Most of the time when APIs are discussed it is actually Public APIs that we talk about. Public APIs are the ones that are available to everyone (even if it might cost some money) and that opens up an organisations data to outside developers.

But there are also a lot of benefits at the other end of the scale – the APIs we have not heard about and do not have access to. These are the Private APIs used internally within an organisation. Even if they are not available to every developer on the planet they can be very valuable, in everything from doing system integration to enabling very quick development cycles.

A Spectrum of APIs

Between the extremes of completely Public APIs to completely internal Private APIs there is a whole spectrum of different levels of availability. There are APIs that are not completely Private, but by no means Public. These are the APIs just available to a handful of partners, or within a small group of organisations.

Most organisations have several APIs on this Private-Public spectrum, and it is important to recognise this to be able to get the most amount of value out of the available APIs. There might be Private APIs that could be offered to the potential partners to enable new partnerships. There might be semi-Public APIs powering mobile applications that it might benefit the organisation to document and market as a fully Public API. There might also be APIs that are currently Public but that are not a cost-efficient way to do business and that should be transformed to a Public API.

What can we learn?

There is a lot to discuss and learn about this wide spectrum of APIs:

  • When to use Private APIs, when to use Public APIs and when to offer something in-between
  • How to measure success in the different cases. For Public APIs it might be the number of 3rd party apps that is the success metrics, for Private APIs it might be how much was saved on an integrations project or it might be related to how many internal mobile applications that could rapidly be produced.
  • How to move from Private to Public as well as how to move in the other direction.
  • What are the different requirements for Private and Public APIs

These questions, and many more, will be discussed on the Nordic APIs blog during the next few months as well as in the Nordic Tour early April when we will visit Copenhagen, Helsinki and Oslo during one crazy week. If you want to attend Nordic APIs in any of these cities please take advantage of our early bird special that offers a nice discounted ticket price. Also follow our blog, sign up to our newsletter as well as follow us on twitter.

Why now?

We want to discuss the subject of Private and Public APIs now since APIs are becoming mainstream but that the conversation are so focused on just Public APIs. No doubt Public APIs have their value, but they do not represent the majority of the valuable APIs in production today. With an understanding of the whole spectrum of APIs we can ensure that we invest our time and money in the most efficient way.

Share with us

If you have questions, experiences or thoughts on the subject please contact us on twitter or via email. We would especially like to hear from Nordic companies that are battling these questions or that are willing to share stories about how these questions have already been handled.

About Andreas Krohn

Working with API Strategy and implementations at Dopter.se. Co-founder of Nordic APIs. Blogging about APIs in Swedish at mashup.se.