We published a new eBook: API-as-a-Product

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API-as-a-Product is a rising trend. In this eBook, we cover tips to help you create a working business model around a specialized API product. Discover common monetization models, developer marketing tips, and more helpful business advice for API-centric SaaS.

Download API-as-a-Product for FREE without handing over an email. PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats are available for direct download. It’s also available on Leanpub as well as Amazon Kindle for a small fee.


Foreword: The Potential of API-as-a-Product

At Nordic APIs, we’ve been tracking the emergence of many API trends throughout the years. On our blog and at our conferences, contributors have time and time again described new ways to generate value from APIs.

However, few subjects encapsulate as much interest as the API-as-a-Product concept. By opening up specialized software functionality through an API, companies can commoditize data and operational components on a per-call basis. Commoditized web APIs help software teams avoid reinventing the wheel for common functionally. This could be anything from payments to geolocation, artificial intelligence, weather data, log-ins, messaging, and more. You may be familiar with the phrase “there’s an API for that.”

I’m excited about this format, as it’s arguably a more on-demand, real-time incarnation of Software-as-a-Service. The API-as-a-Product trend isn’t just smoke and mirrors either — many startups are beginning to treat their API as a core offering due to its potential for scalability and explosive growth. Take the story of the boot-strapped Car Registration API, which went from zero to three million calls in under two years. Some API-first companies have even IPO-d in recent years.

Due to their nature, APIs have a lot going for them:

  • They fit the startup agenda. Arguably, APIs appeal to the concepts of specialization and disruption.
  • They are platform-agnostic. Using HTTP as a delivery mechanism, any developer user can integrate APIs into their application, regardless of what platform or language they’re using.
  • They can be self-service. If set up correctly with awesome documentation and testing environments, API portals do a lot of the upfront work, requiring minimal human support.
  • APIs are standardized: Developers are familiar with APIs. API products typically adopt a REST style and serve JSON over HTTP. OpenAPI Specification (formerly Swagger) has also made major crossroads to document these services.

However, we must acknowledge that it takes substantial effort to build and maintain a functional, self-service API-as-a-Product. There’s a lot to consider. You must balance openness with charging for access. Providers must find their secret sauce of freemium, rate limiting, charging per call, or subscription pricing. You must support standard protocols and track emerging communication styles. It also helps to know your developer users well, monitor platform use, and optimize to find the correct model.

And, designing the program is only the beginning. API-as-a-Products require unparalleled developer experiences and high stability. The provider may also experience unexpected challenges, such as identifying spam users and thwarting black hats. Or, the API may struggle to get off the ground and attract a developer foothold necessary to sustain a business.

As Editor-in-Chief of the Nordic APIs blog, I’ve worked with our writers and contributors to explore the API-as-a-Product subject from many angles. As a result, our community has produced a ton of knowledge on treating an API as a product.

In this eBook, I’ve collated some of our most helpful insights to help you begin your API-as-a-Product journey. Chapters touch on all the concerns outlined above. I’ve tried to include high-level perspectives but also nitty-gritty details. (For example, one chapter involves calculating API-as-a-Product maintenance expenses, with fine-grained pricing estimates). Even if your API doesn’t adopt a public model, I believe it still helps to consider how you can benefit from taking a product perspective to integration.

Keep in mind this is a very new, nuanced subject. Software integration styles are changing, as are the standards for API design. This evolution, paired with industry consolidation and new abstraction layers, could significantly affect the overall strategy API products take to compete in the future market. So, take this text with a grain of salt and always stay updated with the forces at play.

With that said, happy reading, and the best of luck on your API journey!

Download API-as-a-Product

Check out the eBook today for our best advice on starting and sustaining an API-centric public business.