With an estimated 13,000 web APIs currently in operation, some people still question the longevity of public APIs. With large APIs from Netfilx, Google Earth and ESPN being deprecated, Bill Doerrfeld examined 5 reasons for retiring a public API on the Nordic APIs Blog.
- A lack of third-party developer innovation could be a signal that your API is not offering any real value to consumers. Five years after its initial release, Netflix’s public API was deprecated in favour of a single private/partner Java API. The original user base was simply too small to encourage third-party creations.
- When primary business objectives are compromised through the exposing of data in a public API, there is valid reason to retire the API. It seems that when ESPN realised third-party applications were monetising their apps, they decided to switch to a strategic partnership model that retained the potential within the data.
- Changes in technology and consolidating internal services can create situations where an API might become obsolete. This could be through technological advancements, such as REST protocol replacing SOAP, or Netflix’s primary business model shift from DVD distribution to video streaming.
- Since APIs are still a relatively new technology and developers are regularly creating new features, it is common to see versioning being implemented that scraps the entire previous build. The new version may also quietly hide some drastic changes within its documentation, such as YouTube Data API v3 no longer supporting the YouTube app on Smart TVs.
- Publically exposing internal company data via an API can create serious security concerns. While never technically releasing an API, SnapChat partnered with the Windows Store in early 2015 to crack down on applications that were accessing its “private” API.
Relying on public APIs does come with risks, so it is important to be continuously aware of the ecosystem to anticipate any deprecation before you get caught out.