Most of the pivotal developments in human history have facilitated better connection. From written language to the Gutenberg printing press, whenever we improve our communication, society as a whole leaps forward.
In the digital era, the internet revolutionized our lives by enabling instant global communication. This paved the way for what could be (and we may be a bit biased here) the most exciting development yet: online services and the application programming interface (aka, APIs).
APIs: The foundations of digital business
APIs are the connective tissue of online services; they’re the interfaces that allow services to talk with each other. They’re game-changers for developers, because it means development teams don’t have to reinvent the wheel to bring a great product to market. Instead, developers can use APIs as the building blocks for enterprise applications—for example, instead of building a payment solution from scratch, they can use Stripe’s API. Rather than coding complex programs themselves, developers can find online services that do what they need and access them via APIs. In ten lines of code, developers can now accomplish what might have previously taken thousands of lines.
This carries many business benefits that help drive business growth, including:
- Faster product delivery: to help companies get their solutions to market faster.
- Less complexity: sourcing services via APIs reduces the size and complexity of a developer’s code base. This makes it easier to maintain and less prone to damaging and time-consuming bugs.
- Better security: smaller code bases make it easier to check for security flaws, and less prone to attack.
- Greater functionality: because developers can’t do everything on their own... For example, instead of trying to collect weather information for their location and then developing an entire solution to display it, a development team can use a simple software message to query a best-of-breed, 3rd-party weather API.
- Time back where it matters most: to offload difficult, non-core services, and free developers to code the elements of the app that deliver real business value.
- New business models: to expose services via APIs that can open up new business models, driving new lines of revenue for an organization. For example, Expedia now generates 90% of its revenue from APIs.
How APIs enable identity as an online service
Identity and access management (IAM) is the perfect example of a service developers should be accessing through APIs.
IAM is incredibly important, but its advantages are often hidden. No user comes to a system just to experience the login process; they log in to reach the specific systems and applications they need. Although users will not use your applications specifically for the login experience, they will stop using your service if their data is compromised or they encounter friction. While IAM may be tedious to develop in-house, it is key to protecting sensitive user data and a seamless user experience.
The process of authentication, authorization, and user management is complex, with many moving parts—and the more sophisticated hackers become, the more complex the coding challenge gets. For example, passwords are a known security weakness that developers must account for by building better access management solutions (such as multi-factor authentication) directly into their apps. This makes in-house IAM development even longer, more expensive, and riskier.
Consuming an identity service from a specialized service provider via an API is a far better choice. Third-party providers have the infrastructure and experience to offer enhanced security, and they also invest in research and development that offers future-proofed protection and enhanced authentication features.
Leveraging Okta’s APIs
Okta provides simple-to-use APIs that serve as identity building blocks for developers creating web or mobile applications. We deliver turnkey functionality so developers can create seamless login and registration experiences, while giving IT a central place to manage access policies. Our cloud-native APIs offer developers the ability to drop authentication and authorization into their apps using a pre-built, customizable sign-in widget that handles all the complex workflows associated with registration, sign-on, password reset, account recovery, and MFA enrollment.
The Okta platform also provides enhanced security features. Adaptive MFA gives developers an API-based MFA system supporting a variety of extra login mechanisms. It also creates smarter login experiences by incorporating contextual factors such as the user’s device, network, and location to assess the risk of fraud before allowing access. Organizations can also use this approach to create a seamless passwordless experience that is even more secure.
By embedding identity and access management with Okta’s APIs, organizations can get their apps to market faster while ensuring a secure experience for their users—all without wasting valuable resources trying to build it in-house.
Learn more about how APIs can help provide the identity layer your products need to succeed.