Open API: The Future of Application Programming Interfaces

By Kaushik Pal
Published: August 31, 2016
Key Takeaways

Open APIs are improving accessibility and compatibility for developers' applications.

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An open API is nothing but an API that has been made public, so that third-party applications can access back-office services/applications without any middle tier. It is a way of simplifying the integration between the external applications and the core functionalities of a business. APIs have been around for a long time, but were never before made public and accessible to the outside world. Therefore, this is a complete shift from the old concepts and creating a new world of open APIs. (To learn more about APIs, see 5 Steps to Creating a Successful API.)


What Is an Open API?

An open API is an application programming interface which is available for use openly by the public. This kind of API allows developers to easily reprogram commercial or proprietary software for their own use.

Before delving deeper into this, let us first examine what an API actually is. An API is a collection of rules that administers the interaction between different applications from different vendors. Along with this, the API can give the developer access to some of the inner workings of an application. Thus, an API allows an application to communicate with another application, or a developer. The developer may be from the company that originally made the API or from a different company.


How Is It Different from Old API Concepts?

The API concept which was used previously was known as a private API, which is quite the opposite of an open API. In a private API, the access to a company’s back-end data is given to the developers and the people who are working for that company. As this access is only given to the select few working in the company, the publisher can administer what changes are being made to the application and what developments are made in that application. This allows better team collaboration. As all the people working for the project will be hired for that alone, they’ll have a much better teamwork capability.

However, private APIs also have their own share of problems. They do not allow access to outside developers, which may lead to later compatibility issues. Additionally, updates are often slower.

In an open API, even developers other than those present within the company can access the application. The back-end data can then be used by other developers for building their own applications accordingly. This is very useful, as it allows better compatibility. This also allows much faster and less expensive development, since there is no need to hire additional developers.

However, this too comes with its fair share of issues. As any developer can access the back-end data, security issues are raised. The management of the application can also become a bit difficult. But, it is also true that the flaws can be overcome easily by a better management system.


How Open API Works

Many different open APIs are used in different sectors for various purposes. In the business sector, it helps in the creation of better and more innovative apps, which can help in having more core values. The open API can be made and changed according to the needs and the requirements of the businesses.

In the web sector, many open APIs (also called web APIs) work by collecting data from the database of a website and displaying it to a desired location. An example of such an open API is the YouTube API, which allows the desired content to be shown in the developer’s app. The YouTube API also allows for the searching and receiving of feeds. A web API essentially works for the interchanging of information from one website to another. For this, the web API sends a special HTTP request to the site it wants to collect data from, and the site responds accordingly.

Open API providers also make proper documentation for technically integrating APIs with external applications. Developers need to check those steps and make the API calls.

What Are Open API Features?

Open APIs are being used in a variety of places due to their features. Nowadays, they are even completely displacing private APIs. The three main features that make open APIs so powerful and more advanced than other APIs are discussed below.

Free to Use

Open APIs are free to use for any developer, be it of that organization which actually published the API, or of any other organization, or even an independent developer. This allows flexibility of the application, better compatibility and cuts cost regarding the hiring of developers on contracts.


Open APIs are integrated with back-end open data, which allows the developer to use it to enhance the performance of his own application. This data can also be used freely by anyone and can be republished after modification as well. So, this data can inspire a lot of budding developers. However, the amount of this data that is made available depends completely on the publisher. The publisher of the API can restrict the amount of back-end data according to their comfort and preferences. Nevertheless, the data which is provided for use by the publisher doesn’t require any kind of copyright.

Open Standards

Open APIs are completely based on an open standard, which means that using them can cut a significant amount in terms of costs in various fields. This is perfect for those independent developers and organizations which want to get more value and freedom while spending less capital.

How Important Is It for Modern Applications?

The system of APIs has come a long way since their birth and first usage. They are already very important for the development of applications, as they act as an intermediary and a communicator between different applications, between different websites, between the application and the website and between the developer and the application. Open-source software has been very widely used and helpful for developers. However, now the services which act as the pillars of technology and applications by supporting them, seem to be made primarily out of open APIs. (For more on open source, see Open-Source Licensing - What You Need to Know.)

Due to the many advantages offered by open APIs, the current application development environment seems to be API-centric, especially using open APIs. They can even be considered to be the next generation of open-source software.

Open APIs allow developers to create innovative and powerful applications, which are completely cross-compatible. This is very important in this closely connected world, where newer devices are appearing every minute. Such a stance allows better interactions between different applications and websites, and gives better control in the hands of the developers. Therefore, open APIs are extremely important for the development of modern applications.


The world of technology is developing every day, with newer devices and apps arriving daily. However, in this closely knit world, many applications and websites are unable to interact with each other in the way they should. Thus, APIs were created, which allowed the developers to create a number of rules that allow these applications to interact in the way they are intended to. However, private APIs add some restrictions to the developers, which often make them incompatible with applications that were developed in another private API.

For this purpose, open APIs were created. These APIs are much easier to use. They are free to use and even provide free back-end data, which can be utilized by the developers to create better apps. Though it may have some security problems, it can still conquer the API-centric app development environment.

So, the future of open API is going to grow rapidly and open the doors to the development of many innovative applications and tools.


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Written by Kaushik Pal | Contributor

Profile Picture of Kaushik Pal

Kaushik is a technical architect and software consultant, having over 20 years of experience in software analysis, development, architecture, design, testing and training industry. He has an interest in new technology and innovation areas. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open source, WebRTC, big data and semantic technologies. Kaushik is also the founder of TechAlpine, a technology blog/consultancy firm based in Kolkata. The team at TechAlpine works for different clients in India and abroad. The team has expertise in Java/J2EE/open source/web/WebRTC/Hadoop/big data technologies and technical writing.

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