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6 minutes read

Should You Build an Open API? 3 Benefits for Your Business

By Jonathan Tarud
By Jonathan Tarud
6 minutes read

There are several benefits of API development that your business should consider carefully. But what exactly is an open API?

Open API (often referred to as a Public API): a publicly available application programming interface (API) that provides developers with programmatic access to a proprietary software application. APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can communicate and interact with another.

Do you still need some clarification on what an application programming interface (API) is? Essentially, it’s code that allows two software components or programs to communicate and interact. If a business software has an “open” interface, it means that third-party software developers can use the code and data from the software to create or integrate other software that will interact with the original program without purchasing an API key.

Still not entirely up to speed?

To help you fully understand what an open API is, the ultimate example is probably in your pocket. Cell phones have to be one of the biggest benefactors of having an open interface for third-party developers.

Imagine if your iPhone only had apps developed by the Apple team. Crazy to think, right? Instead, they’ve opened the doors and allowed developers to create custom user experiences through API integrations.

This example is just one facet of a vast opportunity. In this post, we will share three top business benefits of granting API access to the public.

Number One: Open APIs Establish Authority

While Apple is an incredible example of how a business can benefit from opening up its interface, the search giant Google is our prime example in this post. Their growth is exponential, and third-party development and API integration could be considered a massive part of the company’s rise to prominence.

As of this post, Google has several different APIs (you can check them out here).

Everyone knows that what started as a simple search engine is now much more. Some popular app components developers use include Google Mail (Gmail), Google Docs, and Google Maps. The company has established authority with each new leg of its business primarily due to open API access and by partnering with third-party developers.

Example of Google Integration: Webmasters can directly integrate a Google Search bar into web pages. Doing so increases a site’s functionality, creates an integrated User Experience, and increases Google’s brand authority.

Google was one of the first 100 companies to open their interface (before their largest competitors). The early adoption of the company’s web APIs attracted talented developers that made helpful additions to their brand, which continues to help them move into new categories and establish authority quickly.

Utilizing Your API for Authority

Opening your API is a great first step, but partnering with programmers to create incredible functionality through integrations will be necessary. Google was one of the first companies to have an open API, but now close to 15,000 APIs exist. This crowded market means fewer developers are ready to pounce on your opportunity. Here are a couple of ways to draw them to your business.

Reach Out: Let other companies and developers know your product can be integrated. Take time to distribute information to talented developers and educate them on the benefits of APIs. Companies like GitHub have successfully targeted the development community directly instead of large businesses.

Reward Well: Another tactic many popular software companies implement is sending a T-shirt or other swag to developers just for taking a look at the product. GitHub uses this method to reach new audiences. Your API benefits more than your business. It is highly beneficial to be more than a simple service provider and build a community around your API offerings.

Number Two: Open APIs Can Draw Crowds

Allowing API integration can help your company gain traction and experience rapid growth. Some may even call it a “growth hack.” If your products are software or use software (IoT devices), you understand the importance of engaged users.

However, developing new features or related products can be costly and time-consuming.

With an open API, other developers make your product more valuable to current users while attracting new customers with added value and new data. Getting a leg up on the competition while others help make your product more attractive may seem too good to be true, but it is possible by making your API available to the public.

Example: The email game was just as crowded as the web search market. Big names like Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL dominated the space. Gmail hit the scene but has since become the most prominent email provider. It’s pretty easy to see why. There are so many third-party APIs on the existing network. Here’s a list of 22, and that’s not all.

Utilizing Your API for Growth

Gaining users is often the most critical goal for software products and app creators. Rapid growth is often achieved through experimentation with business models, software applications, and agency systems within a company. However, opening your API may significantly add users if done correctly.

Promote Success: If another tool or third-party developer takes the time and effort to make your product work well with others (or adds something to it), you should reward that behavior. Let the world know that there are additional benefits to using your product.

Number Three: Open APIs Give You Ideas

Open APIs are valuable for your business. Think of it as free market validation.

Developers integrate your products with theirs using APIs, and you see how your users respond. Some third-party options charge a recurring fee (SaaS business model). A unique selling proposition generates the fees, but it could be worth developing your own solution for the same problem being solved by your pseudo-competitor.

Example: Sticking with Google, a popular extension emerged (Boomerang). The third-party plugin is a comprehensive email management tool. It is a useful API that struck it big with Gmail’s users. While Boomerang is still going strong, Gmail has since created additional email management tools, such as email send scheduling. These features are not as robust as the third-party solution offered by Boomerang, but they are enough to save costs for Gmail users.

Important Note: Keeping up with your integrations and extensions may be necessary. If too many options cost money, your product may be passed over due to the costs of the third-party options.

Adding Your Own Value

While picking up on the integrations and software that resonates with your user base isn’t all that difficult, developing digital solutions based on a third-party option can be time-consuming. So even though creating more “in-house” value will strengthen your brand, you may not have considered it a viable option.

Final Thoughts

APIs bring a ton of value to existing digital products. APIs can be used for everything from maps to data migration. If you want to learn more about the benefits of developing an open API for your business, reach out to an experienced app development partner

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