What does it mean 'to release an API' or 'Apply our API' exactly?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that an API is a website or a section of a website that grabs information from a different website and displays it. Like for example, having a small section of my website show the weather in your local area is an API (as the weather info is grabbed from BBC weather for example)

So when I came across this phrase (in the Open AI website, which is me exploring things that are completely out of my depth) I was confused:

Could someone help me understand exactly what they mean?

Do they mean they are releasing some lines of code / they’re giving away their technology? Or do they mean that they are releasing a small block of code (the API, but not the lines of code that are the actual breakthrough tech which I imagine they would not share) that you can use which enables you to send them some query to their server (such as a phrase you want to autocomplete), their server processes the data and spits out the autocompleted phrase, and then sends it back to you?

I’ve also heard an API is like a waiter. So they are releasing their ‘waiter’ so that I can use it to fetch info from their website/from their technology. Without this release I would not be able to use their technology. I think I’m answering my own question here, please tell me if what I’m saying is absurd and I’m not even close

API stands for “Application Programming Interface”, so it usually represents some program that can be interacted with from another program. Its a rather vague term that is applied to a lot of things.

I think the key understanding is the “interface” part, as this interface could be really anything. Usually, in regards to modern API’s advertised online, you are looking at a JSON powered REST endpoint(s) that return JSON objects. Or even something like a music streaming API, can send you bytes of music over the internet to your app. The main principle of an API is that the interface is defined so both sides can know how to communicate, or “interface” with each other.

In the given example, OpenAI provides a waitlist to gain access to their API. Their API will probably represent some sort of internal AI program that you can interact with. So say you write a simple script that takes text in from an end-user, and sends it to OpenAI’s API, to have an AI powered conversation that is powered by whatever OpenAI uses, that is “piped along” through the internet from your application you wrote.

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