5,000 APIs: Facebook, Google and Twitter Are Changing the Web

Adam DuVander, February 6th, 2012

Our API directory has hit another major milestone. We now list 5,000 APIs, just a short four months since passing 4,000. No longer is the web simply about links connecting one site to another. Instead, developers are using tools to connect data and functionality from one site to another site. It’s an incredible transformation that has happened over a very short period of time. APIs are at the heart of Google’s strategy and they led directly to the growth enjoyed by Twitter and Facebook.

eBayWhile the above graph begins with our directory in 2005, the first web API came in 2000 with the launch of the eBay API. It helps sellers list and re-list items, in addition to a number of other features that users usually perform manually at eBay’s site. With an API, other companies can build tools to help automate or improve a site’s own features. Several companies have built their entire product lines on top of the auction giant’s APIs, including one eBay tool provider with an API of its own.

Google, Twitter and Facebook Lead the Way

Google PlusGoogle is already a major player on the web, so it’s no surprise that it is also big in the API world. Its Google Maps API helped start an API mashup movement and it’s continued to add new services. We currently list 96 Google APIs, including the Google Plus API. The search giant’s new social network will lean on that API to see the distribution across the web that needs to happen in order for it to be successful.

TwitterTwitter’s growth can be attributed to the Twitter API, which allowed the company to be on every mobile platform before it had an internal team building mobile apps. External developers combined their programming skills with Twitter’s API to create these new ways for users to access Twitter. The official iPhone application started as a solo developer’s project.

Even Twitter’s search engine was built on Twitter’s API. Originally called Summize, it was Twitter’s first acquisition way back in 2008. The product, which was better than anything built internally at Twitter, is also available via the Twitter Search API. It’s actually become quite common for an API to be built upon Twitter’s APIs, which at first seems like a self-referential phenomenon. The truth is actually more altruistic: because Twitter is providing value created within its platform, those who create additional valuable insights from Twitter aim to also make it available to others for the trend to continue. Two prime examples are the influencer-spotting Klout API and real-time searching Topsy API.

The trend to create new APIs from Twitter is so strong that we’ve called it Twitter’s other developer ecosystem and now list over 100 Twitter-derived APIs.

FacebookFacebook was a much smaller site when it first released the Facebook Platform in 2007. The service let developers include their applications within Facebook itself and offered details about an authenticated users’ friends. It’s the foundation which spring-boarded social games company Zynga, which raised $1 billion in a recent IPO.

In 2010, Facebook made an even bigger API move, launching its Facebook Graph API to supply applications with all of the data within Facebook, as long as users have provided permission to a particular application. Now, rather than the web coming to Facebook, Facebook is going to the web. It’s a fundamental shift where our friendships, likes and actions on Facebook can influence what we see on other sites.

Every Company Will Have APIs

MasterCard ATM LocationsThink back to the web of 1995. There were plenty of companies without websites. Very quickly, all these companies realized they needed to have a website to compete. We have seen the same thing with social media and that is the way APIs are headed. A number of big companies added APIs in 2011, including all three major U.S. credit card companies.

For a handful of forward-thinking companies, one API is hardly enough. Below is a sampling of the companies we’ve tracked and the number of APIs each provides.

Company APIs Most Popular
Twitter 3 + 101 Twitter API
Google 96 Google Maps API
Yahoo 51 Flickr API
XIgnite 43 XIgnite Realtime Stock Quotes API
Microsoft 33 Microsoft Bing Maps
AOL 30 MapQuest API
Amazon 23 Amazon Product Advertising API
Orange 19 Orange Location
eBay 18 eBay API
Ericsson 16 Ericsson Web Maps
New York Times 14 New York Times Article Search
Yandex 10 Yandex Search API
AT&T 9 US Yellow Pages API
Salesforce.com 8 Salesforce.com CRM API
USA Today 8 USA Today News API
Facebook 8 Facebook API
Rackspace 6 RackSpace Cloud Servers API
Telenor 6 Telenor Payment
InfoChimps 5 InfoChimps Twitter
Deutsche Telekom 5 Deutsche Telekom Send SMS API
SingTel 5 SingTel Messaging API
T-Mobile 5 Developer Garden API
Telefonica 5 BlueVia Location API
Pearson 3 Longman Dictionary API
Vodafone 3 Vodafone Geolocation
Verizon 2 Verizon NavBuilder LocationKit

