Startup Mashape launched a marketplace for APIs of all kinds Thursday.

For startups looking to create or license their web-based products, an API marketplace is a boon. It allows for quick publicizing and discovery of APIs, and lets its users easily match them to developers’ needs. Mashape is also launching a simple billing system and social features for API providers.

“Most of the value of information technology will be delivered and sold via APIs in the near future; and not only services but also things connected to the Internet,” Mashape co-founder Augusto Marietti said in a release. “We just want to build the ecosystem to let this happen, faster.”

The marketplace already has more than 110 APIs, including tools for SMS, geolocation, music services, photo filters, travel, games and a great deal more.

SEE ALSO: Mashable’s Series on API Management

API providers can list any JSON API using a wizard interface and five auto-generated client libraries (PHP, Ruby, Python, Obj-C and Java) and API tools.

And API consumers can use any Mashape-listed API with a single developer key and a standardized interface. There’s also an online Test Console for playing around with APIs before committing to use one.

If you’d like to give the Mashape marketplace a shot, just use the coupon code Mashable to get into the beta now.

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You don’t have to get hit by the proverbial bus to know it hurts, and you don’t have to make the same mistakes other devs have made on your way to a functional, widely used, efficiently managed API. In our final post on API management, our panel of experts has returned to give a few oft-committed mistakes for companies or developers offering an API for the first time — and how you can avoid them.


Clear & Fair Docs & Guidelines Are Key


Of course, offering an API involves a lot more than just creating the API itself. Guillaume Balas is an executive at 3scale, which offers full-featured API management and monetization tools. He says many of 3scale’s customers make mistakes such as not including documentation, sample code, or examples. He said that having no Terms and Conditions or unclear T&Cs is also unfortunately common.

Oren Michels is Mashery‘s CEO. His company does API management and strategy for more than 100 brands and 25,000 applications. He agrees that “lousy or inaccurate or missing documentation” is a common mistake, as is “terms and conditions that say ‘no commercial use’ or other things that suggest to developers that for some reason you get to make money and they don’t.”

And with your API, as with many other aspects of your business, “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is a dictum you can’t afford to forget. “Complex registration and key issuance protocols, or worse yet, requiring people to email a key request and wait for someone to get around to responding” is a practice Michels cautions you to avoid.


Be Prepared to Market Your Butt Off


Shanley Kane works on the product team at Apigee, a company that offers a range of API tools for developers and software companies. She says a common mistake is hiding your API under a bushel. “For companies new to the API game, opening up can be scary. Many companies make the mistake of not talking about their APIs — to press, developers and partners — and then wonder why no one is using their API. Commit to making your API a success by embracing the new rules of developer marketing.”

Augusto Marietti founded Mashape, a marketplace for building, distributing and hacking with APIs. He says the biggest mistake many API-offering companies make is not having enough focus in the marketing in the initial months after an API launch.

“You have to target not all kinds of developers,” he says, “but only the developers who need your API to solve a real problem they have. You have to look around, find and contact them, one by one. Those early adopters will spread your API to the world and thousands of other developers.”

Moreover, he notes that in addition to focus, you’ll need a good plan, a lot of resources and a certain amount of stamina. “Launching an API is like launching a new product, in that you have to give it all of your effort for at least six months. [You must] go to meetups, organize contests with interesting prizes that devs really want to have, evangelize your API around the world and organize hackathons.”

Marietti also recommends partnering with other companies with APIs related to your business. You’ll attract more business and split the cost of marketing your API.

Dimitri Sirota is an executive for Layer 7 Technologies, which offers its own suite of API management tools for the enterprise. He says another marketing (or PR) mistake is “having references that don’t relate to your business. Make sure you have references that look like you. For instance, if you are an enterprise, make sure you have enterprise customers supporting and referencing you.”


Get Feedback & Use It


Kane also cautions API-offerers to get feedback “early and often” to have a successful launch.

By “early and often,” she means getting select developers on-board and using your API in its most nascent stages. Invite a few trusted devs to use a private, “pre-alpha” version of your API, and put your API through a thorough beta stage, too.

While in these more formative stages, use the feedback you get to improve your design, find and squash bugs, and generally “make sure that the API is usable and pleasurable when you go live,” says Kane.


Brace Yourself for Traffic


Kane also says many API noobs are not prepared for the scope and scale of API traffic, which, she warns, is quite different from the traffic your web app might see.

