Kin Lane

Different Approaches to an API Ecosystem

I'm reviewing four major Application Programming Interfaces (API) today. Zendesk, Scribd, Twilio, and Evernote.

These are all top web 2.0 or cloud applications. Whichever label you wish to apply.

I am evaluating the different approaches to delivering their API Ecosystem:
  • Zendesk - Offers web-based customer support software and their API is pretty much a feature or extension of that software. They offer up API integration documentation and the rest is built into your Zendesk account area.
  • Scribd - Offers cloud based document sharing. Their API is packaged up neatly in a Developers / API area, with all the necessary building blocks for an API community. Great API delivery.
  • Twilio - Offers voice and SMS web services. Their API is different because it is their core offering. It isn't a second thought or a different group of users. Twilio sells an API.
  • Evernote - Offers a web based note-taking and archiving web application. Their API is not their core offering and offered through smaller developer area. They showcase an application marketplace heavily where users can showcase web, mobile and desktop apps that integrate with Evernote.
Twilio represents a new age Software as a Service (SaaS) where the entire product is built around an API offering. So they are kind of a different beast.

I would have to say that Scribd delivers the cleanest API Ecosystem with a great quick start, and robust set of building blocks for their API community. Zendesk and Evernote have great API, but their focus on delivering a complete API Ecosystem is a little fragmented and overshadowed by their core web application offerings.