10 APIs you didn’t know existed
Everybody who’s in web development and management nowadays knows about APIs. They’re so commonly used, that they’ve become integral parts of all relevant sites and operating systems.
Regular visitors use them daily, most likely without even noticing. If you’re reading this and have trouble placing them, think of the weather app on your phone. The OS doesn’t give you that information outright. Instead, it uses an API in the background. API connects it with a service that provides the data, meaning that API is constantly working regardless of what you’re doing on your phone.
This example is a basic one just to quickly explain how APIs work for those who aren’t quite sure. The rest of the article will be for developers and site managers (and those looking to become them), who are looking for APIs to enhance their sites and/or services.
We’ll focus on those that are less known, either because they’re so niche, or there is a much popular API in their fields that’s hogging all the users. While going through our list, always keep in mind that unknown or less popular doesn’t automatically mean less functional: everything we list can and should be given a chance, because it can only improve your whole operation.
Without any particular order, let’s begin…
Since we’ve already used weather apps as an example of how APIs work, it’s right to highlight the one that will get the job done. The most commonly used app is the one connected to the Weather Channel, fueled by the fact that it’s also the default app on both major operating systems on smartphones. That doesn’t mean it’s the only option available. And so we come to Weatherbit.
Having just simple latitude and longitude coordinates will provide you with weather forecasts for the specified area. The results you’ll get back are:
- Current weather
- Five-day forecast
- Severe weather alerts
- 48-hour forecast
- 16-day forecast
Essentially, you’ll get all the information you’d need to integrate the weather function on your site, or as a separate app. The API itself functions on a request principle, where you’ll have a free tier and several premium tiers depending on the total number of requests.
Even though it’s highly rated, the reason you might not have heard of Weatherbit is that there are other similar APIs that have been around longer and are household names by now. This lack of spotlight is why it made the list.
Back in the day, if you’re old enough to remember, if you wanted to get in touch with someone, but had only part of the information, but needed the rest (had the name, needed the address, for example), you could call “Information” and get what you need. Imagine doing the same thing, but enhanced for modern times.
Well, FullContact is an API that, with a tidbit of data, provides the rest of it. The process is simple enough. You insert someone’s email address, Facebook ID, Twitter username, or phone number as a query, and you’ll get back detailed information back as a result. The results include the full name, gender, age, location, and social network info. The results you get back won’t be extensive for all queries, but usually, you’ll have more data after you get the results. The great thing is that it’s not limited just to personal data, but you can also get information on companies. Combine these features and have a great base for marketing or sales campaigns. The more data you have on your customers, the more you can tailor your approach to be specific.
There are three tiers to the API, with the free one being ostensibly limited and should be viewed as something of a trial run. In contrast, the premium ones provide you with everything you’d ever need (especially the custom option). Give it a go if you’re looking to expand your customer database.
You’ve heard about Alexa and Siri, but have you heard about Jeannie? The two popular, licensed, virtual assistants are tied to their respective platforms and, therefore, can’t be used by anyone. With an API like this, however, you’re not limited by the hardware that’s used. If you’re familiar with how virtual assistants work, (chances are everybody who’s ever used a smartphone is), there is no learning curve at all.
The main goal is to provide you and your assistant the smartest response possible for any question that might come up. The API gives you an interface that’s used not only for gathering information, but also for chatting, controlling various connected devices, creating messages, and much more. An example of the most basic function is a query such as – “How high is the Eiffel tower?” – to what you’ll both get the response and the source:
Now, let’s be honest, the more popular assistants we’ve mentioned have more features and are generally more versatile. However, because of their exclusivity, you’ll need a third party API like this. It will help provide the service for all those who aren’t already using the ones above. The overall quality isn’t even all that noticeable and will surely get even better as time goes on, and further testing is done.
Those of you who have worked on eCommerce sites that run on WordPress have probably come in contact with MailChimp API. It’s an email campaign service that’s so popular, it’s accounted for and integrated into most eCommerce plugins. In essence, this API makes creating email marketing campaigns a breeze. A great example of how it works form a backend perspective with a query, and a result would be:
Although it works in all settings, it shines the brightest in big systems with diverse hierarchy. For example, if you have a business with just a few people where everybody does everything, chances are all of them will have advanced technical knowledge to create marketing campaigns from scratch if need be. In these cases, MailChimp does help, but won’t have as much an impact.
