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    All You Need to Know About Blockchain APIs!

    Blockchain technology is relatively new and complex to operate. So, it wouldn’t make much sense if every blockchain-based application created its own network. But, that’s what APIs are for! Application Programming Interface allows applications to communicate with each other in an efficient way. In a blockchain context, APIs allow applications to communicate with blockchain nodes and client networks. So, how do blockchain APIs work? And are they that important? 

    This article will be your guide on everything you need to know about blockchain APIs, how they work, and the different types of APIs. 

    What Is an API? 

    Application Programming Interface, or simply API, is a kind of software that enables two or more applications to communicate with each other based on a set of predetermined protocols. You most probably use APIs every day, you just don’t know it. For example, each time you use a social media application, you’re using an API. 

    You can think of an API as the middleman between the application you’re using and the server from where the application gets its data. APIs are often described as the waiter in a restaurant. Let’s say you are in a restaurant. You place your order with the waiter that acts as the middleman between you and the chef. The waiter is responsible to deliver your request to the chef and bring back your food. 

    That’s exactly what an API does. For example, if you go to your weather app and request the current weather of let’s say China, the API takes your request to the weather bureau’s database. The database search for your request and responds with the outputs via APIs. 

    how-api-work

    What Are Blockchain APIs?

    Blockchains are distributed ledgers that operate on a peer-to-peer network. These decentralized databases eliminate the need for centralized intermediaries, such as central servers. If applications with centralized backends need APIs to connect to servers, blockchain-based applications will also depend on APIs to communicate with the blockchain. That means that developers can integrate blockchain features into their applications or websites without having to fully understand the intricacies of blockchain technology. 

    It’s impractical to assume that all blockchain-based applications need to build their network from scratch if they want to communicate with the blockchain. APIs do the job. For example, crypto analysis tools and data platforms that display the prices of different cryptocurrencies rely on blockchain APIs to gather the needed information from crypto exchanges. 

    APIs can do so much more than just querying information from blockchains. Blockchain APIs can retrieve blockchain data such as transaction details, block information, account balances, and smart contracts data. They can also broadcast transactions to the blockchain network. 

    blockchain-api

    How Do They Work?

    So we know now that blockchain APIs work as intermediaries between developers and blockchain networks. We know that APIs send requests and receive outputs from blockchains, but how does it work exactly? Let’s get a bit technical. 

    • When developers want to use a specific API, they need to sign up for an API key or token to authenticate their request. 
    • The next step is sending a request. Most APIs use HTTP or HTTP requests to specific API endpoints using various methods. These methods could be GET, POST, PUT, or DELETE, based on what the request is.
    • The request will then go to API endpoints to retrieve certain data. These endpoints are URLs provided by the blockchain API service. There might be multiple different endpoints for different functions. 
    • If the API request is valid, the blockchain API will process and return a response. These responses are usually in JSON format and contain the requested data. 
    • This API can be integrated by developers in their applications using programming languages of their choice. The integration allows the application to communicate with the blockchain seamlessly. 
    • how-blockchain-api-works

    Types of Blockchain APIs

    Different blockchains have their own APIs with specific endpoints and methods tailored to their respective protocols. This means that there are several different APIs to serve a specific purpose. Let’s see some examples.

    • Node API: When a developer wants to access blockchain nodes, they use a specific API that submits transactions to the network and gets the data from blockchain nodes. 
    • Smart Contract API: Obviously, this API provides interfaces to interact with smart contracts deployed on blockchain networks. They allow developers to read and deploy new smart contracts. 
    • Transaction API: These blockchain APIs allow developers to send and receive crypto transactions programmatically.
    • Wallet API: Wallet APIs allow developers to create new wallet addresses, check account balances, and initiate transactions. 
    • Identity API: This API offers a mechanism to validate users’ identities on the blockchain. 

    Benefits and Drawbacks of Blockchain APIs

    There are many benefits to blockchain APIs as they facilitate communication between the end user and the blockchain network. However, they do have their setbacks. Let’s see what are the benefits and drawbacks of blockchain APIs. 

    Benefits

    • Simple Integration: Without blockchain APIs, developers would have a hard time integrating blockchain functionality into their applications. Blockchain APIs reduce the learning curve and development time for blockchain-related apps. 
    • Efficiency: Blockchain APIs provide a standardized and efficient way to access blockchain data and execute transactions.  
    • Security: The use of blockchain APIs instead of direct access protects sensitive data and private keys
    • Scalability: Blockchain APIs are designed to handle high-volume requests. 

    Drawbacks

    • Centralized Points of Failure: Many APIs are provided by centralized third-party API providers. This means that if the API provider’s server shuts down, it will affect the availability of some blockchain-related services. 
    • Data Privacy Concerns: Because blockchain APIs are provided by a third-party API provider, some sensitive data could be exposed to the provider. 
    • Dependency on API Provider: The reliance on a centralized API provider can become a hassle. Changes to the API or the provider’s services might require adjustments in the application code.

    Final Thoughts

    Although they might have their setbacks, blockchain APIs are integral to blockchains’ widespread adoption. This is because APIs help businesses to integrate blockchain technologies for all kinds of use cases. All blockchain-related functionalities such as accepting crypto payments, connecting to an NFT marketplace, or accessing decentralized file storage, require the use of APIs. However, developers should carefully access the needs and capabilities of different APIs to make informed decisions about their integration.

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