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Practical APIs for your next tech exploration

Dom Habersack
Dom HabersackMay 5, 2021

When learning new technologies, some learn best by building practical projects with them. The official documentation might have you build yet another to-do application. Instead of following the tutorial, put a twist on it and build something more useful and fun.

For that, we can use one of the many APIs provided by others. By hooking up to those sources, we gain instant access to content to build our applications on.

As much as I love the Dog API, it has limited practical application. There are only so many things you can do with pictures of cute dogs. Some interesting APIs, like the one for GoodReads or GitHub Jobs, are being shut down. Among the many others that are out there, these three seem most useful.


The Hacker News API

The community over on Hacker News can be negative at times, and their site isn’t very pretty. Using their API, we can change at least one of these aspects. The API is free to use, allowing us to write our own interface for it. Put it in an app, try your hand with Vue and Tailwind, or analyze it and surface trends.

Maybe don’t include the comments, though.

Hacker News API


One of the many NASA APIs

What better way to fight the anxiety of being stuck at home than to explore space? NASA makes their APIs available for free, with a generous limit of 1000 requests per hour. Build a tool that sends your resignation when an asteroid is headed straight for Earth. Train an algorithm on pictures taken by the rovers cruising around Mars. The sky’s the limit, or is it?

NASA APIs


The iTunes Search API

You might not know that iTunes powers the search behind the majority of podcast apps. While providers like Spotify build own registries, iTunes still holds the main feed. You can get names, categories, artwork, episode information, and more from it. If a full podcast app is too much, an app to favorite and share episodes could be fun.

iTunes Search API


Looking at these, I get serious side project vibes. Now that I’m comfortable with Next.js, it powers all my projects. With each new addition to my list, I want to try something new with it. A better version of Hacker News could be a fun addition.

If you’re curious about Next.js, I am currently writing a guest post about it for a pretty well-known site. It still needs to go through the review process, so it won’t be out for a few weeks. I’ll share a link once they publish it. If you want to get started before then and need a hand, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Send me a message and I’ll take a look at your projects!

– Dom

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