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.
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.
Forget uploading resumes or filling out forms on some job board. Backend-as-a-service company Parse is inviting potential hires to apply via its Parse API. In what initially looks like an added barrier to entry, the company is hoping its cheeky and geeky move will attract the sort of developers who think in JSON.
The API growth rate continues to double. In 2011, there were 2,031 APIs added to our API directory. Big companies added APIs, including the three major credit card companies in the US. But the biggest story was the continued social API growth. There are also some surprises in this year’s list of the most popular API categories and a big upset as for the first time Google Maps API was not the most popular API.