Trends from the Last 1,000 APIs: Government, Internet, Social

NYC Open DataSan Francisco Ethics Commission LobbyistThe most popular API category from the last 1,000 APIs is government. In total, we list 231 government APIs and nearly half of them have been added in the last four months. Many looked to 2009 and 2010 as the years of government’s embracing transparency. That was true in terms of opening up many gigabytes of data. However, it appears 2011 and 2012 are the years where that data becomes easily consumable in bite-size chunks, something that APIs make much easier than Excel files.

Some governments have lead the way. New York City’s annual Big Apps contest added an API in 2011. The NYC Open Data API gives programmatic access to over 750 public datasets. We’ve also seen a lot of growth from governments around the world, thanks to Socrata and CKAN, platforms that make it easy to expose data.

Some government APIs are getting very specific. For example, the San Francisco Ethics Commission Lobbyist API is part of a law requiring transparency of lobbyist disclosure statements. We called it the first ethics API.

In addition to the surge of government APIs, we also saw continued interest in some of the usual categories. We now list 500 Internet APIs, which includes many cloud and platform-as-a-service APIs. For example, there are 7 Amazon Internet APIs, including the popular Amazon EC2, which probably runs many APIs itself.

The third most common category in the last 1,000 APIs is social. We saw an enormous growth of social APIs, with over 35% of the nearly 600 social APIs added in 2011 alone.

API Territory: Still the Wild West

It’s important to remember that this API thing is still quite new. The leaders aren’t working from well-worn maps. They’re creating their own paths. Like the Wild West, there’s an “anything goes” approach that is bound to come under scrutiny as APIs go mainstream. Many, some even advanced developer-types, will likely call for more standardization. The chaos of an ever-expanding API universe will lead some to search for order. And a bit of order is probably needed.

But it’s a lack of order that has been one of the drivers of API growth. REST is a method for accessing APIs, often over HTTP, so many APIs can be explored in a web browser, similar to visiting websites. Though few can agree on what makes something “true REST” (a 2000 paper by Roy Fielding does spell out the criteria), the simplification inherent in REST has helped make it easier for providers to implement APIs and easier for developers to consume them.

By contrast, SOAP APIs are far more ordered: methods are spelled out and made available in a machine-documented manner. Yet, with this order comes overhead. SOAP is still popular in enterprises, where company have tools that make creating and consuming the APIs easy. However, we have seen the number of SOAP APIs shrink year after year. Developers gravitate to the lower barrier of a REST API.

Where Do We Go From Here?

All signs point to hitting a couple more 1,000 API milestones this year. If every company is going to have APIs, there are still a whole bunch more on the way. Google, Twitter and Facebook are helping lead the way to an API-filled future. Amazon, eBay and Best Buy are showing us how to make money with APIs. Further, once commerce APIs get more traction, expect an onslaught of APIs that allow purchases to happen right within the APIs.

For further analysis of API milestones, see our coverage of 4,000, 3,000 and 1,000 APIs.

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47 Responses to “5,000 APIs: Facebook, Google and Twitter Are Changing the Web”

February 6th, 2012
at 1:55 am
Comment by: 5000 APIs: Facebook, Google and Twitter Are Changing the Web | Infos Press

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February 6th, 2012
at 4:37 pm
Comment by: ProgrammableWeb predicts that ‘Every Company Will Have APIs’ « Go Digital Apps

[...] has been tracking web APIs since 2005, and that’s a long time in Internet years. Today, the site announced that it has crossed the 5,000 API mark in its directory, covering everything from Twitter to [...]

February 6th, 2012
at 5:00 pm
Comment by: 101 Best Twitter Apps Blog » Blog Archive » 5000 APIs: Facebook, Google and Twitter Are Changing the Web – ProgrammableWeb (blog)

[...] 5000 APIs: Facebook, Google and Twitter Are Changing the WebProgrammableWeb (blog)Instead, developers are using tools to connect data and functionality from one site to another site. It's an incredible transformation that has happened over a very short period of time. APIs are at the heart of Google's strategy and they led directly … [...]

