Use Your Community to Build API Code Libraries

An important tone of my blog is not to ever say any API owner should, or developers have to do anything. My role as API evangelist is to observe, discuss and explore the business of APIs.

I was discussing best practices around API ecosystems with a prominent developer the other night an a O'Reilly Web 2.0 event. He had an interesting perspective on how to build community around an API. Building your API community can start with your code libraries.

His recommendation was that API owners should focus on building a simple and standardized API that provides true value, and do not build your own API code libraries.

Let your community build, and contribute code libraries in their preferred programming language.

His argument was that if an API owner releases an official set of libraries, the innovation stops there. Nobody will build any further code libraries and possibly improve on them. By allowing the community to build API libraries it gives you a chance to put the spotlight on developers, increases the chance for competition, spurs innovation and developers will rise to the occasion.

In some cases an API owner may even contract with a developer to build the API code libraries, but do not endorse them as official. This way developers see opportunity to build upon them and improve them, if they feel so inclined.

I found this a very innovative approach to empowering your developer community, encouraging innovation, and building community within your API ecosystem.