It’s The API, Stupid

Wesabe just came out with an API.  If you aren’t familiar with Wesabe, it’s a new investment by my friends at Union Square Ventures – Brad Burnham describes why they made the investment in his post Wesabe Is More Than A “Personal” Financial ServiceA quick search on Fred Wilson’s blog (via Lijit) shows tons of chatter on the term “API” on both his blog and his network.  API is also prevalent in my blog postings and my network.

Twittermania was partially driven by the API.  Almost all of the web services companies that I’ve invested in, including FeedBurner, NewsGator, Technorati, and Rally Software have powerful APIs.  Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are obsessed with API’s.  Remember the SDK?  It’s now the API.  Repeat after me: REST and SOAP.

This is not a new idea nor am I suggesting it is.  But it’s a phenomenon that has become key to what’s going on around the web today.  Some people – like the fine folks at the Programmable Web – are even cataloging this.  Remember the phrase “information wants to be free.”   Your computer programs do also, and an API is the way to help them.

  • I couldn’t agree more. As a solutions consultant I always try to pitch the concept of “freeing your data” to clients.

    The “api” isn’t a new concept either, as you noted. I’ve been working with financial apis for years – but like you mentioned it took popular sites like flickr(great api docs) and others to kick start the api “revolution”.

    an important point – without good documentation, good support, and active user forums … Don’t even bother saying you have an api.

  • jon

    “Remember the phrase

  • robert

    API’s are definitely the next SDK. The ability to connect and do something without having to build the framework yourself is a real benefit.

    My ideas generally revolve around sociality and communication, and my current interest lies within the e-mail sector. My fear is the inability to gain traction. This is why I failed over to working on an end-user contact management platform… Gaining traction among end-users is easier than gaining traction in the enterprise sector.

    Even if I develop an efficient API, who’s really going to trust a 22 year old entrepreneur? The API wouldn’t be mission critical so it wouldn’t require a total infrastructure change or knock down the system in the event of a failure… But still, trust is the key.

    I sent you an e-mail, hopefully you can give me a hint of advice 😉

  • robert

    Jon –

    But what if you COULD use Amazon’s API to make product suggestions?

    Say user registers on your site. What if you could pull detailed information about products that has purchased?

    Why not let Amazon handle product recommendations? Let them track purchases and make the recommendation given the list of products on your site – it’s less effort on your part, and still accomplishes the same thing.

  • I couldn’t agree more that API’s are the way to go.

    However, I think Wesabe’s time would have been better spent improving their core functionality.

    For example, right now there is no easy way to connect my bank account into Wesabe. I have to manually upload my bank statements each month! They do offer a program you can download that does make that connection (not a convenient option) but last time I checked it didn’t even work with Bank of America!

    API’s are great. But please make sure you take care of the basics first.

  • jon


    You’ve got a point. That is indeed a very exiting idea to entertain. Could you envision people like Amazon allowing you to make such use of their API?

    The issue, as far as I can tell, is that we would be asking users for their Amazon password when we are about to recommend products, their Ebay password when is a reputation related issue,their Flickr password to upload photos, etc. Surely we don’t want to build silos, and no doubt any ecommerce site could benefit greatly from leveraging on Amazon recommendations,but it would seem like such solutions make the whole ID/Password issue on the net an even greater challenge..
    On the other hand, many of the ‘invite’ forms now allow you to import from any of several popular email providers…and as far as our site experience is concerned, people seem to like to enter their gmail or hotmail details in order to invite friends from their different contact lists…I would think that experience signal in favor of your argument.