What is API, and why do I need it?

I know zero about coding, apps, etc. (yes, I can hear you saying “OK Boomer”). I am looking for a basic explanation of what API is (besides what the acronym stands for, which I had to Google), and why I need it to use Airtable. I am trying to use Airtable as a shared resource for a team to track tasks and task deadlines and status. No integrating with cell phones, no accessing data from somewhere else.

From one “boomer” to another, an API makes it possible for two (or more) apps to convey data between each other in an automated fashion. With a properly-designed API, two apps that were never designed to work together, and whose developers never even knew about each other’s apps, can marry them together seamlessly as one solution. This makes it possible for future apps - ones that aren’t even invented yet - to work with other apps. We live in an API economy, so this is important to many (not all) businesses and users.

Lucky you; you needn’t be concerned about the API. Enjoy the greatness of Airtable and its vast abilities to create codeless solutions!

Thank you Bill. Though I’m still trying to wrap my head around marrying two apps there were never designed to work together. That’s like making a dress out of fabric and cardboard. You can, but why would you? :wink:

But I will say that the Airtable documentation is written for a level of experience that many of us do not possess. One of my pet peeves is not defining acronyms; it makes you feel dumb when they act like you should know. I may be dumb, but Airtable should not make me feel like I am not able to use their product because it is too advanced for me. What is my incentive to upgrade to a paid product that I am clearly ill-equipped to use?

It sounds strange, but imagine a simple medical device - one that concentrates oxygen, and another that intubates lungs. Each of these devices is designed for specific discrete purposes but combined, they create what is known as a “ventilator”. To make this combination possible, software must be used to synchronize their behaviours, and in so doing – wait for it - save BOOMERs lives who are ill with Covid-19.

What makes this magic possible? APIs.

To be clear, that’s not at all what API integrations are like.

Sure, you can use APIs to integrate toasters with toilets and that would clearly fall under the why would you category. However, you cannot blame the concept of APIs for poor choices made by humans. Indeed, the world is littered with bad ideas and bad product integration choices, but APIs do not even make the top 100 of that leaderboard.