How to market your APIs and your Mashups


Last week I was at Mashup Camp 6 in Mountain View, my 4th one so far. One of the discussions at the Camp was about how to market your mashups, and that got me thinking more about the subject. Here’s my rant about how to market your API or your mashup that resulted from my latte induced and lack-of-sleep fuled thinking. Since there are, by definition, several components to a mashups there are also several levels of marketing. The first one is where the API provider needs to market the API to developers to they start to use it. The second one is where the mashup developer needs to market their mashup to the end user.

The API Provider
You have this great service that lifts humanity to a new level, makes the sun shine brighter, makes TV sucks less and give the gift of limitless bandwidth to the people (or at least it is really cool). You have even added this great API, now what? How do you get developers to start using the API and spread the word of your great service to everyone and their grandmother?

Well, let’s back up a bit. First of all, do you really have a great service? If you do, then do you really have a great API? Without a product people want to use there is no need to go through the hassle of promoting it. Make sure that the API actually is usefull for developers, that it will enable them to do cool and usefull stuff easier than if they would just hack it all together from scratch. Also make sure that there are plenty of documentation, examples, code snippets etc for the developers to get their hands on to minimize the barrier to entry. Hack together some mashups yourself with your API included in the mix, to give people and idea of what can be done. The key to get an API used by developers is to get the developers excited about the possibilities and get them talking. So give them something to be excited about and something to talk about.

Once all that hard work is done then you can promote your API via directories such as programmableweb and webmashup so that developers can find you. If you have made your own example mashups, then go through the steps below to market that, that is a good way of getting some recognition.

Last, but not at all least, show some love for the developers that has taken their time and built something using your API. Have an example gallery where they can list their creations. Blog about them. Talk about them at conferences. “Link love shall be bestowed upon those who link love showeth”.

The Mashup Developer
For the developer of the mashup there is Google AdSense money on the line, or maybe just recognition from peers. Most mashups result in web pages anyway, so make sure to do all the SEO stuff – have good page titles, have a good copy, have validating HTML, have a sitemap available etc. If there is money down the line for you then also throw some money at advertising (Google & Facebook makes this a walk in the park). All this is standard, but as there are differences between mashups and a regular web page you should also use that to your advantage.

What APIs do you use? What tools have you used to piece things together? Explain how you made your mashup, what the moving parts are. If you used Yahoo! Pipes, then link to the pipes used and explain how they were done. If you used Google Maps (and if you are a mashup newbie then I guarantee that you have, just admit it… “my name is Andreas, and I am a Google Maps addict”) then explain how. If you used openkapow robots, then explain how you developed them. Since API providers are suckers for traffic, just as everyone else, it is not unlikely that they would be interested in adding your mashup (assuming it kicks-ass, which of course it does) to their example gallery. All this creates more link love, more Google baits and really increases the chances of your mashup being found and appreciated by fellow developers. Another plus is that all this also increases the chances to be blogged about, do not forget that bloggers are suckers both for traffic and content.

There’s both money and recognition in entering your mashup in a contest, see programmableweb for a good list of what you can enter right now. You might not have to redo the mashup from the ground up, just add another API to the already great mashup you have made and you could already be a winner. If you go to Mashup Camp you could enter the traditional Speed Geeking (like speed dating for mashups basically) and go home with a shiny new Macbook.

Of course also list your mashups in directories such as programmableweb and webmashup , but by now you should know that already 🙂

Thanks for everyone that discussed this with me at Mashup Camp! For the notes from this session check out the Mashup Camp wiki.

Reading the Social Graph – you are defined by your friends


Ankur Shah and Gi Fernando from the UK web development company Techlightenment had a brilliant presentation at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin – “Disrupting the Platform: Harnessing social analytics and other musings on the Facebook API“. Techlightenment is the company behind the widely spread Bob Dylan Facebook application, so they know what they are talking about. In these days it is enough to have worked with something for a few months to be an expert, so after 4 months with the Facebook API makes the Techlightenment guys into gurus.

