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You may be familiar with Application Programming Interfaces, otherwise known as APIs. As defined by Dan Woods in his Forbes article, an API is a simple way to provide access to some type of business asset. Most commonly, this business asset is information or data.

From a technical standpoint, an API allows a developer to call an online product’s data and/or functionality. It’s increasingly the way companies exchange data and services internally, with partners, and openly with the public (API Evangelist).

If you’re still getting familiar with APIs, you can think of them as telephones that allow programs to speak to each other. In his article, Wood includes a helpful visual that diagrams the purpose of APIs:

Dan Woods API Flow Chart

You may be wondering how an API applies to you and why it matters for business.

In today’s digital economy, the beauty of APIs is the ability to cross-reference information to create new products that fit unique customer needs, or solve complex business problems that can’t be solved with one data set alone.

APIs are why you can purchase movie tickets online through the theater’s website, map your running route while tracking your calories burned, and why marketers can create targeted ad campaigns on Facebook.

APIs are the crux of what powers every digital marketing channel and app used today. They allow businesses to satisfy their customers’ unique needs, meeting them at every digital touch point.

Take Zillow’s GetDemographics API, for example, which allows you to get information about various real estate locales. This includes median list prices, number of homes for sale, percent owners vs. renters, median age, and more. Partners like AuctionCloud.com can call on this data to advertise home valuations along with eBay property listings. In another application, Zillow’s API could be used to plot home location data via Google Maps.

auction cloud using Zillow API
At Alexa, we also make much of our data available in APIs so that developers can build Alexa’s web traffic analytics into their own applications. Our API allows for programmatic access to Alexa Top Sites lists globally or in a specific country or category. You can also return historical traffic data such as rank and reach data back to 2007, as well as a list of sites linking in to a particular website.

You can call Alexa’s data to incorporate awareness of a site’s popularity (i.e. the Alexa Rank) into applications and services. Or, you can cross-reference our data with other queries to answer highly specific business questions.

From a business perspective, APIs empower end-users to utilize and customize data to find solutions for complex business problems. They are key to bridge the gap between addressing customer needs (marketing) and delivering digital platforms that grow businesses (engineering). Ultimately, a company that can successfully merge both efforts is promised distinguished competitive advantage in this increasingly digital economy.

You can start taking advantage of Alexa’s API today by reviewing our Developer Guide.