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APIs

Summary

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are standard JavaScript objects that perform a variety of tasks. They encapsulate objects, methods, properties, and events that you can use to build applications that will work across different browsers.

Background

APIs came into popularity on the Web a number of years ago, when open standards creators and web property developers realised it was a really good idea to make their data, services and technologies easily query-able and reusable via simple interfaces consisting of standard JavaScript objects. These days you'll find many examples of APIs available and in use all over the Web, for example:

Many libraries include API functionality, so you don't have to use the raw API. For APIs like XHR and Web Socket, you would use the API through a library like jQuery rather than spin up your own HTTP request or build in your own socket layer.

Note: If you are completely new to web development, you may want to review Web development for beginners.

Most of the APIs, however, are designed to be used right in your own code. Below are listed all of the APIs currently documented here.

List of all APIs

API Name Summary
Ambient Light API The Ambient Light API defines events that provide information about the ambient light level, as measured by a device's light sensor.
appcache In order to enable users to continue interacting with Web applications and documents even when their network connection is unavailable — for instance, because they are traveling outside of their ISP's coverage area — authors can provide a manifest which lists the files that are needed for the Web application to work offline and which causes the user's browser to keep a copy of the files for use offline.
audio-video HTML5 audio-video elements used for enhancing the Web page experience with audio backgrounds, music, videos, presentations, etc. Also see "Related articles" below.
Battery Status API Provides information about the battery status of the hosting device.
canvas Allows applications to render pixel-based graphics within a canvas element using a two-dimensional graphics context.
CSS Regions API Programmatic interface to content that flows through a series of chained region elements.
Device Orientation API The Device Orientation API defines several new DOM events which provide information about the physical orientation and motion of a hosting device.
file The File API allows a developer to use javascript to access the contents and local path of a file uploaded from the input file widget. This enables the developer to build a javascript frontend that allows the website to show a preview of the file uploaded. By using the File API, the developer can also enable a user to upload files via drag-and-drop. Prior to the File API, functionalities like these can only be accomplished via Flash or other plugins.
File System API The File System API simulates a local file system that web apps can navigate around. You can develop apps that can read, write, and create files and directories in a virtual, sandboxed file system. The asynchronous API methods return without blocking the calling thread. The asynchronous API doesn't give you data by returning values; instead, you have to pass a callback function. The synchronous API is intended to be used with WebWorkers.
gamepad The Gamepad specification defines a low-level interface that represents gamepad devices.
Geolocation API The geolocation API lets you share your location with trusted web sites. The latitude and longitude are available to JavaScript on the page, which in turn can send it back to the remote web server and do fancy location-aware things like finding local businesses or showing your location on a map.
Mediastream Image Capture Allows users to take a photo via Javascript.
IndexedDB reference IndexedDB is a client side storage API that persists data in a user's browser. It is a transactional, non-relational storage mechanism that saves key-value pairs in Object Stores and allows searching data using indexes.
Media Capture and Streams Enables access to local devices (video cameras, microphones, Web cams) that can generate multimedia stream data (video, audio, or both).
MediaStream Recording Allows users to record camera/microphone's streams
Media Source Extensions Provides a buffer based source for HTML5 Video elements to enable media streams for playback, for features like adaptive streaming and shifting live streams.
navigation timing An interface for web applications to access timing information related to navigation and elements.
Network Information API Provides an interface for web applications to access the underlying connection information of the device.
Pointer Lock API The Pointer Lock API provides scripted access to raw mouse movement data while locking the target of mouse events to a single element and removing the cursor from view. This is an essential input mode for certain classes of applications, especially first person perspective 3D applications and 3D modelling software.
quota management Manages usage and availability of local storage resources, and defines a means by which a user agent may grant Web applications permission to use more local space, temporarily or persistently, via various storage APIs.
resource timing An interface for web applications to access the complete timing information for resources in a document.
Screen Orientation API The Screen Orientation API provides the ability to read the screen orientation state, to be informed when this state changes, and to be able to lock the screen orientation to a specific state.
Storage The Storage APIs provide developers with JavaScript objects for storing temporary and permanent data on the client's device. These features range from simple key/value storage to a robust sandboxed filesystem.
user timing This API defines an interface to help web developers measure the performance of their applications by giving them access to high precision timestamps.
Vibration API The Vibration API provides access to the vibration mechanism of the hosting device. Vibration is a form of tactile feedback, often used by mobile phones.
web-messaging API This API defines mechanisms for communicating between browsing contexts in HTML documents.
web-storage API The Web Storage API provides objects for storing temporary (sessionStorage) and permanent (localStorage) data on the client's device.
Web Audio API Describes a high-level JavaScript API for processing and synthesizing audio in web applications.
WebRTC API Enables real-time communication across the web.
websocket API WebSocket is a JavaScript API and accompanying protocol that allows you to create "web sockets", capable of bi-directional full-duplex communication over a persistent TCP connection (socket).
workers API Workers (also commonly referred to as Web Workers) are scripts that run in the background independently of any user interface scripts. This allows for long-running scripts that are not interrupted by scripts that respond to clicks or other user interactions, and allows long tasks to be executed without yielding to keep the page responsive.
XMLHttpRequest (XHR) API XMLHttpRequest (XHR) is a Javascript object that is used to send HTTP or HTTPS requests directly to a web server and load the server response data directly back into the script.



Contributing to the API documentation

See the API Project page for a description of the work being performed to develop the API reference. See Creating API pages to learn how to document an API.

Contributing to the HTML technology

To contribute to the development of APIs and provide feedback, you need to know where the specification and/or source code is kept. For example, you can find out how to comment on the HTML5 APIs by consulting the W3C HTML home page, or suggest fixes to Modernizr via the Modernizr Github repo.