API Growth Doubles in 2010, Social and Mobile Are Trends

Was 2010 the year of the API? Some have claimed this each of the last five years, with the next always eclipsing the previous. There were 1,019 new APIs added to our API directory in 2010, two times the number added in 2009. Greater trends on the web are being played out, as social APIs were the most popular and the influence of mobile is clear.

As the API timeline shows, we now list 2,647 APIs in our directory. That dwarfs the 105 from 2005 and even makes the total from 2008 look tiny. Sheer numbers don't mean much if there isn't substance within, so let's look at the most popular types of APIs from the past year.

Top 5 Types of APIs in 2010

FacebookSocial APIs were by far the most common type. We can't discuss social without mentioning Facebook, which made sweeping changes to its platform, launching the Facebook Graph API. With proper user permissions, this API makes a user's data--including friends and photos--available outside of Facebook.

Twitter is also greatly responsible for many of the new social APIs. In April we wrote about how Twitter gave birth to 43 new APIs. There are now 67 Twitter-derived APIs. Some of these are meant for analysis, but the bulk of them are social.

Bit.lyInternet APIs may seem like a strange categorization at first. Everything in our directory is on the internet? When we refer to internet APIs, we mean the glue that holds the web together. This includes big platforms like cloud hosting services Google App Engine and Amazon EC2. But it also includes 25 URL shortener APIs and 5 domain registration APIs.

Google MapsMapping and Mobile APIs were both popular for the same reason: location came to the web in 2010 in a big way. From check-in apps to geographic databases, where a user is (or wants to be) is becoming more important because the internet is now going with many of these users. Mapping has always been a popular category, especially for mashups. The 2,150 Google Maps mashups are almost four times as many as the second place API in our list of popular APIs by mashups. With mobile becoming such a major factor, we've seen these APIs move away from displaying maps. Now they include 22 geocoding APIs, 22 geolocation APIs and even 12 GPS APIs for storing and sharing where you go.

Google Ajax SearchSearch APIs, like the internet APIs, help hold the web together. Some of these APIs, like the popular Google Ajax Search API, search the whole web. However, in 2010 we saw many cases of vertical search engines making their data available. For example, the novo|seek API opens up a biomedical search engine. The RescueGroups API makes pets available from animal rescues and shelters searchable by organization or location. Each of those is fairly specific, but the overlying trend is making data available in a way that's easy for developers to integrate.

Top 5 APIs by Mashups

In 2010 there were 907 new mashups added to our mashup directory. From there, we can determine the popular APIs used. The one at the top of the list won't be a surprise, but how about the others?

As we enter 2011, we expect to see many more APIs. Some might even call it the year of the API. As you've seen above, perhaps more interesting than big numbers are the trends within those numbers. For 2010 it was social, mobile and the glue that holds the web together. Do you think the same areas will continue to grow in 2011? What new trends will show up?

Be sure to read the next API article: Build Custom Q&A Sites and Applications via Qhub API