9,000 APIs: Mobile Gets Serious

Adam DuVander
Apr. 30 2013, 12:01AM EDT

The ProgrammableWeb directory marches toward quintuple digits. Having just passed 9,000 APIs, the next milestone ahead looks even bigger. Of course, all the recent milestones look huge compared to the directory at the end of 2005, when it sat at just 105 APIs. In addition to continuing the rise of the enterprise, the latest APIs show mobile as a driving force. At least two previously locked-down categories, payments and messaging, are now being changed by APIs.

The Last 1,000 APIs

It was the end of 2012 when the directory hit 8,000 APIs. Here are the top ten categories of the last 1,000 APIs:

Some trends we identified previously continue, such as some sectors long considered formal and slow to move. Finance, enterprise, science and education aren't usually at the top of trends, but here they lead the top categories we've seen in the most recent 1,000 APIs.

Mobile Refocuses Payments

It's no surprise that mobile is growing APIs. And that can be stated the other way around, too. APIs fuel mobile because any app that does anything interesting needs to pass data back and forth between a server. Hey, that's an API!

PayPalLately the growth within payment APIs reaffirms mobile's role, as many are competing to help companies collect money while their users are on-the-go. What's interesting is that just a few years ago the clear leader here would have been PayPal. The PayPal API was one of the first added to the ProgrammableWeb directory.

Even PayPal's position on the web is under attack. Along came the Stripe API with its clear documentation and simplified JavaScript approach that lets sites easily maintain the user experience.

Mention mobile payments and many immediately think of Square, which has no publicly available API. However, there are now 49 mobile payments APIs in the ProgrammableWeb directory. Even PayPal founder Max Levchin has a mobile payments startup.

APIs Can Unify Messaging

Earlier this week saw the news that chat apps have overtaken SMS. More mobile messages are now sent through alternative communications channels. For person to person messaging, texters are turning away from the traditional text message. The API directory may tell a different story, with the nearly 300 SMS APIs pushing the messaging category.

What the news points to is an opportunity for APIs to unify this messaging divide. As users have more outlets for communication, there are more places to reference past conversations. Was it in HipChat, WhatsApp or a text message? Message APIs can help developers create communication dashboards. And on-the-ball wireless carriers can join the game, too.

Henry Ford said customers would have asked him not for a car, but a faster horse. Similarly, users don't ask for APIs. They want technology that works and integrates well with other technologies. As the number in the directory grows, so do the opportunities to provide users with those great, workable solutions, whether it's in messaging, mobile payments, the enterprise or any of the many categories we follow.

For further analysis of API milestones, see our coverage of 8,000, 7,000, 6,000, 5,000, 4,000, 3,000 and 1,000 APIs.

Adam DuVander Hi! I'm Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and former Executive Editor of ProgrammableWeb. I currently serve as a Contributing Editor. If you have API news, or are interested in writing for ProgrammableWeb, please contact editor@programmableweb.com Though I'm a fan of anything API-related, my particular interest is in mapping. I've published a how-to book, Map Scripting 101, to get anyone started making maps on websites. In a not-so-distant past life I wrote for Wired and Webmonkey.

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