API middleware is emerging as a key new industry segment in the API economy with at least two launch announcements expected today (including one at DataWeek/APIWorld) from services offering middleware tools to API developers. Meanwhile, in an exclusive for ProgrammableWeb, Webshell.io founders share details of their API integration management platform, and discuss why trust is the principal currency in the API economy.
Webshell.io aims to become the go-to middleware layer for API integration developers. Founders Thibaud Arnault, Mehdi Medjaoui and Arnaud Richard originally met over a social media project that created a user-mosiac of Soundcloud, Youtube, Instagram, and other user-generated content on embeddable maps. The project sourced 21 different APIs, giving the team insight into the problems of API integration and maintenance.
"Integrating APIs and maintaining them is difficult, so this was a pain we had, and we wanted to provide our solution to developers who want to integrate more than 3 APIs", explained Thibaud Arnault, CEO and Co-founder of Webshell.io. It is a pain point they believe many API developers share: their recent survey with 100 Parisian startups found 70% are using more than 7 APIs in their code.
One of the first issues API developers face with integration is authentication, and the integration difficulties this is generating led the team to create a specific OAuth tool.
"We have integrated OAuth inside Webshell, but a lot of developers have said they sometimes just want this authentication layer tool, so we have made a language-agnostic OAuth integration layer. It's open source, and have already had about 15 contributions from external providers to help their developer communities use it. For example, the Chinese Facebook Renren are using it, and it's in the official documentation for Foursquare, for example."
Since its release at the end of July, it has already seen uptake from 5,000 developers. The team expects a similar upsurge as more Webshell services come online.
Webshell believes that for many API developers trying to gain C-level buyin, and startups mapping out a business model that relies on accessing external data via APIs, the biggest issue is trust.
Medjaoui said: "We have a saying in France, money is less important than the people you can trust.' If you look at the Microsoft model and MS-DOS, the biggest part of their strategy was selling trust. They told users that they would maintain the drivers so people knew they could keep using their technology. APIs are the drivers that businesses need to be able to trust.
We sell trust into the API ecosystem, and we sell this trust with a platform. If your supply chain is drawing on data via an API and that API changes, then your whole supply chain can break down. Webshell is focused on risk data supply chain management."
"We are already reviewing API terms of service all the time, so it makes sense to us to open this up as an asset. We use APIs - basically we open up data assets from other companies - so it is in our DNA to open up our assets too," Medjaoui said.