Go With the Flow: Real-time APIs Are Here

Collaborative web app company Flowdock has upgraded its Flowdock API to include real-time streaming. It's part of a new trend on APIs, a move from pull to push. If data changes outside of my app, I want to know inside of my app. Flowdock's new API shows it's in on this movement.

With the company's focus on enabling teams to " React faster," a real-time Streaming API makes sense for Flowdock. The announcement post highlights the new API, which Flowdock splits into REST, Streaming and Push categories.

"The new API has full support for creating a full-blown client for Flowdock with capabilites like authenticating as a user, posting messages to chat, streaming the chat and team inbox messages," Flowdock's Mikael Roos said in an email.

We have covered real-time technologies in the past. For example, real-time or right time has a good overview of the approaches. Webhooks are a popular approach because they're simple: the API simply sends a bundle of data at a specific URL. Flowdock aims to be as real-time as possible with a persistent connection, as described in its documentation:

To connect to the Streaming API, form a HTTP request and consume the resulting stream for as long as is practical. Our servers will hold the connection open indefinitely, barring server-side error, excessive client-side lag, network hiccups, routine server maintenance. If server returns unexpected response code, clients should wait few seconds before trying again.

The company is also taking part in a couple more trends-in-the-making. A JavaScript Library is coming soon. Most client libraries are for common server-side languages like PHP, Ruby and Python. Last year Google added JavaScript libraries. This trend makes sense because so much interaction with data happens in a Front-end. Flowdock has focused its library on making it easier to Parse tags and URIs. Further, with the popularity of Node.js, JavaScript isn't just a front-end programming language, which provides another good reason for client libraries.

Another potential new trend employed by Flowdock is placing its API Documentation in a public Github repository. Popular amongst open source projects, this allows anyone who wants to improve Flowdock's documentation to do so the same way one might contribute code.

Clearly, the team behind Flowdock are developer's developers. As the number of APIs expand this year, developers who were once API consumers will also become API provides. With that, expect these sorts of developer-friendly features to become even more common.

Be sure to read the next Real Time article: Get Pushy with a Few Real-time APIs