Peter Robinett

Why Use the API?

Now that we've given you a basic idea of what anyMeta is it's probably a good time to discuss why you should use its API. Hopefully you're reading this document because you're already convinced but, if not, thanks for giving us the chance! We think that after reading this document you'll agree that the anyMeta API is very powerful and lets you build some really cool apps.

First, for the non-technical readers, you may be wondering what an API is. An API, or Application Programming Interface, is sort of connector in one system for other systems to use. It's a sort of point of contact that parties can use to talk to each other. To use an analogy, a programming API lets you connect to and interact with an application the way that a currency lets you interact with a country's economy. We use the euro here in Amsterdam, so you might say that the euro is the API to interact with the Dutch economy. Likewise, they use the dollar in the United States, and I wouldn't have much success if I tried to buy things with euros in New York: the US has a different API. Of course, there are ways to convert one kind of 'message' to another – that's essentially what currency converters do – but I think you'll agree that it's easier to just use dollars in New York and euros in Amsterdam. To extend the analogy even further: sometimes you don't need to change your money when you visit another country because they use the same money. I can spend like abandon in Berlin thanks to the fact that they also use to euros. Thanks to common APIs and to Open-CI your application can just as easily talk to one anyMeta system as another.

So, now that I've got you thinking about money and financial systems, let's switch gears and get back to anyMeta. The anyMeta API lets you or, more importantly, your application talk with the anyMeta system, but why would you want to? As we see it there are two main categories of people who might consider the anyMeta API. First, there are those of you who have your own anyMeta site and want to make the most of it. Perhaps you want to add new features to the public website or perhaps you want to make use of its content in another circumstance. Since you own the site you could just go through the admin section and grab the data you need, but perhaps that's too tedious or simply impossible with the amounts of data you're considering. For instance, you might want to create visualizations of your site's data, create reports on your site, add additional social functionality, or extend existing features with additional specificity.

Then there are the outsiders, the people that aren't managing an anyMeta site. Perhaps you're a researcher who has found interesting data in an anyMeta site and wants to grab it for analysis. Or perhaps you're making a game and want to let people login with an anyMeta account. Regardless, you want to jump in and make things, not spend your time negotiating with the site owners the technical details of how their system should talk to yours. With the anyMeta API you can do just that and almost anything that anyMeta does internally you can do via the API – for example, did you know that the Javascript code on an anyMeta site uses the API? Of course, anyMeta respects people's privacy and ownership, so don't expect to be able to rampage through the system willie-nilly changing other people's creations.