Archive for May, 2010
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Apple versus Adobe. Facebook versus Google. Twitter versus its own developer ecosystem. At the recent Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco keynotes and hallway conversations revolved around the latest platform battles that are actively defining and re-imagining the future of our increasingly mobile, social, and real-time reality.
But technology platforms such as AOL, Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, and eBay have been experiencing these cycles for years, spawning large ecosystems that in turn created huge opportunities for partners, developers and competitors. Evolution is inherent in any ecosystem and today’s platform battles are just one spike in the Web 2.0 maturation curve.
Observing the renaissance of social ad platforms (note AdMob, the launch of iAd, Promoted Tweets) we at Mashery realize that while analysts and media remark on corporate goings-on, there has been a lack of interest in understanding the developer community that is a meaningful part of the 2010 platform wars.
Mashery, an API infrastructure and management company, polled nearly 600 Web and mobile application developers at SXSW Interactive this spring to take a pulse on what they love and hate about developing on different API platforms. By peering into the mindset of a developer building applications with APIs, we extrapolated ecosystem insights and presented them to you here.
- What are the best APIs out there for developers?
- What are the most helpful resources to you as developers?
- Why do you work with APIs?
- What programming languages are you using?
- What platforms and devices do you build applications for?
Findings & Implications
1. APIs have a compelling long tail
What are the best APIs out there for developers? There is no real surprise when we announce that the top three APIs named as the best to work with are Google, Twitter, and Amazon (69% of respondents). But interestingly, we see a solid number of smaller platform players emerging.
Tag cloud based on 828 responses from 502 developers.
If you’re a current API provider, or you’re thinking of advancing an API program by opening up your data to developers, there’s plenty of room for targeting the niche of your business. Since the landscape of the API providers is not conducive to a winner takes all conclusion, there is a thriving, healthy long tail of developers who are interested in new platforms and creative innovation. The secret sauce is in the type of data you expose, and how simple you make it to access your data.
So don’t be a five-year-old on the soccer field, flocking to the latest shiny object. Play your position, and stay focused on your core audience. Think about it: When Chris Anderson first established his The Long Tail theory, the premise was that overcoming the limitations of geography and scale will enable you to discover new markets and expand existing ones – because there’s an audience for everything, and “popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability.”
“Going by past evidence, [even] closed ecosystems… still allow for opportunities to be made at the edge of the ecosystem in areas the platform owner deems too small to bother with,” writes VentureBeat.
With nearly 2,000 APIs listed on ProgrammableWeb, there is more room for compelling data to be re-mixed and re-used into different user experiences across multiple devices.
ProgrammableWeb.com, Business of APIs Conference, November 2009
2. Open platforms and closed communications don’t always mix well
What developer resources are most helpful when building with APIs? If you want to better communicate with your developer community, it’s a senseless exercise to compare apples and oranges, but Apple to Twitter – valuable lessons learned.
Host an annual developer event and fail to mention major policy changes around Flash and HTML5 that hugely impact the ecosystem’s development process on the platform. Instead, institute changes in the Terms of Services and let developers dig through and work out the edits on their own. Message: “Dear community, our policies are public and open. Have at them.”
- “It’s hard to build a business on a platform where you feel like you cannot trust the men in power. If they can take down Adobe a few days before the launch of their flagship product, what hope do smaller players hold?” – David, 37signals
Launch a developer event for the sake of talking to your growing ecosystem and present a roadmap, have executives communicate policy on stage, from the top down. Inform developers of where opportunities lie while being honest about which pieces of the pie Twitter will keep for themselves. Message: “Dear community, we want to help you grow by being transparent on where we are headed as an organization.”
- “For every platform ever, it’s a question of what should be left up to the ecosystem and what should be created on the platform.” – Ev Williams, CEO, Twitter
And when we asked the community what is most helpful to them as developers, what was most reflected was a growing demand for clear cut communication from API providers:
Chart based on 1072 responses from 542 developers.
In the ‘Other’ category, we heard what developers had to say about their API pet peeves:
- I “hate it when [the] API stops working without notice.”
- I want “clear, updated information” and “stability and company ethics towards developers.”
- It’s an important signal when “CEOs work with developers.”
- Provide timely bug fixes, “working tutorials, demos and BBS, and sample apps” on the developer portal.
