From looking up addresses on Google Maps, to pulling up the shopping cart on e-commerce portals – APIs are being used everywhere. According to a recent report, 40+ new APIs are created and added every week – a fair indication of the rate at which the global ‘API economy’ is growing. We will here take a look at some fascinating trends and statistics from the API industry to watch out for in 2017:
A ‘new’ technology
APIs have been around for some time now, but it has been only in the last 2-3 years that software and app developers have started to extensively use them. Nearly 52% of all API providers started their service in the last 5 years, with 20% being launched in the last 2 years. Older API providers (those that were started 6 or more years back) make up around 42% of the total market. It’s an evolving market, and new resources are coming in thick and fast.
Security – the double edged sword
There is a general notion among general API consumers as well as application developers that APIs enhance security threats. 4 out of every 10 users feel that probable security breaches are the topmost risks of using APIs – and they wish to see these issues resolved at the earliest. On the other hand, it is digital security that many developers (24%) feel will drive the global API industry forward in the coming years. Not surprisingly 40.4% of technology providers are already focused on testing API security.
How are API tools chosen?
While selecting an API tool for a backend-as-a-service (BaaS) tool, script and resource reusability is the single biggest point of concern among developers. For almost 56% respondents, reusability is the number one factor while deciding whether to use an API tool or not. Around 36% pinpoint user-friendliness as the biggest ‘must-have’ feature in an API service (33.6% users focus particularly on the ease of implementation). In contrast, only 18% app makers list ‘the learning curve’ of a tool as their biggest concern. Clearly, users are ready to take up the challenge of learning – if an API tool is reusable and is easy to use.
On the mobile platform
The importance of the smartphone platform is growing steadily, and the trend is expected to further pick up pace in 2017. Among all API providers worldwide, a tick under 64% already support the mobile platform. More interestingly, mobile technology is believed to be the key driver of the API economy over the next couple of years (52% API users feel so). Almost 75% providers offer both internal as well as external API solutions.
Note: Internet of Things (IoT) is mentioned by 22% of the survey respondents as the ‘next big thing’ in the API industry. Connectivity, clearly, is a white-hot topic at present in the tech domain.
Why are APIs used?
It’s pretty much established that backend APIs are much in demand now, but what exactly drives this demand? According to survey results, the most important purpose of APIs is better interoperability between teams and tools/systems. Boosting product/service functionality is the second most common reason for using APIs. 42% users apply APIs to shorten the total software or mobile app development cycles, while 38% people rely on APIs to bring down development expenses. API tools are also widely used for social integrations, as direct marketing channels, and for collaborating with external organizations.
Agile vs waterfall
With the advent and burgeoning popularity of APIs, agile development has emerged as the runaway leader, as far as software delivery methods are concerned (almost 76% of organizations prefer this method). In comparison, the traditional ‘Waterfall’ strategy is still followed by a measly 24% companies. In fact, delivery models like Continuous Integration (39%), Continuous Delivery (28%) and even DevOps (25%) have pulled ahead of ‘Waterfall’ in this race.Incremental and lean software delivery models (with 17% and 11% share respectively) rank further down the list.
While API-usage for making mobile apps is growing at a fast clip, it is not yet the biggest platform served by APIs. That position would go to Web, which is served by as many as 86% of all APIs. Mobile occupies the second spot, and is followed by Desktop – with nearly 41% of the total API-share. As already mentioned, 1 out of every 5 APIs already support the Internet of Things (IoT). Both mobile and IoT are expected to get more API-coverage in 2017 and beyond.
Note: Automation scripts are supported by approximately 39% of APIs.
A ‘successful API’ is one that delivers…
Performance. Irrespective of which industry it is being used, 74% people listed performance as the most important characteristic of an application programming interface. The availability or uptime of APIs – with 50% votes – are a distant second, and is followed by the total count of API calls. APIs that promptly log and resolves issues are marked by 35% consumers as ‘successful’. Monetization, subscriber count, and retention are other, less important, factors.
Focus on quality and issue resolution
When faced with quality issues, 33% of consumers promptly shift to another API provider. To prevent this and bolster user-retention levels, API providers are placing prime importance on quality management issues. On average, organizations use as many as 4 separate tools for API testing. 55.8% of all user-complaints are resolved within a maximum of 7 days, with 10% of quality issues being addressed within 24 hours.
Note: According to mobile app developers, performing the ‘root cause analysis’ is the biggest challenge while trying to resolve API issues.
10. Risks posed by poor API quality
There are several reasons why API providers are so concerned about API performance and quality issues. In a survey conducted among 1300 respondents, 43% stated that sub-standard APIs lead to loss of customers, while 36% expressed their concern about their company’s brand image taking a hit. Missing project deadlines is yet another problem caused by poor APIs (for ecommerce sites, this is equivalent to missing SLAs). For APIs whose performance is not up to the mark, more testing/troubleshooting is required – and according to 34.5% of the respondents, this was the biggest problem. 18% felt that sticking with a buggy API can lead to loss of contracts and even legal compliance hassles.
11. Industries using APIs –
The use of APIs is no longer restricted to only the technology domain, although tech (with 11% share) remains the biggest API-using sector. Banking, with 9% share, is next – followed by Engineering and Healthcare (both have 8% share in the total API-pie). Telecommunications, education, retail, consultancy and insurance are some of the other fields where the use of APIs is relatively high. Many of these industries are not traditionally ‘tech-oriented’ – but APIs are being adopted in them nonetheless.
Note: The private sector has, from the start, been by far the bigger user of API tools and BaaS solutions. The public sector is playing the catch-up game, and reported a 4% API-use in 2016. It is expected that this figure would go up over the next few quarters.
12. Main challenges for API providers
The demand for higher delivery speeds is rising among customers – and that poses the number one challenge for API providers (testers, developers and operations). Managing the widely swinging expectations of stakeholders is another big challenge, as is the loopholes in the integration between tools and systems. The sheer complexity of API tools, together with the lack of internal knowledge, constitute another major roadblock. Budget issues and non-availability of required technology can also pose problems for API providers.
13. Tools used for API testing
71% of all organizations perform ‘functional testing’ – making it by far the most common API testing method. Load testing or Performance testing is done by more than 60% companies, more than 55% users do Unit testing at the code level. Nearly 5 out of 10 respondents reported that they perform monitoring tests as well. Security testing and standard API Management solutions are also used for testing APIs fairly commonly.
Note: Service virtualization tools are applied by 24% organizations for API testing.
14. Formal documentation is important
A detailed, formal API documentation process is essential and high-priority, feels 46% of developers who create custom software and apps. A further 29% also identify the importance of documentation, but does not accord the same level of priority to the task. Only 10% users opine that a formal documentation procedure is not required. Proper documentation makes the overall API projects a lot more systematic – and that’s precisely why organizations are increasingly leaning towards it.
15. Finding the problem. Fixing the problem.
Apart from identifying the root cause of API bugs, providers face several other common problems while trying to fix issues. 1 out of every 4 API providers struggle to employ the correct personnel (individual or team) to fix the reported issues, while designing an effective fix is a challenge for 24% respondents. Many providers face difficulties while isolating the problematic API as well. Fixing problems, obviously, require both time and resources – and constraints can crop up on those fronts too.
Whatever way you look at it, there is no denying that the API industry is on an upward surge globally. While the volume of APIs accessible on ProgrammableWeb has spiralled, due emphasis is being put on the quality factor as well. All eyes are now on 2017, which should witness further growth and proliferation of the API technology across sectors.