“Your API will be accessed by mobile apps, web services and potentially hundreds of connected devices and platforms. Supporting that traffic means building out an API stack that will scale, prevent abuse and misuse, support mobile optimization and give you visibility and control.

“There are a number of API-specific solutions out there … but the most important thing is to understand how API traffic is different, and then you build your infrastructure accordingly.”

Sirota says many companies make the mistake of “not using a robust proxy that can provide a range of security and management controls.”


Understand How the API Will Affect Your — & Devs’ — Business


Michels gets the sage final word, saying that
many companies make the mistake of not truly understanding how an API can grow their business. Instead, companies believe developers should all be paying for API access and should only get limited access, at that.

You might want to change directions, he says, if your API offers “no path to success — limits on traffic or usage that can’t be raised if someone is successful.” Or if your company is charging for your API, “believing that developers will plunk down a credit card and pay by the call, or by the thousands of calls.”

The overarching mistake here, he notes, is “not understanding how and why the API will improve and grow your business and focusing on making sure it does that.”

Sirota makes a similar point, saying a big mistake is “starting too big and worrying about revenue from the get-go. Start small. Get an API out there and learn — worry about revenue later.”

Do you have other tips for avoiding API mistakes? Let us know in the comments.


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In our ongoing series on APIs, we’ve covered whether to offer an API and how to get people using it. Now, we’re delving into one of the most important questions an API-offering company can ask: free or paid?


Paid Is the New Trend


Augusto Marietti founded Mashape, a marketplace for building, distributing and hacking with APIs. He says that while the majority of APIs are now free, that trend is changing.

“I think that the monetization of APIs in 2011 is like the monetization of search back in 1999. … For example, Twitter started to charge [for use] of its data via APIs using Gnip as a reseller. Newer startups for which the API is the product, like Twilio or SimpleGeo, are coming out regularly. These startups are making money out of their APIs — a lot.

“The best bet is to keep a freemium model, so that all of your developers can try your API and use it for a while before opening up their pockets. You will see more and more startups having an API not only as a distribution mode but as an additional revenue stream, too.”


Cover Your Costs


Guillaume Balas is an executive at 3scale, which offers full-featured API management and monetization tools. He says, “At 3scale we believe this very much depends on what companies want to achieve with their API and who is going to be their users/customers. Not charging for your API access has definite advantages, such as improving branding and online presence and accelerating developers’ adoption … But don’t neglect the economics of your API business and the costs (infrastructure, management, maintenance, support, communication and promotion) associated with it.”

He adds, “Brand equity is great, innovation is key. But cash is king — and companies must at least cover their costs.”

Dimitri Sirota, an executive for Layer 7 Technologies, which offers its own suite of API management tools for the enterprise, says you should do both. “Have your API be free to start with and ask people to pay for higher grades of SLA, premium functionality, enhanced support, etc. Maybe offer a revenue share,” he says.


Consider a Hybrid Model


Shanley Kane works on the product team at Apigee, a company that offers a range of API tools for developers and software companies. She says, “The choice to charge for an API or offer it for free needs to be connected to your business goals and objectives. For many companies, charging for data and services exposed through an API makes sense. APIs provide a better way for customers to integrate and innovate and are an important monetization channel.”

However, for companies that open an API to expand into new platforms like connected and mobile devices, or to encourage third-party innovation, she doesn’t recommend a paid model. “For these companies, charging for access just adds a barrier to entry,” Kane says.

Kane also suggests a free-paid hybrid model, wherein independent devs get free access to build apps and larger partners pay for higher rate limits and additional support.


Make the API Part of Your Business Plan


Oren Michels is Mashery‘s CEO. His company does API management and strategy for more than 100 brands and 25,000 applications. He says the API should be an extension of the company’s overall business model.

“If your business model is to sell TVs, you want it to help you sell more TVs. If you are traffic/ad based, you want to generate more traffic looking at your ads. If you happen to be in the business of selling data — a big ‘if,’ since few companies are — then by all means charge for your API. More accurately, charge for access to your data, which may include either charging more for it by API or including API access as part of the overall subscription.”

Do you have other tips for pricing an API? Let us know in the comments.


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The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. No more worrying about web hosting uptime. No more spending your time, energy and resources trying to stay on top of things like patching, updating, monitoring, backing up data and the like. Learn why.

