Tips for Providing a Web API

John Musser, August 23rd, 2006

SourceLabsAlex Bosworth over at Source Labs (and creator of the great open source resource SWiK) writes consistently good posts and Monday’s was no exception: How to Provide a Web API. In it he addresses the question of “What are a few simple rules for providing a web API?” with these five points:

  1. Keep it clean and simple
  2. Stick to standards
  3. Make it about data
  4. Keep it working
  5. Design for updates

I completely agree with that list and might also add: a) provide examples, and b) document and support it. Neither of these need to be super extensive/expensive, just enough to get things kick-started (docs/examples) and help support the developer community as it grows.

This reminds me of Nat Torkington’s excellent post awhile back on How To Roll Out An Open API. He makes a good case that providers should: Make signup simple, offer toolkits for the languages that Internet developers use, and think laterally about business models. Recommended reading.

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5 Responses to “Tips for Providing a Web API”

August 23rd, 2006
at 8:15 am
Comment by: Doug Karr

I would also highly recommend supporting any API with a developer website, with forums, example code, feedback, etc.

More important than the actual technology is getting it to work for you. Only 20% of development is writing code, the other 80% is figuring out how.


August 23rd, 2006
at 8:16 am
Comment by: .: blogging augusto :.

Web Services: Gestaltung der API

Kern des Web2.0 sind unter anderem Web Services welche über eine sogenannte API von anderen Diensten genutzt werden können. Da es unzählige Möglichkeiten gibt solche Schnittstellen zu beschreiben und umzusetzen macht es Sinn einen kleinen Überblick

August 26th, 2006
at 11:12 am
Comment by: Mashups, Web Services and APIs at Tieme’s Log

[...] You can find lots of other interesting APIs at programmable web, a directory for mashups and APIs (API list at And also some tips when creating your own web api. [...]

September 1st, 2006
at 11:37 am
Comment by: Brian

“Keep it clean and simple” = Keep it obvious

January 24th, 2008
at 12:53 pm
Comment by: Sebastian Bauer (IT-Blog) » Web Services: Gestaltung der API

[...] ProgrammableWeb) Windows Vista: unnötige Dienste [...]

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