Part of the beauty of the contemporary Internet application is the notion of an open API (Application Programming Interface). NewsGator released their NewsGator Online API today. FeedBurner released their Feed Management API last week and their Feed Awareness API several weeks ago which are both documented in depth on the site under FeedBurner for Developers. Last week, Technorati released their Technorati Blog Post Tags API.
APIs have been around forever, but they historically have been complex, proprietary, difficult to use, and require tight coupling with a desktop application. Back when I first started writing commercial software, I used Btrieve (made by SoftCraft at the time) as my database engine and spent a lot of time messing around with the API to figure out how to make it work the way I wanted to. Of course, whenever I upgraded my programming environment, I had to wait for the API library upgrade, which never worked correctly with my legacy applications, which then caused me to waste even more time messing around with the API library.
One of the famous early PC APIs was the MS-DOS BIOS API. Quick – without looking – what did INT 19h do? By the time the Win32 API came along, I was done programming, but I hear it was a lot of fun to work with.
Today, virtually every popular web application has (or is rolling out) an API. Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay have led the way, but newer web apps such as Flickr, EVDB, and del.icio.us are right there with them. Of course, in classic Internet fashion, each large company has their own name for them (web services anyone?) but API captures it for me.
As part of the NewsGator Online API release, NewsGator has created a sample application that uses their API. I’ve seen several posts recently about how “easy” it is to create an aggregator – we’ll – yeah – a simple one is easy. NewsGator has a sample 3–pane aggregator with full sync support that was created in a couple of hours. If you have a NewsGator Online account, give it a whirl – when you play with it, recognize that all the back end activity is done using the NewsGator Online system. FeedBurner has several good examples up, including the Podnova FeedBurner 40 top podcasts (by subscribers) and the number of subscribers on a each feed on Podfeed.net that uses FeedBurner.