February 6th, 2012
at 7:01 pm
Comment by: ProgrammableWeb predicts that ‘Every Company Will Have APIs’ | Get Cash For Your iPhone Sell My iPhone

[...] has been tracking web APIs since 2005, and that’s a long time in Internet years. Today, the site announced that it has crossed the 5,000 API mark in its directory, covering everything from Twitter to [...]

February 6th, 2012
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Comment by: Will Every Company Have an API In The Future? – WollyTech

[...] been tracking web APIs since 2005, and that’s a long time in Internet years. Today, the site announced that it has crossed the 5,000 API mark in its directory, covering everything from Twitter to [...]

February 7th, 2012
at 10:46 am
Comment by: ProgrammableWeb predicts that ‘Every Company Will Have APIs’ | Digital Gadget dan Selular

[...] has been tracking web APIs since 2005, and that’s a long time in Internet years. Today, the site announced that it has crossed the 5,000 API mark in its directory, covering everything from Twitter to [...]

February 8th, 2012
at 6:58 am
Comment by: 全球API数量高速增长,API数据跟踪公司预测未来每一家公司都会开放API | 36氪

[...] 浏览 →首页快报创业公司信息图评论推荐36氪开放日 leo 发表于 下午 10:44/*0){$('#t_sina_btn').html('');$('#author_weibo').html('');$('#weibo_cmtbox').html('');}});/*]]>*/ 发表评论全球API数量高速增长,API数据跟踪公司预测未来每一家公司都会开放APIProgrammableWeb这个网站从2005年开始跟踪全球的网络API,到目前已经有七年的跟踪数据。今天,该网站宣布在其跟踪数据库里已经有超过5000个API,其中包括Twitter到政府的API都有。该网站在其报道中写道:我们的API目录到达一个新的里程碑。目前目录已记录了5000个API,从4000到5000只用了四个月的时间。这不再像一个网页链接到另一个网页那样简单,相反,开发者们正在使用工具来连接链接两个网站的数据和功能。在短短的时间内就产生了如此大的改变,确实让人难以置信。API已经成为了Google战略的中心,同时Twitter和Facebook也为API的增长带来了突出的贡献。API(Application Programming Interface),又称应用程序接口,就是软件系统不同组成部分衔接的约定。由于近年来软件的规模日益庞大,常常会需要把复杂的系统划分成小的组成部分,编程接口的设计十分重要。如果你有一家公司,特别是做社交产品的公司的话,那么开放API将是推广你的产品最好的方式。Twitter就是最好的例子,而且目前几乎所有的互联网服务,都已开放API。下面是今年一月份统计的一张十亿级API俱乐部的组成,从中可以看出,API在公司的地位已经越来越重要。 而下面这张是ProgrammableWeb统计的API增长图。从途中可以看出,在2006年之后,API就开始实现快速增长。尤其在2010年以后,这种趋势更加明显。现在,API已经成为了互联网公司产品战略的一部分,曾有专家称“API将是每个公司必有的产品”。不仅是公司,甚至连美国的政府机构和城市都加入了开放API的潮流之中。ProgrammableWeb报道中还写道:去年最受欢迎的API分类是政府机构。我们统计了231个政府API,其中接近半数都是在前四个月添加的。毫无疑问,未来API将在互联网中占据重要地位。尤其是在移动互联网中,无数的应用、网站、数据都将通过API传播。因此,开放API已经是不可阻挡的趋势。毕竟:开放,才能拥抱世界! [...]

February 8th, 2012
at 7:49 pm
Comment by: ProgrammableWeb: Page Not Found

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February 9th, 2012
at 10:43 pm
Comment by: mbt pris

When someone asks me how to compare these three networks, I always say we’ll know soon…but not yet. Each has given some indication that they have a lot of changes planned for the near future

February 10th, 2012
at 11:22 am
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | TechCrunch

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February 10th, 2012
at 11:28 am
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Diseño web económico

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 11:44 am
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Kantier

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 11:55 am
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Arizona Technology Investor Forum

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 12:38 pm
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Emmashare

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 3:20 pm
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Startup Help

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 4:33 pm
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | PRO-BTC

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 6:46 pm
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Krantenkoppen Tech

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 10th, 2012
at 6:51 pm
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | Bitmag

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 11th, 2012
at 7:01 am
Comment by: 2011 API Trends: Government APIs Quintuple; Facebook, Google, Twitter Most Popular | jvceverio.org

[...] directory of APIs and mashups, ProgrammableWeb, just hit a big milestone this week: 5,000 APIs listed. The site has a long history of tracking the API landscape, starting [...]

