The Next Generation of API Discovery

For the last seven years, when you wanted to find an API you went to ProgrammableWeb. It has been the definitive way to discover new APIs, and responsible for all the buzz in the space that has gotten the industry to where it is.

Now that ProgrammableWeb is at 8400 APIs in its directory, and adding 50-100 each week, it will continue to get even more difficult to discover APIs. Even for someone like me who has looked at thousands of APIs, it can be very difficult and time consuming to find the API or APIs you are looking for.

In 2013 there are even more ways to find APIs, new approaches that are looking to define the next generation of API discovery and consumption. Currently I’m tracking on 4 API directories in addition to ProgrammableWeb:

  • APIhub - APIhub is the best way to publish, discover and consume APIs. Search our database or browse through our most popular APIs
  • - is an open source and free API registry service that allows developers to publish and discover REST APIs and interact with them online
  • Exicon API Directory - Exicon helps marketers and enterprises find qualified developers through our online platform and advisory services
  • Mashape - Mashape provides a world-class marketplace to manage, distribute and consume both private and public APIs by developers from all over the world and Exicon have the least amount of APIs available, but both Mashape and APIhub are currently leading, with Mashape possessing over 1500 and APIhub has over 13,000 APIs available.

In addition to providing the ability to search APIs and browse by category, these new generation of API directories are providing sophisticated tools like interactive documentation, code samples and ways to follow, share, like--providing social interactions for API developers with API publishers.

Beyond these new bells and whistles, what’s next for API discovery? To make developers lives easier they need programmatic ways to discover and understand APIs, as well as some sort of ranking to tell which are good and which are bad APIs.

To provide interactive documentation, these directories posses JSON definitions of each API interface, using formats such as Swagger from Wordnik, which opens up the door for more sophisticated discovery in a programmatic way, and potentially directly from within your IDE.

With the data from the sharing, liking, following, page views and other signals generated via these API directories, there is a potential to develop some sort of ranking. But we need more data signals from the space to truly develop a meaningful ranking. I’ve developed my own API ranking to help me discover which APIs are trending based upon internal and external signals, allowing me to establish my API Stack. But its not enough either. We need a lot more to be able to establish a meaningful way to rank APIs, that truly benefits developer efforts.

As we are switching from showcasing the quantity of APIs, to better understanding the value and quality of APIs, we are going to need a new breed of directories. I’m excited by what I’m seeing from these new API directories, and hopeful for what is coming 2013.

Disclosure: Both ProgrammableWeb and APIhub are API Evangelist partners.