What is a Partner API?
A Partner API allows you as a partner to perform all the GET operations that you do in your partner store. Partner APIs are built using REST principles. This ensures predictable URLs that make it easy to write and retrieve data related to your partner store. This API follows HTTP rules.
A Partner API is the ordering system for a restaurant to order food from its distributor.
A restaurant doesn't magically have all the food it needs. They tend to order their food from larger distributors that have the bulk quantities they need to function.
The everyday individual doesn't have access to order food from these bulk distributors, they have to go to the restaurant in order to purchase their food. The distributor is only going to allow the restaurant to order food from them.
In other words...
A Partner API is exposed by, or to, the strategic business partner.
Why is a Partner API important?
It's one thing to know what a term means, but that is worthless if you don't know why you should know what a partner API is in the first place. Let's break down the importance of this tech term based on two high level categories. We'll walk through an explanation as well as provide a score, 1-10, that shows you how much you should care about partner APIs.
The first will be if you do not have a product yet. This means that you don't have a physical product. Maybe you're in the ideation phase, or maybe you're almost ready to start development. Whichever it is, we'll get into why a partner API is important and why you should or shouldn't care about it if you do not have a product.
As a founder, a Partner API is not too relevant if you don't have a product yet. You should learn about the functionality of an API, but the actual type of APIs is more relevant once you actually have a product and need to understand how your site should function most effectively.
Live Product: 4/10
The second category is if you do have a live product. Maybe you just launched your business or maybe it's been live for years and you're continuing to improve its quality. Regardless of the scenario, if your product is live, a partner API carries a different weight.
As a founder, a partner API is fairly relevant if your business model requires you to interact, via software, with exclusive partners. For example, if you are ESPN, then knowing that your application has a Partner API with the MLB is very important because it is pivotal to your business model to allow your partners, but only your partners, to pull in specific information.
Examples of Partner APIs
So you know what a partner API is, by definition. You know if you should care about it or not depending on your situation as a business/company/product. To dig in deeper, we will walk through some examples so we can make sure you really have a solid grasp on partner APIs.
Three examples of partner APIs:
A partner API is controlled by the publishing partner, determining what information is publicly exposed and available for free use. Often times, you have to pay companies for access to their partner APIs.
- United Airlines
An airlines company will leverage a partner API to make their flight schedules available to the public. In order for a third party website like Kayak to pull the information and display all of the flights available for purchase, they need to access the information via United Airlines. United Airlines will expose just enough data to make the relevant information available to allow consumers an easier path to purchasing flights. United Airlines fully controls what information is available regarding their own flights.
The NFL will collect a multitude of data on player statistics. Often times, these statistics can be used for things like fantasy football as well as just player analysis. They also will live-record the football games and let others have access to this feed. Other sites will leverage NFL's API in order to gain access to this information in an efficient and simplified manner.
- The Government
When you look up crime statistics, you are accessing information, provided by the government. The crime statistics that you are able to look up are selective and include only the information that the government wants you to know. For example, if there is a confidential piece of information regarding a statistic, then the government will not expose this data and maintain it as confidential, meaning you cannot access it from any of their APIs.
- A Partner API is exposed by, or to, the strategic business partner.
- If you don't have a product, you don't need to worry about this term.
- If you do have a product, you should think about how a partner API may impact your business model.
- Partner APIs are controlled by the company who owns the data and often times require a license or payment in order to access the data.