On the opposite end, if you have a company with a dedicated marketing department, it safe to say they’ll have only basic technical knowledge. They have the idea, but not the know-how to implement and execute it. This API makes it exceedingly easy for them to create campaigns, lists, alerts, calls to action, and much more.
Marketing campaigns have to be creative and precise, so it’s always a good idea to give those tasks to employees that are qualified. You should also give them the right tools to accomplish your goals. An API like MailChimp eliminates the need for the marketing department to burden the technical department with their needs and therefore makes the process faster and more streamlined. If you’re a department head, you should insist on a helpful API like this one.
Have you ever found yourself at a loss for words? Whether you sort of knew what you needed to say but couldn’t find the right words, or maybe you just needed to check the spelling for something; there certainly is always a need for help. If the help you need is referencing the English language, you’re in luck, because there is an API that will solve all your dictionary needs.
Aptly named WordsAPI, you have an API that answers all queries regarding word definitions, synonyms, antonyms, similar words, hierarchical information, and much more.
Granted, you would use this kind of information mainly while writing, or perhaps playing Scrabble. Either way, you’ll not be using it every day, however, when you do need it, it’s great to have. Not all text editors have a robust grammar tool built-in, so you really do need an outside source for assistance. Imagine writing something important and not having a way to check if everything is spelled correctly. Or, using the same word one too many times when you should look for a synonym to enrich your text. Not sure if you’re using the correct word? Here is the way to quickly check the definition.
Just like most APIs, the pricing is based on the number of daily requests and is divided into several tiers, including a free one. In truth, it is mostly for testing and not really commercially viable because of the small request limit. If you’re looking to make your site a go-to place for grammar and dictionary issues, be sure to look into integrating WordsAPI.
Memes, memes everywhere. Having APIs that enhance your work are the basis for being successful, but what about some that are just fun. You don’t always need to be looking for the proverbial bottom line. The most widespread phenomenon that’s essentially been created from scratch in the last decade is the meme. Some hate them and consider them humorless, while other see them as the pinnacle of insightfulness, irony, and satire from the new generation. It really doesn’t matter on which part of the spectrum you fall: it’s undeniable that we’re surrounded by them daily.
If you’ve ever wanted to create your own memes, without going through the hassle of searching for all those well-known images now you can, with APIMeme. This API has a database of all relevant meme formats where you can simply add your own text to convey what you want. It isn’t groundbreaking, it isn’t something you’d build your site around (probably), but it’s so fun.
Naturally, this is primarily suited for those who enjoy memes, but it can also be a great tool for all those haters. Honestly, how many times have you seen something not remotely funny and thought to yourself “I can do so much better!”. Well, this is your chance. You probably won’t break the mold: The database is filled with more or less known images that are already circulating, but you could make your mark with combining some smart text with an uncommon image. Who knows, maybe you’ll create something that goes viral.
Speaking of fun… do you know how many push-ups Chuck Norris can do? All of them.
Transitioning from general memes to the one that had a big say in starting the trend in the first place – Chuck Norris. Even though we may now have generations that are oblivious to the majesty that is the all-powerful Chuck, we can safely conclude that most of the people browsing the net know of him and his “exploits”.
When we’re talking about fun APIs, it would be a massive injustice to not mention this one. Simply named “Chuck Norris”, this API provides you with an option to subscribe for regular Chuck facts. It will send them directly to you by mail. It also grants you an interface where you can instantly get to a fact (random or categorized) and you can even use instant messenger to start up a conversation and get your fact that way.
Much like most fun APIs like this, there is no real, quantifiable reason you would include this in your work. However, also like many fun APIs it’s just there for a laugh. You shouldn’t think too much of it, just enjoy it and let others enjoy it as well. Otherwise, Chuck will find you and who’ll save you then?