February 11th, 2012
at 12:01 pm
Comment by: Open APIs for eCommerce – Should I have one ? | techsaar

[...] eCommerce revenue comes through APIs globally, the fact that there are around 5000 APIs listed on  Programmabe Web indicates the rise and rise of [...]

February 13th, 2012
at 12:01 am
Comment by: The Object Network: Making Mashups Easy

[...] may have seen the statistics and chart on this site showing that the number of APIs is taking off like crazy. There is clearly an enormous and increasing demand for data. This is undoubtedly a buzzing and [...]

February 14th, 2012
at 11:24 am
Comment by: Three Ways to Think About API Design

[...] don’t need to see 5,000 APIs to know some are better than others. One of the reasons is the attention the API providers have [...]

February 14th, 2012
at 4:18 pm
Comment by: El crecimiento imparable de las APIs: fundamentales en el desarrollo de webs y aplicaciones móviles actualmente

[...] | Programmable web Más información | Directorio de APIs Programmable Web me gusta 1 Para votar identifícate o [...]

February 15th, 2012
at 11:58 pm
Comment by: ProgrammableWeb prédit que toute société aura son API | Le blog des nouvelles technologies : Web, Technologies, Développement, Interopérabilité

[...] dans le domaine de l’Internet. Il y a quelques jours, le site a annoncé qu’il a franchi la barre de 5000 API enregistrées dans sa base de données, allant de Twitter aux sites [...]

February 17th, 2012
at 8:23 am
Comment by: Google Docs + Podio: The Connected Office

[...] ProgrammableWeb, we have been using Podio for several months to keep up with the rapid API growth on our geographically distributed team. We’re also pretty addicted to Google Docs, so I [...]

February 17th, 2012
at 3:37 pm
Comment by: Google Docs + Podio: The Connected Office | My Blog

[...] ProgrammableWeb, we have been regulating Podio for several months to keep adult with a rapid API growth on a geographically distributed team. We’re also flattering dependant to Google Docs, so we [...]

February 23rd, 2012
at 1:49 pm
Comment by: Brand API: Your Next Killer App?

[...] creating APIs (services). Right now we see API growth on its steepest upward trend yet—with the leading web API directory recently posting a count of 5,000 identified open APIs—just four months after breaking [...]

February 25th, 2012
at 8:41 am
Comment by: The road ahead, from Noelios to Restlet « Official Restlet blog

[...] few days ago, the ProgrammableWeb directory announced that the bar of 5 000 registered APIs had been reached, with an astounding growth [...]

February 27th, 2012
at 12:01 am
Comment by: Great API Documentation Seen As Key To API Success

[...] list over 5000+ APIs now in our directory. The stakes for API Provider are much higher and one of the challenges that [...]

March 10th, 2012
at 7:03 am
Comment by: Michael Kearney

Is there a place I can go to get the data underlying the graph above? Total API counts by month would be ideal.

March 14th, 2012
at 12:16 pm
Comment by: Adam DuVander

Thanks for the interest, Michael. We hope to add this to the next version of our API, but at the moment it is not available in an automated fashion.

March 19th, 2012
at 5:12 pm
Comment by: Website Extension Paradigms – Commenting Systems « transformative paradigms

[...] trend has emerged in recent years and is growing rapidly with the explosion of websites offering API support (Click to learn more about API).  This opens the door for innovation in business model by [...]

March 22nd, 2012
at 2:07 pm
Comment by: Andy Thurai on, “the API – You can’t Live Without It” | Security Gateways@Intel

[...]  75% twitter traffic is API based. According to Programmable Web there are at least 5000+ APIs (http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/02/06/5000-apis-facebook-google-and-twitter-are-changing-the-we...) and the pace is growing. Programmable Web has a neat tool where you can search all the publicly [...]

