6,000 APIs: It's Business, It's Social and It's Happening Quickly

The last 1,000 APIs in our directory were added in the shortest time ever. It was just over three months ago that we reached the 5,000 API milestone. What's new? The trends are actually getting harder to spot, like trying to explain the difference in the weather between now and five minutes ago. Previous trends, such as social and mobile are certainly continuing. And business uses of APIs are increasing, both in terms of those listed in the directory and our discussions with developers and providers.

APIs Mean Business

It's not to say that APIs have been fun and games until now. Early adopters, such as the Salesforce API, have been around since before ProgrammableWeb, using APIs to extend their businesses. But until recently, many saw an API as a technical nice-to-have, not a necessity. The growth in APIs in general supports that this is no longer the case. Also, almost 15% of all 359 enterprise APIs were added in the last three months, with almost one per day added in May.

Last month I shared some of the lessons we've learned about APIs at The Next Web Conference (video embedded above). I talked about "the new API:" apps, partners and income, three trends that show APIs mean business.

Internal Use a Major Factor

Apps are a big part of the private API iceberg. The growth in APIs that we don't track has to do with those that support mobile apps, but aren't made available to general developers. We know from talking to companies that there are a lot of these. Plus, any mobile app that does anything worthwhile needs to be able to send data back home.

Many developers, who once simply used APIs, are now themselves becoming API providers, at least for private APIs. There is a whole backend-as-a-service ecosystem, which includes 24 backend APIs. Of these, two-thirds are part of the last 1,000 APIs. Talk about a growing sector.

Looking at public APIs that support both developers and a company's apps, you'll find that most of the usage is internal. For example, the Guardian API sees seven times the requests from its internal apps as external developers. And most of Evernote's billions of API requests per month originate in its own software.

Social, Mobile and Cloud Remain Hot

Remember that catchy new acronym, "SoLoMoClo?" It stands for Social, Local, Mobile, Cloud, a handy way to describe the trends in greater tech. It also all is API-driven.

One in three social APIs is less than a year old. Already in 2012 we've seen well over 100 of the 691 social APIs added to our directory. That puts us on pace for 325 added by the end of the year, which would be about 50% more than were added in 2011.

Mobile we've already written about and there are many that are private that we may never know about. We also specifically track over 350 mobile APIs.

Though we're a bit foggy on the definition of "cloud," we do list 139 cloud APIs, which include many of the storage APIs, including the Google Drive API, which we said is kind of a big deal.

For what it's worth, we also track local APIs, but that's a bit more nebulous than cloud, even. For example, many of the 334 mapping APIs could be considered local.

Where Do We Go From Here?

We can never be sure where APIs are headed, but they're certainly getting there quickly. There are many more than 6,000 companies in the world, so if every company will have an API, they'll need to get crackin'.

For further analysis of API milestones, see our coverage of 5,000, 4,000, 3,000 and 1,000 APIs.