- Create a “vibrant community” with “online message boards” and helpful “blogs and videos.”
As an API platform provider, knowing more about who your developers are and what they rank highest in importance is the best indicator for resource prioritization. Build support tools that your ecosystem actually wants, or needs. It’s human nature to flock towards the friendliest habitat for growth and survival.
3. Passion first. Paycheck second.
Why do developers work with APIs? The Valley is filled with startups and garage coders with a vision of how to do something better, paired with the energy, drive, and desire to build the next great thing. Entrepreneurs may dream sweet dreams of fame and riches but at the core of Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and everywhere in between is solving a problem in a technically elegant way in front of your peers. That is its own reward.
We asked the community, “Why do you work with APIs?”
|Selections||Out of 714 Responses|
|Fun, Fame & Glory||37%|
|My employer pays me to||36%|
|Make extra money outside of my day job||17%|
Additionally, of the 569 responses from developers attending SXSW this year, more than a quarter of them came from companies with 30 plus employees, which demonstrates interest and support for API initiatives from larger organizations. Almost 1/5 of developers attended SXSW Interactive for their “own personal projects,” and nearly 2/3 cited reasons beyond “because my employer pays me to,” which demonstrates personal dedication to the field.
4. Ebb and Flow of Disrupted Ecosystems
One thing we were very interested in when we laid out our questions to this community was figuring out which were the most popular programming languages.
Chart based on 1416 results from 530 developers
5. Developers migrate toward where they find opportunity
Where are developers building apps and extending into new devices and channels?
|Selections||Out of 1084 Responses|
|Desktop (Silverlight, AIR)||9%|
- Online/browser and Mobile are clearly the dominant development platforms with almost 3/4 of survey responses.
- Desktop and Set-top and Gaming Consoles have yet to attract strong developer adoption. Currently, only the Xbox360 console is open to scalable app integrations, while Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight are still waiting to take off as market opportunities.
- Only 3% of this developer population is focused on hardware, but we expect that to change as major mobile operators and manufacturers supply more app-friendly handsets into the hands of mainstream consumers.
When you are an API provider, it is important to periodically check-in with the developers consuming your APIs to gage the pulse of your developer ecosystem, particularly in times of turbulence like today. Our developer pulse revealed that:
- APIs have a compelling long-tail
- Open platforms and closed communications don’t always mix well
- Passion first. Paycheck second.
- Ebb and flow of disrupted ecosystems
- Developers migrate toward where they find opportunity
We think that the recent comments by venture capitalist Fred Wilson apply to the wider context of developer platforms in this latest era of platform battles: “It is clear you can build large businesses on top of a social platform like Facebook and Twitter… We are entering a new phase now. Twitter is a global platform… so it’s time for Twitter and its developer ecosystem to work together to create entirely new things that will shape the Internet in the coming years. I’m excited to see it happen.”
Sex sells … well, sex .. but not much else. Victoria’s Secret was the most recalled product placement on TV — fortunately they sell products related to what was recalled. Not so sure about the mayo and cell phone.
|Rank||Brand||In-Program Placement Description||Program Airing Info||Recall Index|
|1||Victoria’s Secret||Michael interrupts meeting to offer Donna a retail store’s catalog||The Office (NBC, Apr 29)||214|
|2||Ford||Cole Austin points to his Mustang and says he still owns it||Cold Case (CBS, May 2)||190|
|3||Skype||Joyce tells Benson and Stabler that she talks to Andrew online||Law and Order: SVU (NBC, Apr 7)||183|
|4||Yamaha||Susan explains to Mike that she has inherited a piano||Desperate Housewives (ABC, May 2)||181|
|5||Rolex||Provo tells Fin that Jack stole his watch; member of the cooking staff is wearing it||Law and Order: SVU (NBC, Apr 7)||178|
|6||MedTec||Name is visible on the ambulance doors||Trauma (NBC, Apr 5)||176|
|7||Toyota||Mitchell and Cameron park their car at Charlie’s house||Modern Family (ABC, Apr 14)||161|
|8||Chevrolet||Winston drives with Guerrero, who identifies the car as a Camaro||Human Target (FOX, Apr 7)||155|
|9||Porsche||Zack asks Nick where he got his car from||Accidentally On Purpose (CBS, Apr 21)||152|
|10||Chevrolet||Pres. Hasaan rides in a black SUV after turning himself over to terrorists||24 (FOX, Apr 5)||147|
AT&T may have improved their dropped call performance lately, but they’ve still got a lot of work to do. According to a recent survey from ChangeWave Research, AT&T customers experience 3x the percentage of dropped calls as Verizon users. Ouch.