March 22nd, 2012
at 2:11 pm
Comment by: Andy Thurai on, “the API – You can’t Live Without It” « Intel XML Gateway – SOA Expressway Blog

[...]  75% twitter traffic is API based. According to Programmable Web there are at least 5000+ APIs (http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/02/06/5000-apis-facebook-google-and-twitter-are-changing-the-we...) and the pace is growing. Programmable Web has a neat tool where you can search all the publicly [...]

March 22nd, 2012
at 3:36 pm
Comment by: API – You Can’t Live Without It « SOA, Cloud, Identity & Security Blog

[...]  75% twitter traffic is API based. According to Programmable Web there are at least 5000+ APIs (http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/02/06/5000-apis-facebook-google-and-twitter-are-changing-the-we...) and the pace is growing. Programmable Web has a neat tool where you can search all the publicly [...]

March 27th, 2012
at 7:31 pm
Comment by: API (on)Star in vehicle mobility « Technology and all that

[...] DuVander, A. (2012). 5,000 API’s: Facebook, Google and Twitter are changing the web [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.programmableweb.com/2012/02/06/5000-apis-facebook-google-and-twitter-are-changing-the-we… [...]

May 6th, 2012
at 9:38 pm
Comment by: It’s the API, Stupid! How to Crowdsource Your App Ecosystem

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May 22nd, 2012
at 12:01 am
Comment by: 6,000 APIs: It’s Business, It’s Social and It’s Happening Quickly

[...] were added in the shortest time ever. It was just over three months ago that we reached the 5,000 API milestone. What’s new? The trends are actually getting harder to spot, like trying to explain the [...]

June 11th, 2012
at 6:23 am
Comment by: Joel Bondorowsky

For anyone looking for website data, http://dev.similarsites.com offers an API into the data offered on SimilarSites.com. With it, you can send a site, and receive its tags, categories, adult site classification, and suggestions for other similar websites.

July 10th, 2012
at 12:09 pm
Comment by: Your Neighborhood Drug Store Has an API, Why Don’t You?

[...] don’t believe every company will have APIs? Drug store Walgreens is a 100 year-old company that is a common street-corner sight in US cities. [...]

September 5th, 2012
at 10:49 am
Comment by: Srikanth Nutigattu

For everything else there is http://apify.heroku.com/resources :)

September 28th, 2012
at 5:51 pm
Comment by: 全球API数量高速增长,API数据跟踪公司预测未来每一家公司都会开放API | HTML5工作室

[...] ProgrammableWeb这个网站从2005年开始跟踪全球的网络API,到目前已经有七年的跟踪数据。今天,该网站宣布在其跟踪数据库里已经有超过5000个API,其中包括Twitter到政府的API都有。 [...]

October 2nd, 2012
at 5:01 am
Comment by: Open Government Platform Aims at Businesses

[...] sort of self service API creation will help bring about our prediction that every company will have an API and maybe more than one. Related ProgrammableWeb ResourcesLearn more Socrata Open Data API [...]

October 2nd, 2012
at 2:19 pm
Comment by: Capital One Charges Into Developer Territory With Beta APIs

[...] like Capital One are following in the footsteps of startups. It’s another step toward every company having an API. Related ProgrammableWeb ResourcesLearn more Capital One API [...]

October 19th, 2012
at 5:54 am
Comment by: Tres pasos para triunfar en la “economía API” | InformationWeek México

[...] que eBay presentó en 2001 la primera interfaz de programación de aplicaciones (API, por sus siglas en inglés) basada en el [...]

November 30th, 2012
at 3:09 pm
Comment by: Programmier-Crashkurs für Journalisten - UNIVERSALCODE

[...] können Daten von Maschine zu Maschine ausgelesen und dann weiterverarbeitet werden. Es existieren mehrere Tausend solcher Web APIs im Netz. Es gibt APIs von sozialen Netzwerken wie Twitter oder Facebook über APIs von Städten wie Leipzig [...]

December 4th, 2012
at 11:41 am
Comment by: Reinventing Government with Open Data Is No Joke

[...] on other sites, often without realizing they’re interacting with the service via APIs. In a recent article in Programmable Web, Adam Duvander predicts that every company will have an API. This prediction is supported by the [...]

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John Musser
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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.