Contentful Offers “API Accelerators" To Speed App Dev On Its Headless CMS (includes video)

As the API economy evolves, so too does the art form of getting developers from zero to "Hello API.” So much so that ProgrammableWeb editor Wendell Santos is marshalling an entire series of articles that document all of the best practices employed by leading and innovative API providers (it starts off with a massive summary that every API provider should study). According to Santos, "A [developer] Portal has many jobs to fill, including helping developers to begin sampling and working with the API quickly (what we at ProgrammableWeb like to call 'Time to Hello API!').”

While some API providers offer Software Development Kits (SDKs) to help developers get up and running in their favorite languages as quickly as possible, many others offer code samples that not only show developers how best to consume the provider’s APIs, they also allow developers to cut and paste that code into their own applications. Joining that bandwagon and going even a step further, Contentful, a provider of an API-first Headless content management system (CMS), has launched an application Framework with reusable Source Code that mashes-up Contentful’s APIs with APIs from other providers in ways that reflect common use cases. 

"We provide a way for developers to use 60 new blueprint apps that are open-source that they can look at to get a head start. We're also providing two SDKs that will help them get a head start in building common kinds of functionality” Contentful vice president of product Benjamin Keyser told ProgrammableWeb. "We have a Dropbox app, an Optimizely app, Cloudinary, Bynder, Netlify. Those are all example apps that are bringing together sets of APIs from other providers into Contentful and creating new capabilities.”

The interview with Keyser discussing the news can be viewed below and it’s available in both audio-only and full-text transcript forms. Keyser covers other topics in the interview as well (eg: What is a headless CMS and why would you want one). 

Video of Interview with Contentful Vice President of Product Benjamin Keyser

Editor's Note: This and other original video content (interviews, demos, etc.) from ProgrammableWeb can also be found on ProgrammableWeb's YouTube Channel.

Audio-Only Version

Editor's note: ProgrammableWeb has started a podcast called ProgrammableWeb's Developers Rock Podcast. To subscribe to the podcast with an iPhone, go to ProgrammableWeb's iTunes channel. To subscribe via Google Play Music, go to our Google Play Music channel. Or point your podcatcher to our SoundCloud RSS feed or tune into our station on SoundCloud.

Tune into the ProgrammableWeb Radio Podcast on Google Play Music  Tune into the ProgrammableWeb Radio Podcast on Apple iTunes  Tune into the ProgrammableWeb Radio Podcast on SoundCloud


Full-Text Transcript of Interview with Benjamin Keyser

David Berlind: Hi, I'm Dave Berlind, editor in chief of ProgrammableWeb. Today is Thursday, February 20th, 2020, a lot of 20s in there. And this is ProgrammableWeb's Developers Rock Podcast. With me today is Benjamin Keyser. He is the Vice President of Product for Contentful, a major API provider out there that we cover from time to time. They're in the content management system space. Benjamin, welcome to the show.

Benjamin Keyser: Thanks very much.

David: It's great to have you. Let's start off real quickly, what is it that Contentful does?

Benjamin: Contentful is a headless CMS. We are a content Platform that you can integrate into your modern tech Stack and deliver content throughout your whole technology ecosystem.

David: Headless CMS. What is a headless CMS? What does that mean?

Benjamin: We're a platform-first and API-first CMS. So we manage content, help you develop content models and do all the content delivery. But we're API-first so we're really focused on delivering content at the API level. Headless CMSes generally don't come with complex interfaces where you do all the settings and add content, although for Contentful you could actually build those and add them yourself if you need to, but the focus on our software is platform.

David: Okay. So a good example of a CMS with a head on it is the one that we used to run ProgrammableWeb. We use Drupal, and it technically you could break the CMS side of it off and put your own head on top of it. But it also comes with its own User Interface that is programmable as well. So that's more of a head CMS, one with the head on it. But you're headless, which means that I can build my own User Experience on top of your content management system and I just access all of the content that's in there through the APIs that you provide, right?

Benjamin: Exactly. I guess the main advantage that we have is that coming from the perspective of API-first, all of the power and capabilities of the CMS are designed as APIs before they're designed as UXes. So there's nothing that you can do with our software that you can't do through an API.

David: Okay, terrific. So you mentioned in your little preamble there something about a modern tech stack, and I remember seeing that in the press release coming up to this interview. You've got an announcement here. What do you mean by a modern tech stack?

Benjamin: Developers want to be able to use whatever system and whatever APIs make the most sense for the organization and for the problem they're trying to solve. So the modern tech stacks lets them match up as many different kinds of APIs as they need to create the capabilities that they want.

David: Okay. Most developers can do that already. A lot of the applications we see out there — mobile applications — are already accessing multiple dissimilar APIs from different across the web. What makes what you're launching today any different from those?

Benjamin: I think it's possible to build applications on any kind of APIs. What's different about the App Framework is really that it's just an accelerator. We provide a way for developers to use 60 new blueprint apps that are open-source that they can look at to get a head start. We're also providing two SDKs that will help them get a head start in building common kinds of functionality.

