Words and Photos by Julie Blaustein
It was quite a turnout at the The Business of API’s Conference for a rainy Monday afternoon. There were over 200 attendees at the beautiful, art deco San Francisco City Club in the heart of the financial district. Marshall Kirkpatrick described Mashery as, “the coolest company in Silicon Valley that most people never heard of,” and it was the driving force behind the conference. It was also sponsored by Sun Microsystems who recently started their Sun Start up Essentials program to support startups.
Why the sudden interest in API’s and what exactly is it? API stands for Application Program Interface and can be thought of as the building blocks that enable developers to put together all the components that allow for the creation of easily interfaced programs. More importantly, for businesses that run on the Internet, it means a company can release their API to the public, allowing for what is called a “mashup” of its data, thus creating distribution channels as they leverage their traffic and gain access to third parties they would never have encountered. Suddenly it seems that API’s are available everywhere and if you do not have one now, you should. Luckily, Mashery is now around to help with that process.
One of the earliest examples of the use of API’s came from the mashup’s from Craig’s List and Google Maps creating HousingMaps.com in 2005. Since that time, which in Internet time is almost a lifetime, there have been a number of companies that have successfully made their API’s public and with little resources thrown towards it, companies have increased their distribution tremendously including del.icio.us, Twitter, Digg, and Flickr.
A panel of website giants who have successfully enabled their API to go public included Yahoo’s VP Bradley Horowitz, Amazon’s Evangalist of Web Services, Jeff Barr and AOL‘s VP and CEO of Userplane Michael Jones. They talked of the availability of syndication, in the form of badges or application from third parties that take the code made available from their API, that allows them to reach more people and benefit from all the traffic resulting from other sites. This in turns increases their own traffic, allowing for better monetization such as the advertising of their sites. It’s a win-win situation for all.
One of the main reasons for companies attending the conference was to better understand how one launches an API program rapidly and cost-effectively without draining their internal developer resources. That is exactly where Mashery comes into the picture. They provide the tools, reporting, metrics & tracking, infrastructure and distribution that a company needs to have in place in order to launch their API into the world and just plain make the entire process quick and easy. They launched back in November of 2006 but already they have a number of clients including Compete, Freewebs and CambrianHouse. As quoted by Michels, “Today’s smart Business Development guy simply works more with In House API’s than through their rolodex these days.”
Co-Founders of Lookery, David Cancel (formerly of Compete) and Scott Rafer
What would a conference about API’s be without a discussion of Facebook? They are the largest distribution platform since they opened up their API to developers back in May. Has it only been 5 months since then? Jia Shen, CTO and Founder of RockYou spoke of his company’s experiences and insights into their rapid ascent to becoming one of a few truly successful applications found on Facebook. Their success on Facebook’s platform as related to working with MySpace resulted from Facebook’s specific business rules and boundaries they established from the start. In addition he plugged RockYou’s ad network which of course helps monetize applications.
The conference ended with a strong discussion among VC’s and corporations about how the opening up of the API has reshaped how business and making investments is done. Included in this panel was Mark Bregman, EVP and CTO, Symantec who spoke of how open API’s are expanding the information supply chain and there is now a strong need for policy compliance. VC’s when questioned on the type of business opportunities they would they be interested in hearing about, provided a number of topics including a big interest in extracting structured data out of unstructured information from repositories, developing the ideas that appear to be the most obvious, working on ideas coming from other geographies that are successful, online gaming, mobile communications and not suprisingsly, on ways to gain Facebook User acquisition.
Finally, after a full day of great information, there was a great cocktail reception to talk about the Business of API’s some more.
Awesome Networking for All
For more pictures go to Julie’s Album