Technology

Concentrate on APIs to Grow your Application (Del.icio.us and Technorati)

RootsBy the time you read this, it may be corrected… but you may notice that my Technorati Rank is 0. That’s because the Technorati API is not returning rank as part of the call (it’s returning a closed node <rank />).

As well, Del.icio.usAPI is acting up. They fixed an issue where no posts would be returned the other day when you make a request for a specific tag. Today it’s just returning the first record within that tag. The automated job that posts my Daily Reads never posted either.

I’ve put requests in with both companies but I’m not getting any response. They are both great companies who have really reached out to me when I’ve needed assistance in the past and I hope they do now. It may not be the case with these two companies, but many companies treat their API as a secondary feature of their service or application.

That’s a mistake that may kill your business in the near future. We’re accelerating towards the ‘semantic’ web… with plugins, widgets, rss, custom pages, etc. where APIs are going to become more important than the User Interfaces themselves. In a Mashup application, I may be contacting a central server which in turn communicates with multiple APIs. If I’m a Mashup company, I’m not going to do businesses that don’t take their API seriously.

IMHO, this is a lesson that Google learned very early. If you carefully observe Google, each of the applications that they bring to market has robust APIs that invite third party ingenuity. There are countless businesses and applications built off of those APIs as well.

Rather then support third party ingenuity, some companies actually fight them altogether. Statsaholic had to change it’s name from Alexaholic due to trademark concerns. Imagine that… someone builds a fantastic User Interface that promotes the statistics that you have developed. They’ve distributed those statistics to hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of users. Reach that may never have been established had you simply tried to do it on your own… and you get upset with them.

The Starfish and the SpiderThis week in our Indianapolis Book Club, we discussed The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. The key point of this book is that a Spider represents a top-down organization. Kill the head and the body can’t survive. Cut the Starfish and you wind up with 2 Starfish.

Google Blogsearch has been taking market share from Technorati. I love Technorati and still think it’s much easier to work with, but there’s no arguing that Google is the big truck in the rearview mirror. This week Google released its Ajax Feed API… this is additional encroachment on Technorati whether they recognize it or not. (It also competes with Yahoo! Pipes.)

I don’t understand the apprehension of companies to opening their APIs and ensuring robust performance and support of them for other companies, in turn, to further develop on. There are so many advantages… less user interface development, less bugs, less support, less bandwidth (an API call is much less data than a page) and more businesses that are dependent upon your business. These aren’t people you want to compete with or alienate, these are people you want to embrace and reward.

If you pictured your Web Application as a tree, you might want to think of your UI as your leaves and the API as your roots. Leaves are necessary and pretty, but having deep roots will secure your business’ future.

2 Comments

  1. 1

    Admittedly, keeping our back-end operations smooth and improving the website take precedence but, fear not, our API users are important to us. Glad to see your widget displaying the rank again, I think that validates that the fix made to the API took effect 🙂
    -Ian
    Technorati

    • 2

      Thanks, Ian! I know you folks think all users are important – I’ve never had a different experience with Technorati. Being a Product Manager at an Email Service Provider we struggle with our API the same way.

      The tide does seem to be turning though! My company is finally recognizing the value of the API from an ROI benefit. You folks keep pushing out new integrated opportunities – and we’ll keep promoting your service!

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