Spotify's Limited API: Can it be Competitive?

Kin Lane
Jul. 18 2011, 08:45AM EDT

Spotify, the music subscription service that has been so popular in Europe, is now available in the United States. Spotify offers users the ability to stream limited hours of music for free or stream unlimited songs for a small fee, from a library of over 15 million songs. And while it has a Spotify API out of the gate, it comes with a catch.

Spotify provides metadata, such as song titles and playlists, via a RESTful API, but the powerful API Spotify is pushing is only available as a C API. In procedural languages like C, API actions are usually wrapped and mediated in a function call, hiding the underlying transport. This libspotify C API provides libraries for developers to build desktop clients on the Windows, Mac and Linux, using the music service.

Developers using the libspotify C API will have to focus on innovating on the desktop. That's a different focus than developers can take with one of Spotify's competitors, Rdio. The Rdio API provides a RESTful API for Web applications, iOS and Android interfaces, as well as an embeddable player and data services.

Spotify has long dominated the news with speculation about, and finally the arrival of its US launch. But will it be able to stay ahead of the competition without a wider set of Web and mobile APIs?

Of course, the majority of users don’t care about the API; they are interested in the music catalog. But the API could deliver the application that brings waves of new users, or delivers the value that matters to customers, the value that keep them paying a fee for accessing whoever ends up being the best music subscription service.

Kin Lane I am a programmer and entrepreneur, with a focus on the business of APIs. I study how APIs are changing the business landscape, and the rise of API driven developer ecosystems. I share my insights by blogging on API Evangelist and ProgrammableWeb, and put into action as API evangelist for CityGrid.

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