Do Developers Love Legalese?

Curtis Chen
May. 25 2012, 07:00AM EDT

At this year's SXSW, Mashery (a ProgrammableWeb sponsor) conducted a survey of attending developers and discovered something interesting:  They care more about getting Commercial Terms of Service (TOS) than code samples from their APIs.  Does this mean a new rash of coder/lawyers skewed the survey sample?  No, it's just an indication that developers are growing up--and they expect their favorite APIs to grow with them.

Below you can see the 2012 survey results for yourself, and then compare it to Mashery's 2010 developer survey (see slide #3), wherein code samples rated as most important to API developers, followed by "Clear API License terms in plain English."  It's not exactly apples-to-apples, since this year's survey asked specifically about "Commercial Terms of Service," but over a third of the developers surveyed rated Commercial TOS as being a top priority--more important than code samples or documentation.  So what's changed in the last two years?

Mashery's 2010 developer survey:

2012 survey results:

It's not just one thing, but a whole slew of them.  ProgrammableWeb readers can see from our API Directory that several new services are added every single day.  With that diversity comes competition, best practices, and eventually maturity: there's been a lot of progress in just the last year, since a 2011 Trove survey recounted a litany of API developer complaints--including poor documentation and lack of sample code--and bestowed the dubious honor of "Worst API" upon Facebook.  (Mashery also notes that API Explorers are increasing in importance, as developers want to get "hands-on" with an API as quickly as possible.)

APIs are getting more reliable and providing more useful data all the time, and becoming essential to many businesses (and business models) along the way.  As Mashery notes, developers are starting to ask: "[W]hy would I waste my valuable time integrating with an API if [I] can never monetize my app using that data?"  Service providers, take note.

Curtis Chen Once a software engineer in Silicon Valley; now a science fiction writer and puzzle hunt maker near Portland, Oregon. You may have seen his "Cat Feeding Robot" Ignite presentation. Curtis is not an aardvark.

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[...] Do Developers Love Legalese? via @programmableweb: When you think of developers, you probably associate them as folks who want to be as far away from legal terms and conditions and instead you associate them with just being able to get down to coding. It seems that this is no longer the case and this article discusses results of a recent survey held where Developers put favorable Terms and Conditions as one of the most important points that they are concerned about, even above things like documentation and sample code. It might be even worth asking yourself the question: When was the last time you looked at some terms and conditions of a public API seriously, before you began using it? [...]