3,000 Web APIs: Trends From a Quickly Growing Directory

Adam DuVander
Mar. 08 2011, 12:00AM EST

ProgrammableWeb has reached a major milestone by adding its 3,000th web service API to our API directory. We've come a long way when you consider there were only 105 listed at the end of 2005. As we've noted previously, the growth rate of APIs doubled, which led to an influx of new services. Below are some of the trends we've spotted as the directory marks a new high.

Time to each milestone in the ProgrammableWeb API timeline:

  • 1,000 APIs: over 3 years
  • 2,000 APIs: less than 2 years
  • 3,000 APIs: about 9 months

API as a Company

We've started to notice new APIs emerging where there is no corresponding service. Or, put another way, the service is the API and thus the company is an API. The Twilio API (a ProgrammableWeb sponsor) is a prime example, offering telephony-as-a-service. Developers pay a few pennies per use to add voice and SMS to their applications. Developers have certainly responded: we list nearly 150 Twilio mashups.

Urban AirshipAPI companies often provide infrastructure that makes a developer's life easier. For example, mobile developers use the Urban Airship API to add push notifications and in-app purchases to their mobile applications. The SimpleGeo API stores location data for developers, in addition to providing business listing data.

Providers Make Things Easy: REST and JSON

REST continues its climb as the de facto protocol for web APIs. There is certainly debate over how many are "true REST," but the trend worth noting is that most APIs simply use HTTP. We're seeing companies with SOAP APIs re-launch as REST. The Web Services Interoperability Organization, tasked with creating confusing WS-* standards, closed operations last year.

In terms of data formats, XML still rules the overall directory and most new APIs still support XML. However, providers are swarming to JSON, as developers request this format that makes it easy to read data into JavaScript (and most other modern languages) without a complex parser. Many are also going JSON-only. In the last year 281 APIs were added that support JSON and don't provide XML.

APIs Get Facelifts

FoursquareIn addition to all the new APIs we see in our directory, there are many old ones seeing face-lifts. Some are claiming complete rewrites and often the changes include adding the popular protocols and data formats mentioned above. In November, Campaign Monitor dumped SOAP. Twitter's streaming API is JSON only. So is the Foursquare API, which will deprecate its original version sometime mid-2011.

APIs Fuel Internal Usage

TwitterThe Twitter API was incorporated into its own webpage making twitter.com one giant mashup. Twitter's website is the most common way to use Twitter, with the Twitter mobile site and Twitter for iPhone coming in second and third. All three are built off of the same API available to developers.

Similarly, the NPR API is used by several of the public radio organization's websites and applications. Internal use is large enough that it's a major audience consideration. Further, we're seeing many launch APIs at the same time as mobile apps, because the API essentially comes along with the app. We looked more at this in Hey Mobile, Thanks for All the APIs.

With the directory count now flowing into the 3,000s, expect to continue to see the trends above. All developers, both internal and external, need simple paths to integration. Where that isn't possible, providers will continue to re-work their APIs with new versions. And we'll see plenty of new APIs emerge, whether entire companies built on a developer-facing service, or huge companies, slow to move, suddenly discovering the power of sharing their data or functionality.

Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

Comments

Comments(44)

[...] Former Webmonkey author Adam DuVander, now Executive Editor during ProgrammableWeb, recently announced that ProgrammableWeb, an API tracking site, now lists some 3000 web-based APIs. To go along with that miracle DuVander breaks down some of a trends in today’s APIs. [...]

Hi Christian,

Thanks for your comment. We've found calling JavaScript a protocol the best way to describe mapping and other APIs that provide their service through a hosted JavaScript file.

And I'm afraid I can't please you with PHP, either, as there are 75 APIs that output data as serialized PHP.

[...] 3,000 Web APIs: Trends From a Quickly Growing Directory [8 mar 2011] – ProgrammableWeb has reached a major milestone by adding its 3,000th web service API to our API directory. We’ve come a long way when you consider there were only 105 listed at the end of 2005. As we’ve noted previously, the growth rate of APIs doubled, which led to an influx of new services. Below are some of the trends we’ve spotted as the directory marks a new high. [...]

[...] Former Webmonkey writer Adam DuVander, now Executive Editor at ProgrammableWeb, recently announced that ProgrammableWeb, an API tracking site, now lists some 3000 web-based APIs. To go along with that milestone DuVander breaks down some of the trends in today’s APIs. [...]

[...] Former Webmonkey writer Adam DuVander, now Executive Editor at ProgrammableWeb, recently announced that ProgrammableWeb, an API tracking site, now lists some 3000 web-based APIs. To go along with that milestone DuVander breaks down some of the trends in today’s APIs. [...]

While the stats above sound interesting, I'm getting the feeling the person behind them do not have a clue about what they're saying.

For example, there's no protocol called "javascript". And there's no API data format called "PHP".

And don't tell me by PHP you meant "PHP serialization format".

[...] All three of the above examples of Titanium+Plus partners have listings in our API directory, and there are plenty more where they came from. With both the mobile app and the web service API ecosystems blossoming, positioning itself as a [...]

[...] Nowadays, it might be considered conventional wisdom for “Platform Thinking”, but to truly embracing this philosophy – and make it real – first requires the realization that in the long term, Platform companies beat Product companies every time. Realizing that, then Platform Thinking and Platform Doing should become second nature. The brilliance of Bezos was to realize this strategic insight long before web APIs became as popular as they have become. [...]

[...] formats are an increasing trend. Over 70% of all APIs in ProgrammableWeb’s API Directory are restful, increasingly at the expense of SOAP. More than 55% of those same APIs support JSON output, with 20% opting not to offer XML at all. [...]

[...] veriyordu. Ama kullanıcıların beklentisi hep arttığından bu boşluğu uzun süre (internetin genel eğilimine paralel olarak) harici uygulamalar üstlendi.Twitter bu gidişe son vereceğinin ilk sinyalini [...]

[...] The trend of APIs as products is something we’ve been following for some time. No longer does an API need to support a service. The API itself is the service. These two companies have been prime examples, each called out in our analysis when ProgrammableWeb hit 3,000 APIs. [...]

[...] また、Adam DuVander氏が解説するWeb APIの動向はこちら(2011年3月の記事)。 [...]

[...] Nowadays, it might be considered conventional wisdom for "Platform Thinking", but to truly embracing this philosophy - and make it real - first requires the realization that in the long term, Platform companies beat Product companies every time. Realizing that, then Platform Thinking and Platform Doing should become second nature. The brilliance of Bezos was to realize this strategic insight long before web APIs became as popular as they have become. [...]

[...] 3,000 Web APIs: Trends From a Quickly Growing Directory [8 mar 2011] – ProgrammableWeb has reached a major milestone by adding its 3,000th web service API to our API directory. We’ve come a long way when you consider there were only 105 listed at the end of 2005. As we’ve noted previously, the growth rate of APIs doubled, which led to an influx of new services. Below are some of the trends we’ve spotted as the directory marks a new high. [...]