If you like Star Wars, (let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), then you surely also like Yoda. We met the small green alien puppet in the Empire strikes back, and since then, we’ve been enamored with the way he speaks. Who can say they’ve never used his speech patterns at least once in his/her life?
Although it doesn’t always seem like it, there is actually a method to that speaking method. It is no surprise at all then to find out that some created an Yoda Speak API that converts regular sentences into the “Yoda format”. If you’ve ever been unsure of how something would sound spoken by the Jedi master, now you have a way of checking to be sure. Think of it as a Yoda lexicon.
There are small limitations to keep in mind while using this Yoda Speak. The first is that, even though sentences shouldn’t be short (three words or less), they also shouldn’t be overly long either. Secondly, only English should be used, with proper punctuation to get the best results. Finally, avoid using parenthesis, since Yoda doesn’t know what to do with those.
That’s essentially it. You have a semi-active chat that also converts your inputs into Yoda speak. Similar to the Chuck Norris API we’ve mentioned, these kind of APIs are simple in premise and execution but provide tons of fun for anybody that chooses to give them a go.
Everybody must eat – not exactly a groundbreaking statement. How and what you eat is a different matter altogether. With increasingly busier lifestyles most of us opt for the quick solution. But what if we wanted to up our diet to an upper level? We’d need help since most of us are not culinary skilled enough to undertake such a proposition by ourselves. This is where an API like Spoonacular comes in. It’s a robust tool that has everything you’d need to create your perfect food with easy to follow instructions and even suggestions.
The main thing about it is the extensive database that includes info on ingredients, recipes, products, and popular menu items. This info consists of nutrition data, prices, cooking tips, alternations, etc. Even by itself, such a large collection of data could be enough for most people to use the Spoonacular API as a glossary, but how the data is used really makes it shine.
All the data is flawlessly cataloged and categorized. Every item you pull up (whether it’s a recipe or ingredient) will have recognizable tags, so you’ll instantly know what you’re working with. Furthermore, every item has a visual representation, so you won’t be left wondering if you’ve chosen the right thing. You can take recipes from the vast library manually and work with them, but you can also reverse the process, where you type in the ingredients you have and get back a recipe that uses all or most of them. Other features include shopping lists by ingredients, ingredient substitutions based on preference or cost, weekly meal plans and much more. Taking everything into account, if you go with Spoonacular you probably won’t ever have to look for any additional help in the kitchen.
Have you ever worked in security, or just wanted to feel like those high tech guys you see on TV? Then perhaps you’ve maybe just found the right API for you. Face++ allows you to scan images for faces in a way that you’ll get that feeling where all you’re waiting for is for someone behind your shoulder to ask you to “zoom in”.
All jokes aside, this is a robust tool for face recognition that has numerous features, all stemming from the way faces are signaled out. So what do you get to do? Well, as we’ve hinted at, you’ll be able to detect faces and store the data for future use to quicken the process. Furthermore, faces can be searched, giving you a collection of similar faces with descending percentages of the likelihood of the proposed face belonging to the targeted person. Not all results will be top-notch, especially if you’re on the far side of the spectrum, but you’ll always get at least a few relevant results. Finally, you’ll be able to directly compare two faces to see if it’s the same person. Again, there is a probability curve that helps you out, so you don’t have to rely on simply guessing.
Face++ offers up pretty advanced features, so it’s no surprise to find out that, while it has a limited free option, it’s primarily a premium API. The paying standard for APIs is enforced here also, so you’ll be paying in various tiers, all formed around the number of requests. If you’ve ever wondered how it is to use something like this, now is your chance.
The number of APIs in use nowadays is staggering, with even more being created every day. Some are there to complement, expand, and elevate your work. Others are there to improve your lives in some way once integrated into an app. Some are there just to have fun with them. We’ve tried to cover something from every aspect that might interest a wide variety of users, but at the same time aren’t as popular and well known as their counterparts. Perhaps you’ve even heard about some of these, but you can’t deny that some APIs we’ve mentioned gave you pause and enticed you to explore a bit further. Whichever ones you go with, for whatever reason, we’re sure you won’t be disappointed.