The two libraries that are coming up, one is digital asset management, another one is related to eCommerce. And that will just help really make it go way faster for developers who want to build something new.

David: So they sort of prebuilt applications that you're talking about, reference applications. Do they involve APIs that are not from Contentful? Are they showing developers how much easier it can be to take these other APIs and mashing them up with Contentful's APIs?

Benjamin: Absolutely. I mean, I brought a list here of the apps, I can just pull out a couple here. We have a Dropbox app, an Optimizely app, Cloudinary, Bynder, Netlify. Those are all example apps that are bringing together sets of APIs from other providers into Contentful and creating new capabilities.

David: Terrific. And so you've got these sample applications. Are they in certain languages, all languages? What kind of developers are going to come and say, "Wow, that's really going to help me accelerate my productivity here."

Benjamin:The applications are all written in JavaScript and they're all available for you to walk through them and see how the techniques are done. So it makes it very easy to learn how to work with the Contentful APIs very quickly.

David: Terrific. So when you say JavaScript, you're talking about Node.js, which is based on a JavaScript, the server-side version of JavaScript. That's primarily how people mashup APIs into something, I'm assuming?

Benjamin: That's correct.

David: Yeah, terrific. So you've got a whole bunch of these sort of prebuilt integrations, example applications. And do they comprise this App Framework that you're talking about or is there more to this App Framework that's mentioned in your press release?

Benjamin: There's a couple of new APIs that we're offering. They give applications a special place in the system, and then we're also providing those two libraries that I mentioned, plus all of the open-source blueprint apps that help people get a jump-start. So the App Framework is really a collection of tools that will help developers put together the kind of functionality that they need for their organization, or they could take one of these off the shelf and just adapt it a little bit.

David: Okay. The libraries, let's talk a little bit about those. What are the libraries actually do? What's the background on those?

Benjamin: We have a digital asset management and e-commerce Library, two separate libraries. They just encapsulate some of the most common things that you do with those systems to help accelerate development around those areas.

David: Are the eCommerce capabilities coming from your APIs, or are their eCommerce capabilities that are coming from external APIs and you've build a library. It's sort of an SDK that just pre-bundles all of that together?

Benjamin: We have a Commerce Layer App and we also have... I just want to make sure I get the name right, the Commerce Tools App. Both are example apps that will show you what those libraries are capable of doing, but it's to help connect together Contentful APIs with those commerce API.

David: Terrific. So the commerce APIs are not your APIs, they'er external APIs?

Benjamin: No, you're correct.

David: Okay, great. Do you know what organizations those APIs are coming from? You have Shopify, Wix, et cetera. I don't know if those are the ones, but do you know which ones they...

Benjamin: Yeah, we have a Shopify App, a Commerce Tools App and... Let's see, I'm just looking to see if there are any other additional eCommerce providers here. Those are the ones in the example apps that are coming out.

David: Great. Well, this is great because developers love to be more productive. We have lots of developers who come to ProgrammableWab who search through our directory of APIs looking for what API they're going to include in the next application that they build. Or what APIs I should say, because most are relying on multiple APIs. Anything that any API provider could do to make it easier and faster to build those applications is always welcomed. And so it sounds like you guys are really enabling developers and focusing on their needs before focusing on like something like a front end for your content management system. That's terrific.

Benjamin: I think you put your finger on it. This is really to help developers go faster and to bring more powerful capabilities into a whatever kind of work they're doing that involves Contentful and content. As I mentioned, we're always thinking about things in an API-first way and we're trying to find the best way to empower developers to do the next generation of what they need to work on.

David: Now, developers work in other languages besides Node and JavaScript. Do you have any more plans to develop those sample applications in languages that other developers might be using, instead of forcing them into the JavaScript side of things?

Benjamin: Not at this time, and it's a great suggestion and definitely something we're thinking about.

David: Okay. And what's coming next? Are you just going to keep building out more of these sample applications in this Application Framework? More libraries?

Benjamin: Well, one of the things that we are really focused on is making the App Framework more powerful over time. So we're trying to find other ways that applications might be able to interact with Contentful in even more functional, capable ways. So we're generally trying to just build up the power there, I think.

David: Terrific. Well, Benjamin Keyser, Vice President of Product for Contentful, coming to us from Berlin, Germany. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Benjamin: Thanks very much.

David: We've been speaking with Benjamin Keyser, Vice President of Product at Contentful. I'm David Berlind, editor in chief, ProgrammableWeb. This is the ProgrammableWeb's Developers Rock Podcast. For more videos like this one, you can go to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/programmableweb, or you can find this video and others on ProgrammableWeb.com. The video will be embedded in article that include not only the full transcript of everything that Benjamin said, but also the audio-only version of this. You can listen to it as a podcast. It's available through iTunes and Google Play Music. Thanks very much for joining us. We'll see you at the next video.

Be sure to read the next Content Management article: Strapi Community Edition Now Generally Available