If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear over the last year-and-a-half, it’s how utterly dependent on technology we are. We’ve experienced everything from businesses transitioning to remote workplaces to the tsunami of streaming events to disrupted supply chains. Tech has helped us get through it all, and APIs provide the infrastructure that has made many of these shifts possible.

Every year, the API platform Postman publishes a definitive guide to the API industry — the State of the API Report (you can read our summary of last year’s edition over here). Unsurprisingly, given the events of recent history, the 2021 State of the API Report depicts the biggest year for APIs yet.

We’ve poured over the Postman State of the API report to learn how the API industry has shifted and evolved in the wake of the Coronavirus. Here are some of the key takeaways from the report.

Postman 2021 State of the API: Main Points

The 2021 State of the API Report is the most extensive investigation into the API industry Postman has conducted thus far. For this edition, they surveyed over 28,000 API professionals to understand how the pandemic has impacted the API industry.

APIs as a Solution

For many programmers and API developers, life didn’t change all that much due to lockdowns. Around 33% of those surveyed report that their work didn’t change significantly due to COVID-19.

What did change was the rest of the world’s attitudes towards APIs.

Of those who reported that their work was impacted significantly by COVID-19, over 50% report that APIs have played a significant role in their recovery strategies.

The API Economy Is Booming

The State of the API Report finds that users have logged into Postman from 234 different countries, making over 834 million API queries. This is a 56% increase from the previous year.

Developers report spending over 49% of their time working on APIs, as well. This is up from 40% from the last report. Over 94% report that they are planning to increase spending on APIs in the coming year, also.

API-First

Perhaps the most striking trend from the State of the API Report is the skyrocketing interest in API-first development. An impressive 67% of companies report being heavily invested in API-first development. This is an increase from 60% of the 2020 State of the API Report.

Companies investing in API-first development get APIs to market faster, deploy more frequently, experience fewer failures, and recover more quickly when something goes wrong.

Global API Users

There are currently over 17 million people using APIs, creating over 30 million Postman collections and making over 855 million API requests.

The top 3 countries making API requests include:

  1. United States: 144,584,000/135% increase
  2. India: 117,734,000/167% increase
  3. China: 58,057,000

This rampant explosion of API activity is causing an explosion of API tools and platforms. There’s been a flood of excellent new tools for everything from API design to monitoring to security. There’s even been a proliferation of API specifications, including the widespread adoption of OpenAPI and GraphQL.

Who’s Using APIs?

The 2021 State of the API Report features a granular breakdown of what positions use APIs as part of their duties. It also offers insights into which industries are using APIs. These trends also give us some ideas of what sectors still have room for optimization via APIs.

The State of the API Report includes some demographic data, including age and gender. These insights could offer some important clues on how to reach true equity in the API industry. Many of these figures come as no surprise — of those who work with APIs, 27% are full-stack developers, and 17% are backend developers. What might be slightly surprising is the emergence of less-publicized positions, like quality engineers and technical architects.

The State of the API Report offers granular statistics into industries that use APIs. The top sectors include tech-related businesses, at 29%, and business and IT services, at 28%. However, the numbers fall off significantly after that, with only 11% of insurance and banking companies currently using APIs. It seems like there is still an opportunity for growth in API adoption outside of pure tech companies.

API-First Development

One of this year’s biggest API trends is the increase in API-first design. Over 67% of those surveyed report being at least moderately comfortable and familiar with API-first design.

They also report their definition of API-first design. 42% define API-first design as “defining and designing APIs and underlying schema before developing dependent APIs, applications, or integrations.” 31% answered “developing APIs before developing applications or integrations dependent on APIs.”

Only 10% answered that they didn’t know how to definite API-first design. This is a 3% decrease since the 2020 State of the API Report.

Priorities

The State of the API Report also delves into business owner and developer goals in working with APIs. Of these goals, improving quality is by far the top priority, accounting for 80% of developers. Agility is the second runner-up at 66%. Reliability was nearly tied at 65%.

Availability

There are a lot more APIs out there than we’re aware of. One of the surprising stats from this report is that 58% of APIs are private. Only 15% of APIs are available publicly.

API Design

One of the more valuable insights from the report is developers opening up about their API design process, specifically during which stage of development they begin designing an API.

The great majority, 57%, report beginning to develop an API early in the development process, before development begins in earnest. The runners-up, at 18%, are ‘Before Stakeholders Opinions Are Taken Into Consideration’ and ‘In The Middle Of A Process.’

