful for Amazon, becoming one of the largest and most influential companies in the world.


Learning from how Amazon uses APIs and the benefits achieved, the public sector could create an efficient system that brings about positive change for the population. In order to make this happen, a collaboration between different parts of the government is necessary; everyone must be on board with using APIs to share data and provide services. Once this happens, how the UK operates and how its people are able to interact with their government, could be transformative.

To discuss how Devoteam can help your business with API management, integration, design, and development, get in touch here to find out more.