Facebook vs. OpenSocial
The Facebook API was compared to the OpenSocial API. There were quite a few differences, but what caught my attention was that it takes 60 lines of code in OpenSocial what it takes 2 lines in Facebook using the Facebook Markup language (FBML). In general it seems like the OpenSocial API’s are quite imature so far and that Facebook will keep ahead with it’s aggressive constant innovation for quite a while. Still, go for both Facebook and OpenSocial if you are going to do an app. If the social platform war will stay limited to just two standards we are quite well of …

You are defined by your friends
In addition to the information you explicitly have defined, like your age and if you are married or not, there is a lot of information about you that can be deducted from your list of fiends. Are most of your friends from London? If so there is a good chance that so are you. If most of your friends are working in the banking industry then there is a good chance that you are as well. This information is of course worth a lot in the hands of an advertiser that can target the ads to the right people. Now with Facebooks new Social Advertisting initiative that makes it possible for them to target ads to Facebook users even if that user is on another site than Facebook this kind of information is worth even more.

Techlightenment have developed a cool Facebook application called Socialistics that on-the-fly makes best guesses about a person based on their friends. It is a really interesting proof of concept of what can be done. Install it yourself and see what can be deducted about you based on your friends. The more friends the better guesses of course, but it is amazing what can be figured out about you. The power of these kind of statistical analyzis will explode in the near future, which is going to make both Mark Zuckerberg and the Google guys more money.

Who am I according to my friends?
Using the Socialistic app I get the following data about myself. I most likely live either in Stockholm (I did for years) or in Mexico City (not a bad guess since I do spend a lot of time thre), there is a 10% chance I have worked for Microsoft in Copenhagen (wrong) and I most likely took my university degree at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City (I have studied spanish there for all of 1 hour once, but that’s it). The good stuff is that there is a 65% chance that I am a man (just that I work with IT should bring that number up to at least 90%) and that I am from Sweden (guilty as charged)



According to my wife I am a social outcast since I only have 28 friends on Facebook. If the name calling I have to take out a Facebook divorce (ie “cancel relationship”), after all it is 28% chance that I am single already.



Enterprise Mashup Infrastructure & Where are all the APIs and Web Services?


After some work the titles and descriptions for my presentations on the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin and the Mashup Camp in Dublin during the coming weeks are now set, now it is just the small work of doing the acctual content left…

Enterprise Mashup Infrastructure: How Web 2.0 technologies are used inside Enterprises today
This is the Web 2.0 Expo presentation and it will be about how Mashups enable companies to solve problems quickly and efficiently, and also deal with problems that are impossible to figure out using traditional technologies. I will cover the basics of mashups and the technology behind them, real-life examples of how mashups are used within enterprises today and what the mashup infrastructure looks like.

In an enterprise environment, mashups can be seen as an extension and a compliment to SOA, and not just as simple Google Maps applications that are viewed on the web. This approach enables self-service IT that lets business users build the situational applications they need to solve the problems at hand. A key problem in enterprise mashup building is how to get access to abundance of unstructured data both inside and outside the company firewall. And, this is a problem that can now be solved in minutes rather than hours or days. How this is done will be shown in a short demonstration.

Where are all the APIs and Web Services? Build APIs to any web site in minutes using Kapow Mashup Server.
In this Mashup Camp presentation I will zoom in on one of the most forgotten parts of Mashups. There are many great tools available to build the user interface on a Mashup, but were are all the APIs and Web Services needed to feed the Mashup? These APIs will not appear magically and even if more APIs are created every day it is going quite slow. Using the Kapow Mashup Server and you can build an API to almost any web site in a matter of minutes. Suddenly you can use the whole internet as a structured data source to feed your mashups.

See you there!
If this is anything you like to hear about and happen to come to Berlin or Dublin then please drop by and hear me speak.

Overview of Mashups – Concepts, Technologies and what it all means (my JavaOne presentation)


Sun has now uploaded the transcripts and audio from my JavaOne presentation about Mashups earlier this month. Both the PDF of the presentation, the audio and the transcript can now be found at the SDN’s JavaOne site. You need to be a member of the Sun Developer Network (SDN) to see it, but membership is free so don’t let that stop you.

The official title of the presentation is “Integration Gets All Mashed Up – Bridging Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 Applications”, and it is an overview of what mashups are, what technologies are involved and how the different components fit together inside a mashup. It was a lot of work getting the presentation together, but it was well worth it since I got a lot of good feedback from people (thanks to eveybody that came and heard me speak!).

