Evolving Beyond Open: The Runscope Community Projects Model

The word "open" gets thrown around a lot in the API space. So much in fact, the term has lost just about any meaning. We don't say "open API" anymore, we identify an API as public, partner or private, evolving to a time where open APIs have merged with open source, and success means building community.

In 2013, successful application development centers around community, which includes not just a healthy selection of valuable, stable API resources, but also a strong assortment of open source tools and cloud services that are community driven, and benefit all.

A strong example of this evolution can be seen in the Netflix ecosystem, where a "public" API has been largely considered a failure, but a strong API driven community of device vendors has flourished, as well as the release of a suite of open source API and cloud tooling from the online movie and TV streaming platform.

Another examples can be seen from the new API testing and integration provider Runscope. In addition to providing a suite of services for developers to use when developing API driven applications, Runscope also actively maintains four separate community projects:

API Digest and API Jobs were pet projects of Runscope founder John Sheehan, prior to starting the company, but he has continued the same approach in a more formal manner, in which Sheehan calls the Runscope 'Community Projects' model, and adding API Changelog and most recently acquiring RequestBin.

All of these Runscope projects are "free-forever open to the community sites that I hope are valuable resources related to what we're doing", according to Sheehan. "our overriding philosophy for all this is this: the more tools the better. We obviously benefit from the links, etc. but the bigger picture is we're working in a nascent area of dev tools and we benefit more from general exposure to the ideas we're working on than trying to capture all the attention directly. Whatever we need to do to encourage devs to keep trying new ways to solve these problems, we're going to do it."

In addition to these core community projects at Runscope, they also sponsor four other open source software (OSS) projects, including localtunnel.com, httpbin.org, foauth.org, and mocky.io. Sheehan says that, "some of these 'compete' with us, but we're more concerned with keeping them available".

Runscope's 'Community Project' model makes me happy. This approach is not just about providing paid services for developers who are building applications that use APIs, but truly providing the news, tools and other resources the space needs to be healthy.

Companies that are looking to provide APIs or API related services need to follow Runscope's lead, and evolve beyond just the concept of 'open API' or just 'open source', and adopt a community driven model where you acknowledge its not just about selling your services, but aso helping contribute the resources that will ensure the entire space is healthy and vibrant--a world where we all win!