What are APIs and why do they matter?


At the RESO Show n’ Tell this week, 19 companies showcased their latest developments in a single afternoon. A prevailing theme touched on by SF MLS, Homes.com, Retsly, and Onboard was that of the power of APIs. Since the API seems to be the future of innovation, I thought it would be a good time to review exactly what we’re talking about with this three-lettered marvel.

What the heck is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. You can think of an interface as a path where two components exchange information.

Programming and Application are terms we’re probably more familiar with. If you ever looked at your computer and quoted Salt-N-Pepa (“Don’t know how you do the voodoo that you do”) that voodoo is programming. A developer has figured out how to tell the computer to react a certain way through source code. I know. We’re magic.

And if you pull out your iPhone or Android you’ll see a number of applications. On my own phone, I have a weather app, a city biking app, and Runtastic. So applications are cool tools we use almost every single day.

So what we’re talking about when we say API is a really sophisticated way to exchange information, in our case, local information – so we developers can do our voodoo and create amazing applications for either the world to enjoy or for your business to solve difficult problems. In all honesty it’s a little more complicated than that –involving specifications, functionality, formatting, input and output – but for our purposes – we’ll keep it simple.

What do APIs mean for me and my business?

“Unless [companies] are talking about APIs already, they will be left behind.” -  James Parton, Director of Twilio Europe

APIs have become building blocks for the latest applications available today. In 2014, Apple’s application downloads topped 85 billion, a 30% increase from 2013 according to TechCrunch. Innovation is happening faster with consumers quicker to adapt the latest gadgets and tools. In many cases, these apps are built on APIs. If your business would profit through new tools, either internally or externally, APIs might be the way to power this innovation.

APIs can also boost profitability. Salesforce.com generates nearly $1.5 billion in revenue through APIs. For Expedia, that figure is $180 million, 90% of its annual profits, according to Forbes. APIs enable faster innovation and reallocation of resources so your company can have the latest information available more efficiently. This can have direct ramifications to your bottom line.

What does this have to do with Onboard?

Onboard offers several APIs to support your needs for the latest in local information. Our Listings API was the first standardized way to integrate IDX data in real-time. Accurate, up-to-date listings information saves our clients development costs and ensures the best information possible.

We also offer APIs in local content, lifestyle, property, and points of interest information. Businesses have a need for quality, consolidated, intelligent local information. Delivering this critical information via APIs is the most sophisticated way for you to get the information you need to succeed.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our library of local information APIs and how they can benefit your business, reach out to me at imonko@onboardinformatics.com.