In a recent T-Suite podcast, I had the opportunity to speak with Abhinav Asthana, chief executive of Postman. In that article, he shared how application developers are shifting to an “API-first approach” to product development. In the past, software developers built APIs — or application programming interfaces — mostly for themselves so they could write business logic into their code once and reuse that logic anywhere it was needed. If third parties or customers wanted to customize that application, specialized one-off legal contracts and business agreements had to be in place. Once getting over that barrier to entry, software developers would find the APIs were not always well-documented, were tied to a specific programming language, and may have significant limitations.
Today, companies build APIs in the hopes that nearly anyone will adopt them. Famous examples of early API success include Facebook, where its gaming APIs helped Zynga put its wildly popular FarmVille social game on the map. Google is renowned for releasing APIs on its platform, which is why nearly every app or website with the need to share data on a map comes from Google Maps.
Probably the most famous API-first platform is AWS (Amazon Web Services). Nearly every part of its product, from creating virtual machines to database design to deploying software, is really just a massive set of APIs. With AWS, Azure, and all the major cloud platforms, developing an application from the hardware to the display layer is all code. Compare the old IT organization model where you had to go through layers of people, hardware procurement processes, and equipment installation to that of AWS, where a developer simply fires off a few API requests and everything they need is up and running almost instantly.
As you can imagine, companies now see their APIs as essential platforms on which developers will write the next great app. These companies can also charge for the use of APIs, but since they are available at such a massive scale, those painful legal contracts and the need for specialized development tools are [nearly] a thing of the past.
Very often, we think of software development as the screen. We think about what the user interface will look like, how the customer interacts with that UI, and what features are available. With API-first software development, that does not go away, but first you think about what data your app needs and how it will respond to that data.
For example, let’s say you are creating a new app that helps you find local restaurants. In the past, you might have considered the look-and-feel of the app first. With API-first development, you are thinking about what data you need, like pictures of food, the address, the health score, and so on. You can build tests for that API to make sure you thought through everything how data is input and output to the user.
When you think about it, the API-first development process makes a lot of sense. Given the user interface could be vastly different on a computer’s web browser versus a native app on a phone.
If you are going to create APIs first, you need a platform to do so. Software developers and product teams need to quickly create mock APIs, refine them with code, collaborate in the development process, and add detailed documentation. Postman is a software product by the company of the same name. They are well-known in the API development community and have a loyal and passionate fan base. I have had the opportunity to attend a number of their meetings and conferences, and they are a very open company that appears to operate with a relatively flat organizational structure.
The Postman product has moved from a simple product to test web service to a full-fledged API development environment. (Postman calls it an ADE.)
The team at Postman shared an early news release with me. They have secured $50 million in new funding “led by CRV and included participation by Nexus Venture Partners.” With this new funding, “CRV general partner Devdutt Yellurkar has joined the Postman board of directors.”
Per the announcement: “Postman has grown dramatically since it was founded in 2014. It has become the best-known and most-used collaboration platform for API development. The company serves more than 7 million users and helps to support API development at more than 300,000 companies worldwide. Postman plans to use the new funding to accelerate its product roadmap, expand its commitment to helping companies leverage Postman across the enterprise, and increase customer support and success throughout the Postman community.”
Featured image: Shutterstock
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