All posts tagged ‘API’

File Under: APIs

Dropbox API Lets You Add Cloud Storage to Your Apps

dropboxDropbox, the free, web-based file backup service, has rolled out a new API that gives developers a way to access, edit and save any file in a user’s Dropbox account.

The Dropbox API works a bit like an Amazon S3 storage bucket except that you, not the application in question, have control over your uploaded files.

The Dropbox API uses familiar tools like JSON, OAuth and OpenID, so web developers can essentially offload their user’s storage needs to Dropbox. For users, the usual risks of tying your web app to a cloud storage mechanism are mitigated by the fact that Dropbox keeps a local copy on your hard drive.

While the potential for integration with web apps is very cool — imagine if all your Flickr uploads automatically synced to the Dropbox folder on your hard drive for an instant backup — the first place you’ll likely see the Dropbox API in action is on mobile devices.

Storage limitations and, in the case of the iPhone/iPad, Apple’s imposed restrictions, mean that it’s difficult to build mobile apps that can access local files, let alone read, write and sync.

That’s the basic problem the Dropbox API seeks to overcome — using the Dropbox API means there’s no need for local files on your mobile device and everything is automatically synced back to your PC. The only catch is that you need an internet connection for the syncing to work.

Dropbox has already worked with a number of developers to integrate the new API prior to the launch. For example, Air Sharing, GoodReader and QuickOffice can now tap into your Dropbox account to edit and sync your Dropbox files. The new API ships with client libraries in Objective-C (pretty much required for the iPhone/iPad), Python, Ruby and Java. To create an application you’ll need to register with Dropbox and then, once you have access, you can grab the client library of your choice and check out the online documentation.

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File Under: Glossary


The application program interface (API) is a set of building blocks for programmers.

APIs are made up of routines, protocols, and tools. Most operating environments provide an API so that programmers can write applications consistent with that environment. For example, developing software using the Windows API ensures that your user interface will be consistent with other Windows applications, making it easier for users to learn your new programs.

Use on the Web

Web APIs provide simple ways to interact with websites. Using an API, you can extract public data from sites like, Flickr and Digg to create mashups, reuse data or just about anything else you can imagine.

APIs are also useful for extracting your own private data from a web service so that you can back it up elsewhere or display it on another site.

When talking about APIs you’ll here the following terms quite a bit.

Common Web API Related Terms

  • Web service/API — These terms are largely interchangeable and simple refer to the ways you can interact with the data on your favorite websites.
  • Method — A method is just one aspect of an API; you might also see methods refered to a functions. For instance, if you’re interacting with Flickr, you might want to get your public photos. To do so you would use the get_user_photos method.
  • Response — The information returned by the API method that you’ve called.
  • REST — Short for Representational State Transfer. REST treats data as a web document that lives at a specific URL. REST APIs use standard HTTP requests such as GET, PUT, HEAD, DELETE and POST to interact with data.
  • XML-RPC — This older API scheme formats method calls and responses as XML documents which are sent over HTTP.
  • SOAP — Simple Object Access Protocol. A W3C standard for passing messages across the network. SOAP is the successor to XML-RPC. It’s complexity has led many to disparage SOAP and with more APIs leaning toward REST, SOAP’s future is uncertain.
  • Ajax — Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. Technically it has nothing to do with APIs, however many sites using APIs send their queries out using Ajax which is partially responsible for the popularity of JSON.
  • JSON — JavaScript Object Notation. JSON’s main advantage is that it is easy to convert from JSON to nearly any other programming language. JSON uses key-value pairs and arrays, something common to PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby and most other languages. The portability of JSON has made it an increasingly popular choice for sites developing APIs.

Popular Web APIs

File Under: Glossary


Software developers need to know which platform their software will be running on. A platform can be an Intel processor running Windows, a Macintosh running System 8, or any combination of hardware and software that works together. Platforms are important for web designers to understand, because they need to make sure their pages will work on more than one platform. Different browsers display web pages differently on various platforms. Since the internet itself is a cross-platform system, designers need to test web pages on different combinations of machines and browsers to ensure the widest possible audience will be able to view their sites.

File Under: APIs, Location

Yahoo Maps API

This is the basic structure of a data call to Yahoo Maps’ API. This will draw a 500px by 300px map centered on Wired’s San Francisco offices, complete with zoom and pan controls. When the user clicks on the location marker, a pop-up box will appear with some text inside.

All of these attributes can be changed by modifying the code below. You’ll need to use your own API key.

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File Under: APIs, Location

Using the Yahoo Maps API

Yahoo’s Maps API may not be as popular as Google’s mashup mainstay, but it has many of the same features. In some ways, it’s even easier to use than Google’s Maps API, so beginners getting started with API interaction might prefer Yahoo’s implementation.

To get started working with Yahoo maps, we’ll simply create a map we can display on a web page, and then add a marker to denote a particular location.

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