There are a number of details required to start a new website and in many cases you'll find yourself solving the same problems over again on the next project. A new class of extremely useful APIs is arising to fix those recurring pains. One such platform is provided by Prefinery, a system to outsource your beta invite process.
Most sites now have some sort pre-launch testing process, a chance for early adopters to poke around and find bugs. Often special codes are sent to these testers that let them join the site. In some cases, especially those involving social software, members are also allowed to invite some friends. This can become a mess of additional code. Justin Britten explained in an email how he decided to build a service to take the headache out of this process:
"In early 2009 I was launching another web application and needed to launch a beta. I quickly realized that no off-the-shelf solution existed. Not to mention, with the future of software lying in the cloud as software-as-a-service applications, this was a natural direction to take Prefinery."
The result is the Prefinery API and its dashboard for getting a view of your beta's use. Rather than writing the invitation logic yourself, simply send an invitation code to Prefinery for verification. If the code is for a single use, Prefinery will mark it as used. If the code instead has a limited number of uses, or is only available for a certain amount of time, Prefinery takes care of that, too. And if someone tries to use an invalid code? Yes, Prefinery will let you know via a response from its API. Another feature of the API, called check-ins, lets you track a tester's return visits. More details at our Prefinery API profile.
Prefinery comes with a fee, $49 per month for up to 500 testers. There are account levels beyond that, shown in the graphic above, as well as a free version for up to 50 testers. Britten estimates his software saves new companies $2,000 and up to two weeks of time to reproduce just Prefinery's bare-bones feature-set.
These sorts of services, which allow sites to forgo building a common set of operations, are sure to be a story when solo developers are able to use them to quickly release new projects. Analagous APIs from the past are Paypal (our Paypal API profile) and similar payment services that take the complication out of charging customers money. A more recent example is Chargify, which we covered in November.