Have you ever wondered what is a URL that you enter into the address bar of your browser to access a website or web page? What does it contain? How to document it when working on a API documentation?
In this post, we’ll examine each component of a URL in more detail and discuss how it relates to API documentation. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better knowledge of how URLs may be used to access and define resources using APIs.
What is a URL?
A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a mechanism that your web browser uses access any published material on the internet. It typically consists of three fundamental components: the protocol, the domain, and the path.
Before discussing further about the URLs, understanding the terms used in API documentation is crucial to understanding how APIs work. And how to document URLs. So let’s dive a little deeper into the concepts of the protocol, the domain, and the path.
Path: The precise location of a resource inside a domain is indicated by a path. A path is the portion of the URL that follows after the domain and identifies the particular resource being visited in the context of API documentation. For instance, the path in the URL https://api.myexample.com/users indicates that we are accessing the resource for users.
Endpoint: A server’s endpoint is a specified place from which users may access resources. An endpoint in the context of API documentation is the union of the base URL and the path. The endpoint for the myexample API, for getting user information, is https://api.myexample.com/users.
Resource: In the context of API documentation, a resource refers to the information or features that may be accessed by using the API. The data or user-related functionality that may be accessible using the “myexample” API serves as the resource in the aforementioned example.
Now that you have a fair idea of path, endpoint, and resource. Let’s discuss the fundamental components of a URL in details.
Fundamental components of a URL
A URL is made up of the protocol, the domain name, and the path.
- The protocol: The protocol is the first part of the URL, and it specifies the method that is used to access the resource. Common protocols include HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (HTTP Secure). For example, when you see “http” or “https” at the beginning of a web address, you know which protocol is being used to access the website.
- The domain name: The domain name is the second part of the URL, and it specifies the server that hosts the resource. The domain name is typically the name of the website, such as “google.com” or “twitter.com”.
- The path: The path is the third part of the URL that follows the domain name, and it specifies the specific resource that is being accessed. For example, in the URL https://www.example.com/products/widgets, the path is “/products/widgets”.
How to document URLs?
Now, let’s take a closer look at how this basic structure can be used in API documentation. In API documentation, the protocol is typically set to “https” to ensure a secure connection. The domain is the base URL of the API and specifies where the API is located. For example, https://api.myexample.com is the base URL for the myexample API.
The path is where things get interesting. In API documentation, the path is used to specify the specific endpoint or resource that is being accessed by the browser. For example, https://api.myexample.com/users specifies the endpoint for accessing user information.
But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the basic structure, URLs can also include query parameters. Query parameters are key-value pairs that are appended at the end of the URL and are used to specify additional information about the resource being accessed by the browser. Query parameters are separated from the rest of the URL by a question mark (?), and multiple query parameters are separated by an ampersand (&).
For example, in the URL https://www.myexample.com/search?q=widgets&sort=price, the query parameters are “q=widgets” and “sort=price”.
Not only that, some APIs use a version number in the path to keep track of changes to the API. For example, https://api.myexample.com/v1/users specifies that the endpoint is for version 1 of the “example” API.
Now, let’s bring it all together with an example. Imagine you’re a developer working on an e-commerce website. You need to retrieve a list of products from the website’s database. To do this, you would use the website’s API, which has the base URL https://api.myexample.com. The path for the products endpoint is /products, so the full endpoint is https://api.myexample.com/products. By using this endpoint and appropriate query parameters, you can retrieve the list of products and display it on the website.
Another scenario, imagine you’re a marketer who needs to track how many times a specific product is searched on your website. You would use the website’s API and add a query parameter q which will be the product name. And the endpoint URL would look like https://api.myexample.com/search?q=
URLs play an important role in API documentation by providing a clear and consistent way to access and specify resources. Understanding the basic structure and components of a URL, along with concepts such as path, endpoint, and resource can make it easier to understand and use APIs. Next time you’re working with an API, take a closer look at the URL and see if you can identify the protocol, domain, path, and query parameters. And who knows, you may just stumble upon a new way to utilize the data and functionality provided by the API.
Enjoyed reading? Let me know your thoughts in comments