How hot are APIs? Postman, the API development platform, said it had more than 10 million registered users. I started covering Postman a few years ago by way of a meetup they were holding at their new San Francisco digs. About 50 people attended, with product team members propping up computers on their desks to show demos of what their API tools could do. I still remember a customer support manager showing daily stats on their open and close rates using their product. The company does not just write API tools, but they use their own product and APIs regularly.
I had the opportunity to meet with Postman’s CEO Abhinav Asthana many times over those years, including having him on the T-Suite Podcast a few times. He runs a very open company that is happy to share their roadmap and offer services for free that many other companies might throw behind a paywall.
The growth of API development continues to soar as more technology and technology-adjacent organizations realize that opening up their platform to developers can drive significant business. An API, or application programming interface, is code developers write that allow anyone [with access] to access a service. You can use Google APIs to pull up a map, Salesforce APIs to create custom apps that add more value to the product, or even use APIs to ship physical products (check out my T-Suite Podcast with EasyPost).
So yeah, to turn a phrase from Zoolander’s Mugatu, APIs are so hot right now.
The state of APIs
Recently, I sat down to talk to Rebecca Johnston-Gilbert, marketing manager at Postman. They recently released a report on the state of APIs, and the results trend with the discussions I have had with company’s I have been interviewing over the years.
- More non-developers are working with APIs.
- Companies that build APIs are opening them up, rather than locking them down to specialized partners.
- APIs, which used to be “big and broad,” are moving to smaller microservices.
In my interview with Rebecca, she informed me that growth is strong, but looking at the numbers, just around 20 percent of respondents only have two years of experience. That indicates to me that the API job market will be strong for the coming years.
Rebecca also shared that developers spend about 25 percent of their time developing APIs and nearly the same amount debugging and manually testing their APIs. That is something Postman is tackling. Per Rebecca:
Over half of those surveyed said that they are not happy with the documentation. Postman is offering a technology called Postman collections into an API Network. The idea is to have those collections include testing and debugging capabilities into them.
These collections, as Postman calls them is probably the best-kept widely known secret of Postman users. There is a vibrant community of API developers that share their collections. Hence, the community can quickly find an API that works for their project with everything they need to get up and running.
Postman took me on a test drive with a collection to do some simple things like access weather reports, and without any knowledge on my part, I was able to get the weather for my little micro-climate here in San Francisco.
With the proliferation of APIs, organizations need to concern themselves with how secure they are before putting them into production use. There is good news here. The idea of an API is that it performs a specific function and asks for as little information as possible. For example, an API to say, order a hamburger, will ask for the item (a hamburger) and the amount (1 burger, please).
Of course, there may be optional elements, like whether you want pickles or mustard, but the idea here is the APIs should not change, or at least not change frequently. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if Google Maps made even a tiny change to their APIs. That idea of having the smallest possible set of options and not changing the APIs frequently appears to have a net positive effect on the ability to keep APIs secure. Nearly 40 percent of the respondents feel their security is above average, with below-average hovering around 10 percent. Of course, we know there are always nefarious people waiting in the wings to find security holes, so with the growth of the market, we will see how the results play out over the next few years.
My favorite element of the Postman survey is an ask of the survey-takers to share whether they know the latest jargon and slang terms. Words like deprecate or rubber ducking might be familiar to some that are in-the-know, but I had no idea what Yoda conditions, nopping, or stress puppy meant.
Yoda conditions: Like Yoda’s preferred grammatical structure, “Yoda conditions” rearrange the typical order of a conditional statement. “Very smart, you are.”
Nopping: Comes from the phrase “no-operation” or “nop”; when referring to humans, it implies that no operations are occurring, or that someone is zoning out.
Stress puppy: Someone who performs better under stress, and seems to gravitate toward stressful roles and responsibilities, but also complains about the stress.
Put me in the stress puppy category. Special thanks to Rebecca Johnston-Gilbert of Postman for taking the time to review the survey results with me. Also, special thanks to Miranda Honnoll and Brent Shelton at Bospar.
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