An application, often shortened to app, is a program or set of programs that allows end users to perform particular functions. For example, e-commerce companies provide applications to customers to facilitate purchases and service.
The terms software, program, and application are often used together or interchangeably. While these terms are related, they are not the same thing.
A program is a set of instructions that tells a computer what to do. Programs are written in various programming languages, such as Python, PHP, Java, and many others. Software refers to the programs used by a computer; the term is used to describe the workings of a computer that are not hardware or firmware. Applications rely on systems software—programs that interact with the computer—because they can’t run on their own.
An application is also a type of software, and in fact, is sometimes called application software. Like other software, an application is made of a program, or set of programs, but not every type of software or program is an application.
What makes an application unique is that it’s designed to interact with the end user of the computer or device; it helps the user perform certain tasks. Because applications are built for users, they have a graphical user interface—where the user interacts with the application.
The term app is more commonly used when referring to a mobile application on a smartphone or tablet while application is used more often when describing desktop applications. However, these terms can be used interchangeably. The common thread is they are designed for user interaction.
A further distinction between types of applications is the difference between a mobile application and a web application. A mobile application is designed to be installed and used on a mobile device. In contrast, a web application is stored on a remote server and accessed through an internet browser. While web applications won’t work without internet access, mobile applications can work without an internet connection because they rely on the resources of the mobile device system that they are installed on.
A third type of application is the software-as-a-service, or SaaS application. This type of app can be mobile- or web-based, but store user data in the cloud. What sets SaaS applications apart is that most of them charge a subscription fee to use the application and its cloud environment. Well-known examples of SaaS applications include Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365, and Netflix.
When businesses and developers want to add communications capabilities to their applications, they often turn to Twilio. Twilio provides numerous application programming interfaces (APIs) that software developers can use to add communications capabilities like voice, video, chat, authentication, and messaging to their applications.
An API is a set of rules that lets programs talk to each other, exposing data and functionality across the internet in a consistent format. With Twilio APIs, developers can grab the tools they need to give applications the power to exchange messages of any variety, with minimal development effort.
Using web languages they already know, developers use Twilio APIs to route communications to the right person (and even thing), over the preferred communication channel. This enables businesses to create communications experiences that were previously not possible and provide the right experiences for their customers faster.