Contentful API: Platform-Agnostic Content Distribution Has Arrived

Mark Boyd
Jul. 03 2013, 10:00AM EDT

The new Contentful API seeks to disrupt current content management workflows with an API-first approach. The API service uses a presentation agnostic platform to allow content to be distributed across any device or application. Built from the knowledge and experience gained when Contentful founders managed StorageRoom – a platform used by over 1,000 international customers to push content to applications – the new Contentful has taken the lessons learned to create a wholly new content management system.

Speaking with ProgrammableWeb, Co-founder and CEO Sascha Konietzke explained how Contentful differs from CMS APIs like WordPress and content coding approaches like Parse:

"The biggest difference for developers using existing CMS like WordPress is that with Contentful they can use the tools and frameworks of their choice to create the presentation layer. They are no longer forced to use the templating frameworks that come with the CMS. For example, for our own website we used Contentful to load content into static pages that we generated with middleman, HAML and SASS.

Parse is a great service to create and display user-generated data directly in your apps, but it provides no usable content editing interface for non-technical users.

Contentful focuses on curated content. We provide an interactive authoring interface for editors with localization and versioning, and an API which was made from the ground up for delivering high volumes of content efficiently."

Contentful includes a backend interface that allows content creators and editors to work collaboratively on producing the creative content. This content is then published to the Contentful API. Developers can then create code to define how some or all of the content is distributed, and to determine how content is synchronized for its’ end use.

Sascha Konietzke describes this new content distribution workflow:

"Content is managed by non-technical editors in our web-based editing interface, that itself is a JavaScript application and only communicates with our backend through an API. The editing is completely interactive, so that editors can collaborate and see changes to content live while they type. When they are done with editing they publish their work to make it available in our Content Delivery API.

Developers generate access codes for all or parts of the content and then load, query and synchronize content to one or multiple applications on any device or platform. It's completely up to the developer to decide if content is synchronized to the app for offline use (e.g. a travel guide) or always loaded from Contentful (e.g. news). All of the content, including the API, and not only static assets like images or videos, are served through our content delivery network, which enables fast and reliable content delivery for even the highest traffic."

The Contentful approach is also of interest to dev teams considering an API-first business model for their products. For other API-as-product businesses – the Twilio API is an obvious example – providing a service via an API product is an emerging business model with its own specific issues. Sascha told us how he perceives the pros and cons:

"The advantage of an API-first approach for a startup is that you can create an ecosystem of tools and partnerships around your service. But it also comes at a price: as a startup you want to quickly iterate on your product. You cannot easily do that on an API once you released it, because your customers and partners are relying on the API. So you must make sure that your API is solid from the beginning and that you have a proper API versioning strategy."

The Contentful API uses a REST protocol and returns data in a JSON format. Public documentation is available.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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