Hitch Aims to Improve Engagement Between API Providers and Developers

Hitch — a new platform service aimed at helping business, enterprise and governments to better engage with developers and to help them with API consumption challenges — believes there is now a significant disconnect between the ability of API providers to create APIs, and their success at fostering API developer communities and ecosystems. CEO and Co-founder of Hitch, Luke Miller, says their new platform service aims to help businesses who have created APIs and find themselves asking “Well, what’s next?”

Hitch aims to provide a range of developer engagement tools that extends beyond the API-focused startup’s initial offering, API Changelog. Created by founders Luke Miller and Bruno Pedro, Hitch hopes to solve the problems many API providers face when trying to build out a loyal and engaged community around public APIs. API Changelog started in response to one element of that need. Developers who had signed up and were using a public API in their applications and workflows often had the difficult problem of needing to keep constant track of any changes to the API, documentation, or terms of reference. Often, they would only find out about a change when an end user alerted them that their application was broken. API Changelog let API developer-consumers track the APIs they are consuming in order to better keep up to date with potential production issues. Changelog’s detailed change tracking approach meant that consumers could scan, at a glance, to see if the resource endpoints they were using in their code were affected by a change, and could elect to receive updates via email or other notification channels.

The Hitch team found that on the supply side, API providers were keen to link to API Changelog’s tracking service as a way to help keep engaged with their developer communities. Several high profile API providers, including Twitter and Algolia, embedded an API Changelog widget on their documentation pages to help their developer communities make use of the third party tooling.

Hitch service

ABOVE: Hitch’s service element for identifying, scoping and notifying users of change and announcements from an API (in this case, Twitter)

With Miller and Pedro’s previous experience in the API industry, both saw the potential of providing a suite of services besides API Changelog that could help API providers keep third party developer consumers interacting and feeling a part of a community. ProgrammableWeb’s research last year documenting eight successful API developer adoption case studies found that when developer communities are effective, they often created network effects that mean developer-consumers would build and share wrappers or sample codes with other developers, thus causing the continued blossoming of an ecosystem of active developers using and building on the provider’s API. 

3 Blooms of API Ecosystem Growth

ABOVE: The three blooms of API ecosystem growth, from ProgrammableWeb’s case study research last year

Hitch is looking at ways of helping API providers leverage network effects and other successful API adoption strategies to help communities grow.

The new engagement platform has already secured fast-growing tech businesses like Atlassian, who are using the service as a way of supporting their internal developer teams understand what APIs are available to them.

Miller says that longer term, how Atlassian is using Hitch is an example of what businesses need after implementing an API strategy. While the Hitch platform can be used to help API providers better communicate and maintain engagement with external developers, Miller sees an increase in enterprise and globally distributed companies creating a catalogue of APIs for their internal teams to use when building new web applications, automated workflows, and mobile customer products. The difficulty these enterprises face is how to let development teams know what internal APIs are available, and how to engage with internal developers using the same best practices as API providers with public APIs. 

“Organizations across the globe are building platforms for both internal and external use,” says Miller. “All the big global platforms are very busy staffing up these teams to manage their communities in a coherent fashion.” Miller says that these new engagement teams are coming on board with a large workload and the shortage of staff who understand platform models and developer communities makes filling these roles increasingly rare and expensive. 

“These roles are popular already for public communities, but they are roles that are also starting to appear in the form of Product and Platform Leads, with staff appointed in mid and large size companies to help communicate both the API business advantage and the technical proficiency internally,” says Miller. “What Hitch does is enable these teams to scale more quickly at a far less cost. We are taking much of the administrative, repetitive tasks burden. We are also guiding these new teams through best practices, and helping move them far more quickly towards the virtuous cycle of a healthy API ecosystem.”

As API evangelism roles become entrenched in business — with both internal and external engagement goals — a new type of API service is emerging. Hitch is hoping its early mover advantage will help it demonstrate the value of using an external service to accelerate a provider's API adoption, help manage developer engagement, and foster ecosystem growth faster. Business and API providers can sign up for a trial at Hitch HQ

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.

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