APIs First and Apps Later

What comes first, the API or the Application? This is a question that companies are grappling with as they set forth their product strategy. Many companies prefer to release their mobile applications first andAviary Suite if it gets popular, developers automatically start asking for theAPI. In some of these cases, a private API already exists under the covers. In recent times, we are seeing an increasing number of products that release the API first and much later, announce their mobile applications. Great examples are the Aviary API and the musiXmatch API.

musiXmatch Lyrix API is a premiere source of authorized, organized, and verified lyric information. It even pays licensing fees to make sure that it is 100% legal. It now comes with an official musiXmatch Mac App that not only lets you search for more than 6 million lyrics across 18 languages but also add it to your iTunes collection.

The second recent instance of API first and mobile application later is Aviary. They have just announced their official Aviary App on both the App Store and Google Play. Earlier they had released Mobile SDKs for iOS, Android and Windows Phone7. The official app plans to act as not just a standalone photo editing app that users might need but also a way for Aviary to test out new features in their SDK and for developers to see what kind of app one can build with their SDK. Very cool indeed!

Releasing an API first, going through several iterations of the API and then releasing your official application might have significant benefits. You would have analytics data on the most popular methods of your API, understand interesting ways in which developers have used your APIs and so on.

If you had a choice today, what would you focus on first? Application or the API? Or does it apply only in certain cases?