How Mainstream Users Are Asking for APIs

Adam DuVander, December 16th, 2013

As the number of APIs grows, more people are becoming familiar with the term. I had a taxi driver who knew about APIs, although that was in tech-heavy San Francisco. Despite becoming more known, “API” is not a term most mainstream users will use. Yet many of these same people are already asking for APIs—they’re just not using the term. Here are three ways mainstream users are asking for APIs.

Twitter Pulls Instagram’s API Access

TwitterIt used to be that Instagram users could find people to follow by discovering who they follow on Twitter who also have an Instagram account. It’s a fairly basic API use case, but it’s also one that was used amazingly well in the early days of Pinterest as it built atop the Facebook graph. Twitter did not want to provide the same service to Instagram once it was part of Facebook.

Twitter find friends API for Instagram

By removing Instagram’s access to the Twitter API, Twitter was essentially removing a feature from within the popular photo sharing app. Instagram users, by that point more mainstream than the technorati, were furious. What followed became the largest, loudest demand for an API the web has ever seen, all without anyone actually saying “API.”

Freshbooks Finds What Makes Free Accounts Convert

FreshBooksFreshbooks is a cloud-based accounting software. Like many SaaS products, Freshbooks has a tiered service that includes a free version. A few years ago, Freshbooks looked at the numbers and discovered tremendous ROI for its Freshbooks API.

“We find that if our customers use any single integration, they are three times as likely to convert to paid.”

In other words, Freshbooks users were willing to pay actual money for an API . They didn’t ask directly or use the term API. But they connected apps and integrations to their account, which encouraged them to convert to paid accounts. Integrations, of course, are enabled by APIs.

The Coming Expectation of Connected Data

FitbitThere are already a number of devices making up the Internet of Things trend. We’re wearing bracelets to track fitness, stand on scales that store our weight in the cloud and many more are coming. Some of these already work together. In a not-too-distant future, mainstream users will expect every connected thing to work together. It will take APIs to make that happen.

Three Ways To Demand APIs Without Saying API

These are just three examples of what will no doubt become a more common request for integrations. Modern web and mobile app users expect to have their lives connected. Even though they may not use the term directly, APIs are the technology that will make it happen.

Adam DuVander is Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and Contributing Editor of ProgrammableWeb. Previously he edited this site and wrote for Wired. You can follow him on Twitter.

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