I was very proud to have been invited by our Bing Maps Distributor DDS Data Systems to be a participant in a discussion panel about APIs. At that meeting, all the market experts present agreed on the importance of APIs in bringing businesses together. Let’s have a look at the reasons – from the unique perspective of a website solution provider.
Digitalization has brought a number of new technical tools and options to traditional industries. But how can owners of ”traditional” businesses inform their consumers about new and useful digital services? More importantly, how do they entice them to use these services? The answer is simple: They need to make these services available on their websites! That minimizes the effort involved in establishing contact and smooths the transition to digital services.
Running a website today means much more than just placing a business card on the Internet. Websites often offer various interactive tools for communication with visitors. Depending on the business, this can be a simple “call us now” button, a contact form or driving directions, or facilitate more complex features like arranging an appointment with a doctor, booking a hotel or configuring wallpaper in a living room. As a provider of a website solution, you have to keep your eyes open for all of the exciting new services that could add value for the user.
The first question we ask regarding all potential new services: Do they provide an API? An API ensures that the software your website is based on can “talk” to third-party software. It also makes sure that both parties can exchange data in a standardized way below the software’s ”surface,” only visible to developers that use the API documentation to connect the services.
A second key point is the availability and type of API: Is it based on common standards (e.g., REST, JSON, XML, OAUTH, etc.), or is it proprietary and subject to change? Since many users will later be connected to this new service on their websites, we need to be very sure that there is a stable and reliable connection possible before we start working on integration.
We love APIs because they enable us to bring a lot of cool new functionalities to our user’s websites – services we often did not even know existed. Digital transformation has recently made this a very popular topic, with thousands of new services popping up. But the truth is we have integrated services via API from the very beginning of CM4all sitebuilder’s history. One of the first third party services that added value to our CM4all WebsiteCreator back in 2003 was the MapPoint.net webservice provided by Microsoft. It was integrated as a location map and as driving directions on more than 2 million websites worldwide – and subsequently replaced by Virtual Earth and Bing Maps, which we use today.
From the beginning, APIs have brought enormous value to websites by presenting them as a platform with a uniform appearance to visitors with countless different services connected behind the scenes. The web would work totally differently without it!
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