There are more than 15,000 APIs, or Application Program Interfaces, available for public use today. The rapid growth of the API economy has led to a wave of new companies entering the scene, from businesses that curate API directories, like PublicAPIs, to API brokers, such as Stateless, who can advise other companies on the best APIs for them.
The benefits that they bring to a business are also very significant:
- APIs account for half of Salesforce’s revenue and 90 percent of Expedia’s
- When TweetDeck plugged in to Twitter’s API it caused a huge surge in popularity for Twitter, leading to its acquisition by the latter in 2011
- American pharmaceutical company Walgreens adopted Printicular, an API that lets customers print photos from their social accounts, which boosted the revenue generated per customer six-fold.
Though the race is already on for companies to participate in the API economy, there can still be success for those lagging behind. With iOS 10, Apple has finally opened Siri up to developers with a public API, and WhatsApp Messenger and Uber have already leapt at the opportunity to integrate.
If you’re not making use of APIs in your business, you’re missing out on a massive slice of potential revenue. Here’s how to get in on the action:
Feel the need
First off, there’s no use trying to get a foothold in the API economy if your business, employees or customers won’t benefit from it yet. You should only set about creating an API if it will improve customer satisfaction, help you stand out from the competition, improve productivity, cut costs, increase sales or grow your business. That might not be today, but keep eyes and mind open for the future.
Bite off what you can chew
While APIs are relatively easy to create, and if you don’t have the in-house developers there are plenty of companies that can help, you don’t want to take on more than you can handle.
Start small and iterate often. As with any kind of project, you will learn things along the way, whether from experience or via feedback, that take you in a different and often better direction.
You don’t want to restrict your creativity by applying rules and limits early on, but a good plan should act as a homing beacon for a valuable end product. An API design plan should factor in:
- How the API fits into the context of your business
- The functionality
- What technology you will need
- How flexible the design will be to change
Get your legalities in order
When you’ve got your API portal set up, you should present clear brand guidelines and any legal conditions or copyright notices for developers. If you’ve spent the time, money and resources creating your API, you’ll want to ensure that others use it in the way you want and that you get the credit.
While the legal stuff is never the fun part of any project, understanding your rights and clearly outlining the responsibilities of third-party users is important.
Getting in on the API economy
APIs are a way for firms to extend their reach into a new market, maintain a competitive advantage and even gather valuable data for predicting consumer behaviour.
For more and more companies, getting in on the API economy is a key step towards obtaining strategic value in an incredibly competitive environment. If you’re not prepared to take part in the race, you’re not going to win.
Written by Paul Greer | Principal Devops Architect, RedPixie | See his LinkedIn Profile