All API Startups Should Be More Like Glitch

by Kin Lane, API Evangelist Twitter LinkedIn Github Email

I was playing around with, and better understanding the new collaborative developer community that is Glitch, and I saw they had published a blog post about how they won't screw up Glitch. The topic was in alignment with another post I was working on regarding what I'd like to see fro API startups, but I think Anil articulates it better than even I could, and I think folks are going to respect it a lot more when it comes from a seasoned veteran like him, over an opinionated evangelist like me.

In hist post, Anil shares five key points I think every startup should be thinking about from day one:

  • No lock-in. We use totally standard infrastructure for Glitch, including regular old Node.js, and normal JavaScript for your code. You can export all of your code to GitHub with a click, or download a zip file of your code instantly at any time. And it’s gonna stay that way. The key thing that we think will keep you using Glitch is by your deep emotional connection to your fellow members of the community. And that’s not lock-in, that’s love! Aww.
  • We’re not gonna take features away from you and then start charging for them. This is one of those tricky things that a lot of companies do when they start building a business model for their product — they ask, “what would people pay for?” And then they realize… oh crap, the stuff people want to pay for is already offered for free. We’ve thought about this pretty carefully so we’ll be able to support our current features going forward. (It doesn’t cost much for us to run your Glitch app, and that cost is going down each month. No biggie.)
  • When we do start charging for stuff, we’ll check with you firstWe imagine we’ll add some paid features on top of what Glitch has now (maybe domain names? Everybody loves mapping domain names!) and when we do, we’ll let you know they’re coming, plus get your feedback on what you think is fair and reasonable pricing. Because we want you to be happy to pay for these valuable features!
  • We won’t let a bunch of jerks take over the community. Ugh, this one is so annoying. Usually, when a company is trying to grow a community, they’ll let just about anybody in because they’re desperate to show growth, and that inevitably means opening the door to some small number of jerks, who then ruin the whole site for everybody. Instead of doing that foolish thing, we’re going to grow Glitch steadily and deliberately, with tons of room for new folks, but a lot of thought put into preventing abuse and harassment. I can’t guarantee we’ll get it perfect, but honestly the thought of working every day to build something that’s mostly used by jerks would be awful, so we’re not gonna do it. And honestly, Glitch is growing pretty quickly because it’s friendly, so hooray for nice people.
  • We want your fun and weird and “not serious” stuff on Glitch, too. While we’re ecstatic to feature Serious Tools from incredible companies like Slack on Glitch, we think your artsy or silly or deeply personal projects are vital to the community, too. The same people who spend their day building a complex API integration on top of Glitch’s tools will come home and collaborate on a generative poetry project at night, and that’s exactly what we’re designing for. So don’t feel embarrassed to show all your many facets here; that’s what our own team does, too.

There are other things I'd like to see other startups focus on like privacy and security, but Anil really get's at athe heart of much of the illness we see regarding API startups. For me, it really comes down to communication and honesty about the business model, which Anil talks about in a very approachable way. I don't expect companies who are doing startups to do everything that us developers want, but I do want you to be open, honest, and communicative with us about what is going on--that is all.

I fully grasp that startups are in the business of making money, and often have different motivations than many (some) of us developers who are consuming their API focused resources. I do not expect these things to always be in perfect balance, but I do expect startups to be honest with developers from day one, and not bullshit us about their business model, changes and the long term road map. I appreciate that Anil and the Glitch team has started things off on this foot, hopefully providing the rest of us with a model to follow when it comes to not screwing over your developer community, and building more trust when it comes to depending on APIs across the sector.

I am looking forwarding to learning more about Glitch, and the potential for the community.