How Utility and Ecosystem APIs Are Different

In 2011, Eventbrite had a single API Integration (with MailChimp), but began developing an API program to drive developer activity in the hope that it would drive more business. In this guest post on the Catchy Agency blog, Eventbrite Product Manager Mitch Colleran discusses how they went about building that program, and some of the things they learned along the way.

Eventbrite took inspiration from other successful API programs, in particular Twilio developer evangelists presence at weekend hackathons and maintenance of SDKs and libraries to ease development. Colleran also initiated API partnerships with products like SurveyMonkey and Salesforce, among others. After 18 months of courting both business development deals and independent developers, Colleran claims that APIs can be broadly grouped into two main types.

Utility APIs

Superficially, the author believes that if the end user doesn’t have to register an account to leverage the API’s functionality, it is most probably a Utility API. This is usually a commoditized service where the provider must focus on developer experience, pricing and maintaining visibility through building demos and attending hackathons. Typically, a utility API makes a developer’s job easier, possibly prompting him/her to say this app was “built with Twilio”, for example.

Ecosystem APIs

Ecosystem APIs, on the other hand, might prompt developers to say this app was “built for Eventbrite”. Rather than simply making a task easier, these APIs offer value to developers by exposing opportunities for business integration. In Eventbrite’s case, their 130 extensions they’ve built in Eventbrite Spectrum prove the company’s worth as a user acquisition channel (this is discussed more in depth in the original article), and by helping partners avoid having to build their own services so they can remain focused on the core business.


These are simplified classifications that won’t satisfy every API, but even a slight leaning towards one type over the other can help to inform your approach to building an API program and measuring its value.

Be sure to read the next API Strategy article: Talking to Uber About the Three Pillars of Its API Platform

Original Article

Utility API or Ecosystem API? A guest post from Eventbrite