API Consumers Want Reliability, Documentation and Community

The first annual API community survey shows that developers want clearly documented APIs that are reliably available and have an active community of other developers. Further, as many as four of every five developers works for an organization that itself makes an API available, either publicly or privately. In this post, we'll take a deep dive into the API community and the answers from this first survey.

Who are these people?

There were about 250 respondents to the survey, the majority from North America and identifying as a developer at a company of fewer than 500 employees. Product or technical management was the second-largest position type. Over one in five survey respondents live in Europe, which was second to North America. Interestingly, organization size was well distributed among the answer options, with just over 50% at an organization of 50 or fewer people.

API Consumers

Nearly 94% of the survey respondents are API consumers, using APIs to partner with external organizations and reduce development time, among other uses. Over 90% support REST and over 70% use some flavor of OAuth to authenticate users to APIs. The survey also asked about a number of factors that developers consider when consuming an API, with respondents rating them from not important to very important.

API Providers

A surprising 82% of respondents are API providers, which shows a continuing trend of developers being on both sides of APIs. The most common reason an organization is an API provider is for partnership opportunities. However, over half of respondents also find value in use within the organization, as well as powering mobile apps. One in three sell access to their API.

For providers, the survey also asked about who owns the API, with the option to choose multiple departments. Engineering was the top choice, with the API being an engineering initiative 83% of the time. Product is also a common home for the API, chosen by nearly half of the respondents.

Providers were also asked the same question about technologies used. The headline is the same--REST wins. But it's interesting to see the drop-off of OAuth, with about 40% supporting it versus 70% for consumers. The difference here could be explained by not all APIs having a use case to support OAuth. Also, developers use many APIs and have a better chance of bumping into a technology.

More APIs to be Consumed and Provided in 2013

Despite some differences between API consumers and providers, one question on the survey receives overwhelmingly lopsided responses. Nearly every developer (97.6%) will consume more APIs this year than last year. Almost as many providers (94%) intend to provide more APIs.

To produce the API community survey, ProgrammableWeb teamed up with 3scale, Layer7, Mashery and API Jobs, awarding a Microsoft Surface Pro to a randomly selected entrant.