APIs for Eyeballs

Over the last few years, a number of companies have either closed, restricted, or limited their publicly available API programs. On the other hand, we have other companies who have invested heavily in their public APIs, including Betfair and MailChimp

When you think about the purpose of an API, it’s easy to see why some companies have embraced and expanded their API offering, while others are closing them down. That difference comes down to the fundamental product of the business.

In the case of a company like LinkedIn or Twitter, their business is all about “selling Eyeballs”. In essence, their product is the attention of their users. In order to maximise the value of that attention, they need to both capture their customer’s attention and sell it to their advertisers. If they don’t control the front end (be it a web site or native app) then they can’t promise to do either.

On the other hand, companies like MailChimp or Betfair are selling a service. For those companies, their APIs are “distribution channels” for their services. Having those APIs available extends the reach of their services, allows them to reach new markets, and provide their service to people who want customer interfaces in cost effective ways.

So if you’re developing for an API you can determine if your access is likely to be closed or restricted by understanding the business model of the API platform you’re using. If you’re working on an API for eyeballs, you might want to be careful about putting all your eggs in that basket.

This entry was posted in Tech. Bookmark the permalink.