The ProgrammableWeb directory marches toward quintuple digits. Having just passed 9,000 APIs, the next milestone ahead looks even bigger. Of course, all the recent milestones look huge compared to the directory at the end of 2005, when it sat at just 105 APIs. In addition to continuing the rise of the enterprise, the latest APIs show mobile as a driving force. At least two previously locked-down categories, payments and messaging, are now being changed by APIs.
Enterprises rarely move as quickly as the rest of the web. Many, including us at ProgrammableWeb, have been saying for some time that big companies will embrace the open API movement. It appears this may be happening in earnest now, as our directory hits the milestone of 8,000 APIs. And it makes sense, because APIs are helping companies do business, with the tradeoff between adding an external dependency being out-shined by the ability to move faster building upon someone else’s expertise.
For the last six years there has been a Craigslist API, but it’s not the one developers have been clamoring to get their HTTP requests on. It’s still likely an important part of the company’s business model, because it allows bulk posting to its real estate section, the site’s main source of revenue. Yeah, but what about that readable API everyone wants?
The curious popularity of the Google Weather API appears to be coming to a close. The search giant never officially supported the feature, but developers have used the unofficial feed available from the iGoogle homepage. With iGoogle now set for deprecation in November, developers are reporting that the once simple weather API is no longer returning data.
The ProgrammableWeb directory has hit lucky API number 7,000. It’s been a short three months since 6,000 APIs, as the API universe continues to expand rapidly. How rapidly? In the last year we added almost as many APIs as were added to the entire directory over the six years prior. As we look over the trends, there are things you’d expect, like the continued growth in social. Also emerging from the numbers is the idea that there are many, many ways now to be an API provider and also many new tools for API consumers.
We try to stay positive at ProgrammableWeb. We’ve talked a lot about the keys to a great API, but not so much about what some of the lesser APIs do. And, with a directory of over 6,000 APIs, you’d better believe we’ve seen some worst practices.
Google has been a leader in providing innovative APIs as well as providing infrastructure and software paradigms (including map-reduce) that have helped make the internet better. The enormous investment that Google has put in these infrastructure efforts is yet to pay off directly, but it has brought many developers a choice and flexibility between the usual options. Of course if computing shifts to the cloud, Google will reap a big dividend from both retail as well as enterprise software customers.
We’ve seen over 6,500 APIs added to our directory, but we acknowledge they’re not all great. In fact, there’s a known secret if you’ve spent much time with APIs: creating a great API is really, really hard. There are a few attributes we’ve noticed that can make a big difference. Yesterday ProgrammableWeb’s John Musser gave a standing room only talk at OSCon about the topic of a great API and boiled it down to five keys.
APIs are no longer technical nice-to-haves. These three letters are being spoken in board rooms and used as the basis for business strategy. One place you can see the effects of API growing up is the sheer number in our directory. But big numbers only tell us so much. In our many discussions with API providers, we’ve noticed a pattern with how many are approaching their platforms. These threads point to an alternate meaning for API: Apps, Partners and Income.
The last 1,000 APIs in our directory 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 difference in the weather between now and five minutes ago. Previous trends, such as social and mobile are certainly continuing. And business uses of APIs are increasing, both in terms of those listed in the directory and our discussions with developers and providers.