7,000 APIs: Twice as Many as This Time Last Year

The ProgrammableWeb directory has hit lucky API number 7,000. It's been a short three months since 6,000 APIs, as the API universe continues to expand rapidly. How rapidly? In the last year we added almost as many APIs as were added to the entire directory over the six years prior. As we look over the trends, there are things you'd expect, like the continued growth in social. Also emerging from the numbers is the idea that there are many, many ways now to be an API provider and also many new tools for API consumers.

The Last 1,000 APIs

There are a lot of APIs, sure, but what categories do they fall into? Here are the top ten of the last 1,000 APIs:

Perhaps most surprising about the APIs added to ProgrammableWeb over the last three months is how many financial and enterprise APIs we've seen. This follows earlier trends, where we said every company will have an API. Part of the growth in finance is also related to mobile payments, as many players big and small have tried to fill this opportunity.

Everyone Can Have an API

APIs are not just for companies anymore. While "Internet" is a bit of a catch-all category, it illuminates another trend of making it easy for developers to create their own APIs. Last October we wrote about the differentiation of backend-as-a-service companies. We added the first of those companies less than a year ago and now the directory already lists an amazing 35 backend APIs, fueled especially by mobile apps.

If a mobile app does anything interesting, it likely needs to contact an API. Usually, this is a private API, like the sort that backend-as-a-service companies make possible. Other times, the app uses the same public API that is available to developers. NPR has used this approach to expand the devices it supports, for example. These sorts of platforms are more likely to use an API framework or management platform, or both. Recently these have become more accessible to the average developer.

API management company 3Scale (a ProgrammableWeb sponsor) added a freemium API service in May. Apigee (also a ProgrammableWeb sponsor) announced a similar offering today. There have also been a handful of open source platforms, such as that recently launched by WSO2. Further, Mashape wants to be a marketplace for APIs.

If you're a developer that's looking to become an API provider, you have many options.

Everyone Can Be a Developer

There have been a number of mashup creation engines over the years. The latest crop focuses not on drag-and-drop interfaces, but one simplifying the actual code. For example, Temboo lets developers skip the documentation. It has client libraries that let you access over 100 APIs through a single SDK.

Webshell takes a similar approach, referring to itself as the API of APIs (it's not the only one). Still in private beta, the service connects to a handful of popular APIs. It provides API key management and even a scripting interface.

Both Temboo and Webshell boast an API explorer, a way to interactively test drive APIs. It's quickly become a best practice for API providers, but these companies make the functionality available across several APIs.

In a year that has seen even the mayor of New York City declare he's learning to code, this is just the beginning of more approachable programming. APIs will be the useful building blocks, because they allow anyone to perform advanced functions with a simple call.

Where Do We Go From Here?

At this rate, the API directory should reach 8,000 this year and be well on its way to 9,000 by the time 2013 comes along. APIs are going to become more core to business, but also be a key part of strategy for even small web products. And yes, APIs will create more programmers, maybe even within the ranks of mayors from major cities.

For further analysis of API milestones, see our coverage of 6,000, 5,000, 4,000, 3,000 and 1,000 APIs.

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.



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