Maybe the least surprising part of the survey was that those dropped calls led to consumer dissatisfaction, though this time AT&T shared the dishonorable mention with T-Mobile:
There’s no question that AT&T has put serious resources behind improving their network, and major improvements are expected for this summer. But until users start actually feeling those improvements in their day to day lives—without having to resort to a MicroCell 3G—there are going to be a lot of folks interested in jumping ship if and when the iPhone ever hits Verizon. [ChangeWave via PC World]
When the founder of Wikipedia and/or a small team of volunteers deletes purportedly “pornographic” images per their right, activists and others have a problem with that — even ones who support the concept. But in an automated system (where when enough members of the community click “flag as inappropriate” the content is removed) the community has spoken and the community has policed itself — the way Flickr, YouTube, and Amazon (flagging inappropriate reviews) do it.
Dispute brews over pornographic images on Wikimedia
A row over sexually explicit content on the web encyclopaedia Wikipedia and related sites has escalated.
Co-founder Jimmy Wales has given up some of his site privileges following protests by contributors angered that he deleted images without consultation.
As part of a special report on the state of couch potatoes in the year 2010, the Economist collected data on perceived vs. actual media consumption. People are in denial about their TV addictions and overconfident in their YouTube cool.
Maybe not consciously, but that seems to be the case. The chart shows that to some extent YouTube is still a media event—something we’re aware of ourselves watching—whereas TV just washes over us and seeps into our rotting brains without us even realizing it.
These numbers are from 2008, though, and it would be interesting to see how the balance has shifted over the last 2 years. Personally, my YouTube watching is way up, my TV watching is way down, and the only time I hear the radio is when someone drives by with their windows down. Because honestly, who needs Treme when you have this. [The Economist]
The best discounts are for things you actually buy. Free web service Offermatic uses your credit card, through the same back-end as Mint.com, to offer 40-90 percent discounts on products similar to what you’ve already purchased.
If you’re not squeamish about providing financial information to financial scanning sites like Mint.com, Offermatic is a pretty sweet deal. You register your credit cards with Offermatic through their secure system, which then scans your purchases and spits back out high-discount offers from their advertisers, made to match your interests. You won’t necessarily get coupons for the exact stores you shop at, but the examples seem to be highly related.
Depending on how much you spend, you can also make up to $15 a year back per card (though, to be honest, we’re not about to spend $1,000 a month just to get $15 back at the end of the year, and we wouldn’t recommend you do either). But getting 40-90 percent off some pretty popular stores isn’t bad for a free service. For the folks on the fence about how Offermatic makes their cut, here’s what their FAQ has to say:
- If your service is free, how do you make money?
We make money by saving you money. We get a commission from the advertiser when our users purchase their offer through us.
- Do you sell my personal or individual data?
Never. When we send you an offer from one of our advertisers, it’s based on your anonymous purchase history. Advertisers do not know your name, email address, or location. Only if you choose to purchase an offer will that information be provided to the offer merchant so you can redeem the offer with them. We do not – and will not – provide or sell any personally identifiable information in order to present you an offer.
So, if you’re less than frightened about card-watching sites like Mint or Blippy, Offermatic is a deal you’ll want to take a closer look at.
Buying glasses online can save you tons of money but the downside is you don’t get to try the glasses on and see how they look on your face. Upload a picture to Warby Parker and see different styles on your face.
Last year we shared out exploits in buying super cheap glasses online—it was awesome and we got great glasses for only $8!—but as we noted then it’s a gamble, albeit a cheap one, to buy glasses without trying them on.
Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker has an excellent virtual try on booth on their site which alleviates the can’t-try-it-on shoppers anxiety. Upload a picture of yourself, try out the different frames, and get a feel for how they look on your face. If you absolutely love a pair you find there you can snag them for $95 or just take the style and go shopping on other sites. Make sure to read our guide to scoring cheap eye glasses before you go shopping for some important pointers.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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