What Is An API And How Is It Useful For Accounting?
An API that will allow you to automatically connect your accounting software to other services that you use frequently. In this article, we will see what an API is and how it can benefit you in your daily accounting!
What Is An API?
Let’s start by defining the API. First, it is an acronym in English: Application Programming Interface. In French, it means “application programming interface”. Translation? It is an interface for integrating different applications and linking them together automatically.
A computing API is a term used to refer to a set of protocols to facilitate the creation and integration of application software. The data on an application is processed by the API, making it usable on another application.
When an application (for example, accounting software) equipped with an API is used, this application can be connected to other applications so that they can exchange data between them. It’s as simple as that! Thanks to the API, the exchange of data between different applications is facilitated, which saves time and centralizes data without having to enter it each time it is needed.
What Is The Use of An API?
Now that we know what an API is, we can ask ourselves what its use is – or, instead, what its uses are. For a company, the API can be beneficial. Thanks to the API, the company can integrate services from other platforms into its offerings.
Let’s take a concrete example: it is more and more common to encounter the “Connect with Facebook” functionality when creating an account on e-commerce, for example. This functionality is made possible by an API from Facebook. Another example is sharing a LinkedIn text on Twitter, which is made possible by an API.
In other words, the API is a bridge connecting different applications.
The specific program in possession of the API will be able to knock on the door of another application and ask it for the information that interests it. Thanks to the API, this other application will share its data with it.
Be careful; it must be understood that the API is in no way a kind of pirate who would illegally steal information from another application! On the contrary, it is a protocol regulated by specific access conditions that are clearly described and documented by the interface.
There are several types of computing APIs, and each API has its particularities. The access keys are different. The number of requests per access key varies according to the APIs, the type of data accessible, and those that do not also vary… All these parameters are defined upstream, according to the utility sought by the API implemented.
How To Use An API?
To use an API, you must first define the application’s needs and the reason you want to create a bridge to other applications.
For example, suppose the developer of an application wishes to use the program’s existing functionalities. In that case, he can use the API of the program in question to do so simply and efficiently without having to reproduce all the existing systems.
To choose the correct API, all you have to do is carefully read the documentation for the API in question. This API can be free, but it also happens that it is paid for on the applications of certain companies. The documentation around the API will allow the developer to understand a site’s functionalities and integrate them into his application while respecting the functioning of both parties.
What Are The Different Types of Existing APIs?
As we have already indicated, there are several types of APIs. Here are the four main types of APIs that exist:
1 – REST (REPRESENTATIONAL STATE TRANSFER)
REST APIs are APIs following a set of rules that simplify them. Their use is made more accessible by these rules. The REST API requires CPUs to respond to an HTTP request with a data fragment. The data in question is primarily formatted in the JSON tag. This type of API is quite common, especially among open-source and public APIs.
2 – SOAP (SIMPLE OBJECT ACCESS PROTOCOL)
SOAP APIs are more comprehensive APIs than REST APIs. These programs can use any operating system, or any communication protocol, unlike the REST API, which can only use the HTTP protocol. As far as SOAP is concerned, all requests and responses use XML.
3 – THE BROWSER API
Browser APIs are APIs that are used directly on web pages. They make it possible to create a bridge between the site and the web browser to improve the site’s interface. This API can have several uses: playing music, using a webcam… It can also interact with other aspects of the web browser system.
4 – API ANDROID/IOS
As their names suggest, the Android API and the iOS API allow interaction with the computer hardware of a smartphone. This system can bridge the smartphone and the application/website. In this way, for example, a professional can directly import photos were taken with his phone, etc., onto his site. This can represent significant time-saving.
What Are The Advantages Of An API In Accounting?
Now that we understand what an API is and what it represents let’s look at accounting. In accounting, what advantages could an API represent?
In the context of accounting, the API can be extremely valuable. For example, it is possible to use these interfaces to transfer banking data. This can be done in different ways:
- Transfer a client’s bank details to their accounting software to integrate them;
- Transfer a customer’s bank details to other parties with the customer’s consent;
- Transfer the bank details of the company to a supplier, etc.
Thanks to an API, you can give access to bank data with the agreement of the account holders. Through these APIs, account aggregators can access bank account data, with, of course, the holders’ agreement. The use of an API is even mandatory when banks must transmit the requested information if the account holder agrees. Therefore, APIs are of capital use to banks, which need them to fulfill their obligations. This is regulated under the PSD2 directive.
Apart from bank data only, the API can have other uses in accounting. For example, APIs are compatible with accounting software that can retrieve data such as names, dates, files, lists of goods, associated VAT rates, etc.
All in all, the significant advantage of the API in accounting is time savings.
The Future Of API
Over time, the API becomes essential. Software publishers integrate APIs more and more willingly. Computer API has a future, and its use tends to become widespread.
At the moment, a large number of APIs are accessible. On the other hand, charging for the API is becoming increasingly frequent, especially in the case of publishers who dominate the market.
What is quite sure is that APIs are efficient tools which sometimes represent severe commercial arguments. It is a system that is here to last!