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What is a REST API?

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This article is for folks who need a translator when talking to their engineering and development teams. I am not the savviest tech writer—I often need a lot of explanations to understand how things work and how to best use them! Recently, I learned about REST APIs and how our customers can use them to automate more processes within their accounts. While I knew that an API involved automated computer language. I was clueless as to what it was and how it could be used.

Definition:

What is REST API? It stands for Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface. — This is where I started to stare blankly and knew I needed more explanation.

A REST API is simply a way for computers to communicate with each other without human involvement. — That makes way more sense, right?

What can REST API do?

REST API works by giving applications a way to define a standard for sending an automated request. Applications define HTTP Actions (POST, PUT, GET, DELETE) with a set of URL endpoints. Each of these endpoints will typically have predefined data to send. When defined, both the sending and receiving machines will know what data to expect and how to handle it.

To summarize, REST API gives computers the ability to communicate with each other without human intervention. They are much more common than you might think, making up roughly 80% of internet traffic!

Example:

The technical side of REST APIs can be ambiguous. Computers talking to each other? Is it all 001100101011100111? How do they communicate and what are they talking about?

Let’s look at one scenario. If you have used a media streaming service such as Netflix or YouTube, you have most likely unknowingly experienced a service that REST API can provide! I will explain more.

When you enter the streaming service and select a title to watch, for example, The Last of Us on HBO, you will click the selected title and the program will begin. Grab the popcorn, sit back, and relax! While you may be hands-free, in the background there is a lot going on.

I’ll break down what’s happening.

  • By pressing play, you’re sending a request to HBO’s server to start streaming the show. The server replies by streaming the lowest definition quality of the show available.
  • Once the device’s (TV, Phone, Tablet, etc) computer has determined that it has buffered enough into the future, it will automatically send another request for a higher-quality version.
  • This will repeat until you get high definition. There is no action required by the person watching the show. The computers do all the talking.

Now that you know this, you’ll think about it every time you start a show. #themoreyouknow

How else can REST API be helpful?

REST API can make things generally more seamless for users. Implementing a REST API integration with accounting applications like ChargeOver can help automate processes and save time, decrease human errors, and help with business scaling.

REST APIs can also help avoid entering duplicated data by giving a single entry point that can then be automatically filled with an integration. With less manual entry there are fewer opportunities to mess something up. To err is human … And finally, REST API can help with growth. Automation can help avoid a lot of the growing pains that come with success.

How can you start automating your workflow?

REST APIs can improve your workflow by saving you time. If you’re currently manually entering data, you’re spending many hours of labor on a repetitive task that could be automated. With an automated billing process, there are fewer errors made, and with consistent timing, you’ll get paid faster.

Start by integrating REST APIs into your current ChargeOver Account. If you’re new to ChargeOver or do not have an account, schedule a 20 min demo with one of our industry experts!

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