Explain it like I'm Kevin: What is an API and how does an API work?

Join Discover creative Kevin Rogers as he finds out what an API is and how they work from George Mitry, leader of the Discover API Center for Enablement.
Discover Technology Staff
August 20, 2023

Technology can be pretty confusing, but that is all about to change. In the inaugural episode of "Explain It Like I'm Kevin," join Discover creative Kevin Rogers as he finds out what an API is and how they work. Kevin is joined by George Mitry, leader of the Discover API Center for Enablement, who provides an expert API explanation. You’ll be sure to leave hungry for more.


Kevin: Hi! I'm Kevin. I'm a creative here at Discover, and I help the people of Discover Technology tell their stories. Problem is, technology can be pretty confusing. But that is all about to change.

Kevin: Today we're going to find out what an API is. And to help me answer that question, we're here with George Mitri, who leads the API Center for Enablement here at Discover. George, thanks so much for being here.

George: Hi, Kevin.

Kevin: I was hoping you could help me understand what an API is.

George: Okay. Sure. What an API is... API stands for application programing interface, which means it's an interface that we put on top of an application to make it programable. In other words, it's an interaction style request response to a capability that package as a software. Does that make sense?

Kevin: I'm sure that makes sense to someone, but can you explain it to me like... like I'm Kevin?

George: Sure thing. So, let's think about a restaurant. I'm a restaurant. I'm very good at cooking meals, and I package all that into the kitchen. So, the kitchen has a very good cook. You have recipes that have all the instruments, everything. But how do we get customers to order from the kitchen? Of course, we don't want all the customers to go talk to the cook and give them their own orders. So, we have a waiter or a waitress to take that order and become the interface to the kitchen. So that's how an API could be that waiter or waitress to get the order to access that capability out and in of that kitchen.

Kevin: Okay. I think I'm understanding. How does the customer know what the cooks can make?

George: That's where we have a menu and API specs. We always hear about the API specification documents, open API specs. That's where the customer would know, or the developer would know, what to order and what kind of request they can make and what kind of response they can expect back.

Kevin: Okay. So APIs handle requests from the customer to a certain packaged capability and responds with data from the application.

George: That's exactly RIGHT! (Laughing from blooper)

George: That's exactly right. And here at Discover, we want every team to become an API-enabled team. So unlocking their capabilities through an API to interact with other teams so we can assemble solutions much faster that way to help our customer to have the best experience and a brighter financial future.

Kevin: Awesome. I feel like I really understand what an API is now, so thank you so much for taking this time to explain it to me.

George: Great! Glad to help. And it’s about lunchtime. How about we go and experience some API in real time?

Kevin: Oh, I think that's a great idea. Let's go.

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