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Ruby on Rails: Scaling Your App for Rapid Growth
HOW TO: Transfer Your Blog From WordPress.com to WordPress.org [VIDEO]
A Beginner’s Guide to Integrated Development Environments
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Once you’ve decided to build and distribute an API, how do you persuade developers to use it?

Our panel of API experts has returned to reveal tips and best practices for promoting your API among third-party developers, and they’ve got some great ideas for helping you achieve critical mass.

Guillaume Balas is an executive at 3scale, which offers full-featured API management and monetization tools. He says, “There is no secret sauce that guarantees API success. However, there are some must-have best practices to follow … But even having these best practices in place, there are still many other dimensions to consider.”

For example, Balas asks, what kind of recognition does your brand already have? What kind of buzz will you get from an API launch? How much are you willing to invest in promoting your API and supporting its users? How fast will you act on feedback from your API users? The answers to questions like these will determine the size of your API’s userbase.


Make It Worth Their While


Oren Michels is Mashery‘s CEO — his company does API management and strategy for more than 100 brands and 25,000 applications. He reminds those with APIs to remember that the API itself necessitates a symbiotic relationship. To get devs onboard, he says you must offer developers something meaningful — usually that’s fame or fortune.

“What is in it for a developer to work with you? Does it provide direct economic benefit (always nice) or indirect benefit (often nicer), such as making an app they have built better and therefore more likely to make them money? Celebrate successful developers as the heroes they are. Remember that if it’s all about you, they have no reason to build things for you,” Michels says.

He also notes that making terms and conditions reasonable and allowing devs to actually make money from your API is a given. A good rule of thumb: Would you sign your own T&Cs if you were a dev? If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board.


Make It Really Easy


Shanley Kane works on the product team at Apigee, a company that offers a range of API tools for developers and software companies. She says the key to mass adoption of your API is making it as simple to use as possible.

“Developers use APIs that are accessible, follow REST design principles and lower the barrier to entry,” she says. “Simplicity is a differentiator, and complexity kills adoption. Use a simple design, version intelligently, have good documentation and be responsive in support forums.”

Michels is in agreement on that score. “You have to make it easy, ” he says, “with lots of communication and documentation. Code samples. Active forums where questions are answered quickly and accurately. You want to be the path of least resistance to solving their problem when and how they want to solve it.”


Get Into the Community


Kane also notes it’s important to be part of the community of developers you’re trying to build. “Promote the awesome apps devs build,” she says. “Go to hackathons or hold your own. Tell developer press about what you’re working on. Have contests. Stay in touch on developer forums and online communities. If no one knows about your API and the great things they could do with it, no one will use it.”

Dimitri Sirota is an executive for Layer 7 Technologies, which offers its own suite of API management tools for the enterprise. Accordingly, he comes to the table with a different perspective from that of the typical web startup developer.

For enterprise (and other) APIs, Sirota recommends a few tricks for jump-starting API usage. If you have the resources, you could hold contests to find and reward the best apps built on your API or organize dev camps, for example.

But Sirota also points out the basics: You’ve got to “make the tools readily available, promote novel applications built on the APIs, advertise APIs … and help developers make money from APIs” as part of your community-building plan.

Do you have other tips for getting devs to use your API? Let us know in the comments.


Series Supported by Rackspace


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The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. No more worrying about web hosting uptime. No more spending your time, energy and resources trying to stay on top of things like patching, updating, monitoring, backing up data and the like. Learn why.

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Ruby on Rails: Scaling Your App for Rapid Growth
HOW TO: Transfer Your Blog From WordPress.com to WordPress.org [VIDEO]
A Beginner’s Guide to Integrated Development Environments
10 Chrome Web Apps to Check Out
10 Tools for Getting Web Design Feedback

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APIs are a hot topic among developers these days. Companies ranging from startups to large enterprises are offering them, and APIs have, to an extent, become the lifeblood of interdependent web services.

So how do you decide whether or not your company should offer an API?

To deliberate this question (and to learn about some of the tools available for offering APIs), we’ve turned to a panel of experts whose daily business is the building, distribution, management and monetization of APIs. Here’s what they have to say about choosing whether or not to offer that kind of access in the first place.


To API or Not to API?


Oren Michels is Mashery‘s CEO; his company does API management and strategy for more than 100 brands and 25,000 applications. He told us in an email, “”Ultimately, the API is a means for growing your business — and I use the term ‘business’ to include whatever your mission is, be it traffic or commerce or a nonprofit improving the world or a government entity serving its constituents — faster and larger by virtue of engaging with others. Understand how and why your API can do that and you will be successful.”

