API’s: The Key to Software Success
In a previous article, I mentioned that in order to truly leverage the power of a (cloud-based) application, an API (application programming interface) should be available to allow you to integrate and share information between systems easily. In other words, if you have a great software application and want others to interface with your software, you should have an API that may extend the reach beyond what you can, or want to do with your product.
An example might help; I’ll try to keep this simple. Here at eBridge Connections, we integrate data (eCommerce, EDI, CRM and others) with accounting systems. A company that sells an invoice billing system recently approached us. They recognize the value in having invoices from their customer’s accounting system automatically populate their billing system and are looking to eBridge to facilitate the link because eBridge already connects to 40 different accounting systems. eBridge can provide API access to the partner to allow them manage the integration between their billing system and the eBridge integration platform. Everyone wins in this case: the end user doesn’t have to manually key invoices into the billing system, eBridge gains an integration customer without having to do any development, and the partner has a more compelling offering to help promote their product.
While API’s themselves are not new, web API’s have been growing rapidly over the past few years.
Programmableweb.com who maintain a directory of API’s, are reporting that API Growth Doubled in 2010 over 2009 with social and mobile being the hot trends.
Some of the most popular API’s are, not surprisingly, Facebook, Twitter and Google Maps. Google Maps is often used to create a mashup. A mashup combines data from two or more sources, to present the information in a new way. One mashup I found provides an overlay containing information about missing children on top of a Google map. You can also find free parking in Toronto or find places to purchase alcohol depending on what’s open. There are literally hundreds of map mashups availalble.
With increasing numbers of people toting smartphones and the steady growth in number of API’s, there are opportunities to create new services or products by mixing and mashing data together. For existing companies that already have a compelling product, having an API will allow others to tap into your product in ways you may not have considered and could reveal new business opportunities.
Does your product have an open API? Have you experienced any growth since publishing it?