SmartBear Freeware Extends Open API Tool Trend

Adam DuVander
Feb. 21 2013, 05:05AM EST

Software quality firm SmartBear is releasing freeware versions of some of its products, including API testing tool SoapUI and the guts behind the AlertSite API. SmartBear charges hefty license fees for the commercial versions of these products. It expects some of those who download and find value in the tools to find more value by becoming SmartBear customers. This freemium approach borrows from both SaaS and open source, with an eye toward community service mixed with the classic food court taste test.

As API growth has expanded so has the need for tools to manage that growth. Developers of all stripes are consuming and providing more APIs than ever before. It makes sense to provide entry-level tools for free because today's bootstrapped side project might be tomorrow's billion dollar valuation.

It's that same thinking that drives API vendors to provide free API management tiers right alongside what's available to large enterprise customers. The dirty little API secret is that most of them don't get much use. A bunch of free users of API management software do not require a lot of resources, even in aggregate.

A slightly tweaked approach has been taken by WSO2 and others with the open source API manager. The code itself is not the secret sauce. What you do with the code is what matters.

The release from SmartBear is not open source. The company instead is making six products available as freeware. The source code may not be downloadable, but the strategy is similar: share with the community and expect that someone will want more than a taste.

Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

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