Shanley Kane works on the product team at Apigee, a company that offers a range of API tools for developers and software companies.

She says the first thing to do when considering building an API is to identify the goals and audience for that API. “This will inform every step of the API strategy,” Kane says, “from design to go-to-market. Companies open APIs for many reasons — to encourage developer innovation, monetize data, connect with partners or get to mobile and connected devices. Setting out with a clear objective that is tied to business goals and has a defined target market — whether large partners or independent developers — is critical to successful API programs.”

Kane also says to keep an eye on your competitors. APIs are products like any other, and the current ecosystem of platforms and services is vast and intricate. If your API is meeting the same need as a competing product, Kane says you have to ask yourself what makes your service or your API different — “How will your API stand out and win?”

Augusto Marietti founded Mashape, a marketplace for building, distributing and hacking with APIs. He gives decision makers a thorough checklist of questions to consider when thinking about whether or not to offer an API. Take these questions into early meetings and make sure each one is thoroughly answered before you move forward.

  • Do you want to have your API as a standalone product or an extension of your service?
  • Are you targeting the consumer or enterprise world?
  • Do you want to make money out of that or just see third party devs building on top of your platform to expand your service?
  • Who is your customer?
  • How much do you think you’ll need to scale?
  • How much does it cost to you?
  • What is your goal one year from now?

Dimitri Sirota is an executive for Layer 7 Technologies, which offers its own suite of API management tools for the enterprise. Accordingly, he comes to the table with a different perspective from that of the typical web startup developer.

He says companies should consider whether “the benefit of opening up my data in terms of reach and revenue outweigh the risk and cost.” He also cautions larger companies to fully define which department or specific personnel will “own” the product. He says to start out with a clear picture of your long-term goals — why are you offering an API? Is it for “revenue, retention or reach?”

Finally, if you’ve decided that the product in and of itself is a good idea, Kane says you have to plan for money and personnel. “Successful APIs need care, feeding and love,” she says. You must determine if your company is willing and able to devote the resources needed to build a successful API team and program, which includes the the need to “adapt the API and respond to user feedback, employ marketing resources to get the word out, and hire a community manager or developer advocate to make sure developers are taken care of and getting what they need.”

And while you might not need or plan to make money from your API (more on that in later posts), monetization discussions should occur early on, Kane says. “It’s very important to determine if monetization is a main goal of your service and if so, how you intend to charge or benefit from it. Offering a free service, then charging for it later, can have negative community backlash, so monetization is important to think about early and often. And if you decide to go free and open, identify the business metrics for it and how it fits into your business model.”

Michels also added that, when considering your API options, you need to consider the different types of devs that may be using it. “There are three major developer audiences for APIs: internal developers, second-party partners like biz dev partnerships or contracted outside app developers or affiliated companies, and third-party independent developers who may be developing new innovations that the API provider won’t even know about … Each audience has different needs and presents different opportunities, and you may want to address a few major second-party partners’ needs first before opening it up to a broader developer community.”


The Best Tools for the Job


Of course, our experts all work for companies that specialize in API management, so you’d likely be in good hands going to any of these companies when offering your own API. But we also asked them for basic advice on the kinds of tools you’
ll need to use and understand when building and managing an API for your company or service.

Sirota says, “You need an API proxy, a gateway to regulate what APIs get exposed to whom and when. The gateway is where you define the security policies, SLA controls and any integration/data mapping requirements. You also need API monitoring and lifecycle management … to address versioning of APIs and delivery of APIs across development, test and production. You also need visibility into usage.”

Finally, Sirota adds that you’ll need to create a developer portal of some sort. “This is the developer-facing piece, and it addresses all the developer onboarding, plan management, information discovery about the APIs, etc.”

Kane recommends GitHub as “a great resource for tracking issues, sharing code and documenting your API.” She also says that having clear and accessible documentation is “essential” for developer onboarding, and she recommends Google Groups for communicating with third-party devs using your API.

Kane says companies should be sure to get their APIs listed in ProgrammableWeb’s directory, and she recommends checking out Stashboard, an open-source status dashboard for APIs.

Stay tuned for more posts on getting started with offering APIs. And in the comments, let us know your own recommendations for offering APIs.


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