what is an api

What is an API?

For a while now we have been talking about Ethos Bedrock, a high-performance Blockchain Financial Services (BFS) platform, which is composed of many APIs on which our flagship application, the Ethos Universal Wallet, is built. You may have found yourself wondering, what is an API? So we put together a brief introduction to what APIs are!

API stands for Application Programming Interface. For many of us the term API may not carry much meaning, but it’s important to understand that well designed APIs can provide strong building blocks on which a developer can create new programs, and serve as powerful software intermediaries for applications to communicate with other applications.

Most of us have experience using applications. In fact, you are likely viewing this article through a web browser. You can see links that you can click and you can scroll through the content. Unlike this type of application interface, an API is an interface designed for developers to more easily create new programs that can then interact with a base of code and microservices.

A common analogy used to describe APIs are Lego building blocks. Each Lego block has bumps and holes that fit together with another piece, and they can be stacked to build unique systems based on the builders end goal. Regardless of the builder, they are using the same pre-existing and functional base components. Similarly, an API allows developers access to those base blocks and the ability to seamless communicate with a number of underlying applications and microservices.

At the base of Bedrock lie an array of microservices. Microservices are services that are oriented around a specific task (i.e., listening for blockchain transactions, sending notifications, generating addresses, etc) that are used in combination to deliver robust features. For instance, the Universal Wallet relies on a multitude of APIs (i.e., xWallet, xTransact, xAlert) and underlying microservices that let a user know when crypto has been successfully transfered to their wallet.

Let’s take a closer look at an Ethos Bedrock service, xTransact, which consists of several APIs: TXN constructor API, TXN Signer API, and TXN Submission API.

  • TXN Constructor API: when a user or institution wishes to transact, they communicate to Bedrock how many of which coin they want sent to a given address – TXN constructor API  prepares the transaction and conducts a fee analysis.
  • TXN Signer API– after the transaction is constructed, TXN Signer API sends the transaction to the user, which is then signed on the device.
  • TXN Submission API – the signed transaction is now broadcast and verified!

Instead of an institution or developer being required to build a custom-developed application, they can now build one that is referencing APIs to incorporate the rich features they seek to deliver without spending precious resources on building from scratch. Additionally, they are able to mitigate risk of errors by referencing battle tested code.

Innovative, elegant and highly-scalable API platforms, like Ethos Bedrock, are crucial to the future development and adoption of blockchain based financial applications and tools by existing and emerging financial service providers. Whether they seek to create a fiat gateway, query price data or provide custody solutions to consumers, Bedrock is the foundation they need to build tomorrow’s consumer and institution facing products and services.