Is there a situation to democratise Webservices APIs for developers ?

More than ever today, An increasing number of companies right from startups to large corporations are exposing their business services as web services APIs. A number of these services today are based on the cloud and we are likely to see this growing with the advances and growth in cloud computing.

Most of these APIs are primarily targeted at the developer community so that they can develop innovative and niche software applications for the market based on one or more APIs . Developer centric Hackathon initiatives and events are common and a must today right from the upstart companies to the big boys in the game.  It brings in a win-win approach to the business. Developers needless to say are the Rockstars of  the next generation IT business enabled through the emerging cloud and mobile technologies.

While there is a growing trend to provide such Webservices APIs across a number of vertical industries , Certain service providers who publish their APIs that they cliam is meant for developers in reality don’t offer them to developers in a democratic manner. I have seen this in my own experience as well as hear such incidents through fellow developers.

I thought, I would share a brief checklist for developers to quickly assess  Web services API services providers . This may help them not to waste their time when they are working on a great idea and are seriously planning on their time to market aspects.

  • Does the API service provider provide online developer registration in their website ?
  • Is your registration approved within 24 or 48 hours?
  • Did you get a response from the community manager or developer support?
  • Has the API service provider furnished developer membership norms?
  • Has the API service provider provided demographics and transparent pricing information on their website ? (E.g. Google Map)
  • If a Closed room and/or paid API services vendor has responded to you, check if you have been provided with clear commercial terms and conditions, including SLAs.
  • Check vendors for published information or links to the apps developed using their APIs during developer events on their website  (check this specifically when you want to approach startup companies) (e.g. Tendril Smart Energy APIs)
  • Check to see whether a company is having a lot of  OPEN developer initiatives including Hackathons (e.g. Salesforce.com) . But Dont be carried away by companies who conduct a few developer events and annouce news ,but doesnot provide some or all of the things I have listed here. Such companies just want to use your talent for marketing them.
  • Check a Linked in Visit to your profile from a representative of  an API service provider where you have applied for a membership or access and see if you get a response within a few days.

If  you see lot of the above missing with a company that you plan to contact for using their API in your next big idea, the chances are high that you may not get engaged or you may not find good synergies to the extent of using such APIs as the crux of your application. Hence it is better to take a pro-active ,upstream planning on this whether you are developing a web or mobile application/mash up.

My viewpoint is that a number of companies providing Web services APIs for various reasons especially from the view point of monetizing and growing their business, but not really opening up their services to global developers and embracing them  in a practical manner are either myopic or have a faltered strategy. Why would a company want to have a Web services with out it being a key part of any return of investments (ROI)? Does it make sense to anchor your App ideas with restrictive service providers without an eco system ?

To Summarize,

  • Developers and organisations working on the next big idea or looking at providing niche services through API based Apps can make better decisions and outcomes in their initiatives through a through self research/assessment approach (e.g. checklist provided above) as a part of their strategy and planning.
  • Web service /API services providers should seriously look at democratizing their API initiatives and services and embracing the developer eco-system and make it as a part of their strategic ROI and growth initiatives. The chances to compete well and succeed can be higher.

– There are a number of references and examples where smaller to larger companies have succeeded and/or growing through the  democratization of the APIs whether free or paid . E.g 1. Google  2. Yahoo 3. Amazon 4. Facebook 5. Twitter 6.Facebook 7. Twilio 8.eBay so on . A list of most popular APIs is available here

Finally , What do you think ? A Quick 10 second Poll for the developers seeking access to various APIs who want to voice their need for the democratization of web Services APIs

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About Cloudshoring

Cloudshoring is a popular blog on Cloud computing and Big data
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