Package registries are bigger API economy enablers than API catalogues?

Jarkko Moilanen
Feb 2 · 3 min read

Some measure the growth of API economy by looking at the stats and charts in API catalogues such as ProgrammableWeb. These catalogues list public APIs which someone has bothered to register. The catalogues provide some idea of the amount of APIs, that’s about it.

Libraries-driven API economy?

Some of the biggest success stories of API economy are Stripe, Twilio and AWS. They do not push raw APIs to application developers. Instead they rely and promote use of command-line interfaces and libraries. With help of these ready-made packages any application developer can utilize API driven services (among other things) more easily and with only a few steps. This was discussed in details previously.

In the above screenshot is the famous “5 lines of code” Stripe library example. Twilio has 40 000+ customers and create 400 million revenue with 5+ APIs. Stripe as around 100 000 customers, handles 100 billion worth transactions and creates 1,5 billion revenue with 1 API. All of them push libraries, not APIs.

Are package operators are key players in the ecosystem?

Successful code libraries and components are productized just like APIs and you should take advantage of the distribution channels such as npm (javascript) and pypi (python). Npm alone serves over one billion requests for JavaScript packages per day to approximately 11 million developers worldwide (source).

Pypi serves around 80 million requests for python packages per day (source). As an example, AWS command-line interface (awscli) and Amazon S3 Transfer Manager for Python (s3transfer) are among of the most downloaded packages in Pypi driven Python ecosystem. As we all know, AWS is APIs driven as result of famous API Mandate by Jeff Bezos.

This takes us to an interesting hypothesis:

if significant amount of NPM and pypi packages are libraries which use APIs, then the package registries are huge enablers of the API economy, bigger than famous API catalogues such as ProgrammableWeb.

If the hypothesis is true, then the true impact of API economy can be measured with help of the code libarary distribution channel stats. Of course this hypothesis should be confirmed by analyzing the libraries and components disctributed by npm and pypi to see which amount of those packages use web APIs behind the scenes. It would also be interesting to see correlation between popular APIs in catalogues and libraries in code package ecosystems.

The above topic among other things is discussed in the forthcoming book Build for Developers.

Jarkko Moilanen

Written by

Platform of Trust DX Lead, APItalist (API Economy Consuntant) Founder of: @APIOps, API Economy Hacklab. Author of "API Economy 101" book.

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