The State of the API Report also offers numerous deep dives into approaches for integrating, producing, and consuming APIs. These statistics provide a good overview of where API developer priorities lie. Security and performance lead the charge, with 72% for both. Reliability follows shortly behind, at 69%.

The Priorities section is equally illuminating, as it gives you an idea of where developers are putting their time and energy. Integrating with internal systems is the main priority, at 67%, followed by integrating with external systems, at 59%.

The section delving into API consumers may be the most useful of all, as it can give you some ideas into what your customers and audience are looking for. 58% claim integrating with external apps is their top priority. 54% state that enhancing an existing functionality is their primary concern regarding APIs.

API Tools

Another valuable section of the 2021 State of the API Report is an in-depth exploration of the tools developers are using to work with APIs. These charts offer excellent insight into some powerful new API tools and resources to aid your API development workflow.

There’s a wide gap in API adoption. Postman is by far the most popular API development tool, coming in at 83%. Amazon Web Service (AWS) comes in at number two, with a much less robust 36%. Finally, SwaggerHub rounds out the top three API development tools at 35%.

The report also offers a similar deep dive into the most popular DevOps tools that involve APIs. Jenkins is #1 with 37% adoption. Azure DevOps and GitHub Actions follow closely, at 26% and 25%, respectively.

Architectural Styles

APIs have evolved a lot in recent years. While APIs tend to be synonymous with REST, thanks to Roy Fielding’s influential dissertation, REST is undoubtedly not the only game in town at this point. While REST is still the most prevalent API architectural style, others have been making major inroads in recent years.

The 2021 State of the API Report also breaks down how developers feel about the API architectural style they’re using, which may indicate how the landscape could change in the near future.

The Most Popular API Architecture Styles:

  1. REST (Use it and love it, 49%; Use it, 44%; Aware but don’t use it, 4%; Never heard of it, 2%)
  2. Webhooks (Use it and love it, 12%; Use it, 39%; Aware but don’t use it, 36%; Never heard of it, 12%)
  3. Websockets (Use it and love it, 10%; Use it, 35%; Aware but don’t use it, 45%; Never heard of it, 11%)
  4. GraphQL (Use it and love it, 10%; Use it, 21%; Aware but don’t use it, 51%; Never heard of it, 18%)
  5. SOAP (Use it and love it, 8%; Use it, 40%; Aware but don’t use it, 42%; Never heard of it, 9%)

The State of the API Report also delves into API Specifications to see which formats are most popular.

The Most Popular API Specifications:

  1. JSON (Use it and love it, 28%; Use it, 47%; Aware but don’t use it, 20%; Never heard of it, 5%)
  2. Swagger 2.0 (Use it and love it, 17%; Use it, 37%; Aware but don’t use it, 32%; Never heard of it, 14%)
  3. OpenAPI 3.0 (Use it and love it, 12%; Use it, 28%; Aware but don’t use it, 44%; Never heard of it, 18%)
  4. GraphQL (Use it and love it, 10%; Use it, 21%; Aware but don’t use it, 53%; Never heard of it, 18%)
  5. AsyncAPI (Use it and love it, 2%; Use it, 9%; Aware but don’t use it, 31%; Never heard of it, 58%)

The Pandemic and the Future of APIs

Finally, the 2021 State of the API Report delves into APIs’ role in the pandemic response. Without exception, APIs were pivotal in helping businesses adapt to lightning-fast shifts in their industry.

APIs have been integral in letting business owners add new channels to better serve their customers. They also were essential in rolling out new products in record time, helping business owners release products in a manner of weeks which normally takes years.

APIs also helped reduce or remove many of the challenges brought on by remote collaboration, ranging from communication to project management. Many of these changes are here to stay, according to the majority of developers. More than 80% report that at least some of the changes brought on by COVID-19 will be lasting.

Working from home is one of those changes to stay, at least for the next 12 months. This is across demographics, as well. Interestingly, Baby Boomers lead the pack in those that think working from home will remain, at 84%. Gen Z actually ranks last, at 72%.

The majority also plan on increasing their focus on APIs in the coming year. Only 7% plan on cutting back on investing in APIs.

So there you have it — our deep dive into the depths of the 2021 State of the API Report from Postman. These insights should give you some ideas on where to invest your resources in the coming year to continue to make the most of APIs and the opportunity they afford!

What are some of the API trends you’ve been noticing in 2021? What trends do you think will be important in the year to come? Leave us a comment and let us know!