The presentation starts out with the standard (= Wikipedia) definition of mashups and then move on to describing the enabling technologies such as REST, JSON, Atom and RSS. Of course all this is from a Java perspecive since it is after all a JavaOne presentation. Next are the components of a mashup such as Mashup Builders, Widgets, Mashup Enablers and how they all fit together.

Inside a Mashup

Next I describe the the mashup programming model, which is a lightweight programming model that means that the focus is on assembling and not coding. In the end I highlight what it means to be a developer in a mashup world.

If you are in too much a hurry to go through the presentation I can give you the summary right here:

  • Mashups are all about
    • Building a situational application ad hoc
    • Reuse and remix both data and funcitonality
  • Using Mashups means that
    • You can do more in less time
    • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel
    • You are not in total control of how your applications and data will be used

If you are interested in Mashups I hope that this presentation will give you a good overview. Please take a look and a listen and let me know what you think!

The Power of Platform Ecosystems


Today Facebook announced a very aggressive move to open up its system and become a Platform (read more on TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb). At the same time several applications were announced on top of the new platform (read more on WebWare). This is completely opposite to what MySpace has done in creating its walled garden. I think this is a great move by Facebook, it gives the 20 million Facebook users more of a reason to keep coming to Facebook at the same time as it gives a lot of companies and developers access to those 20 million users. In the middle is Facebook, who, if the strategy succeeds, establish itself as the platform in a living online Ecosystem.

The Web is full of Ecosystems

There are already plenty of Ecosystems out there. Amazon was one of the first companies that understood the power of this, and created an open API that developers all over the world now are using (and thereby increasing the sales of books for Amazon, plus the brand recognition of course). YouTube’s success is largly due to the ease of including and showing videos on your own sites and blogs (the real success was of course that Google pay a ridiculous amount of dollars for them, but that is a completely different story). Flickr is doing the same for photos online. WordPress is an OK blog engine, but it would be nothing without all the plugins, so that is another successful Ecosystem. In the Enterprise world there is of course Salesforce that now has more requests coming in via their API than via their web page.

There are also successful such Ecosystems that are not based on web applications. Firefox (OK, that one is almost web based, just humor me please) is a great browser, but without all the add-ons it is not that usefull (me love Firebug!). Apple has been very successful in creating an Ecosystem around the iPod, just think of how many companies make great money by just producing skins and other extensions to the iPod.

The Platform Wins

What is in it for the Platform is pretty evident: more loyal users that have more reason to keep coming back. This is hard to create, and if System Providers build apps on your Platform then basically you are expanding your development deparment and you have more brilliant minds trying to figure out the killer app for your users. Also this is a great way to keep the competition at bay. Now when Facebook is becoming a Platform and not just a site it will either force the main competition MySpace to do the same or be left behind.

The System Providers Win

The System Providers that write applications that run on the Platform (most likely called something fancy like widget, gadget, addon, plugin or extension) gets access to a whole lot of ready made functionality and a huge existing user base. There is no longer any need to implement photo album funcitonality for your web app, just use Flickr. No need to build video capabilities, just use YouTube. If you build an app for Salesforce you can sell it on their AppExchange and make some money. So in short you get both functionality and a userbase, that is a pretty good deal.

The Users Win

The users can stay on one platform and take full advantage of that the platform continously gets more and more functionality added. Since each of the System Providers do not have to implement the most basic functionality (user handling, file uploading, photo album etc) they can concentrate on new great features, which of course benefits the end users. So more cooler useful features, that makes uses happy.

Win Win Win and Lose

The winners are the Platform providers that are in the center of the Ecosystem, the System Providers that gets features and a user base for free and the users that get more features quicker. That is a pretty impressive Win-Win-Win scenario.

The losers are the companies that do not understand that Ecosystems are the new type of light weight business partnerships. Either you try to be a Platform or you take advantage of whatever the Platforms around you offers. To build a new big web application and not provide an API is simply failing to take use of a huge opportunity. To build any web site and not take advantage of one or more existing Ecosystems is to do more work than you need to. It seems like Facebook really has realized that (that is no good reason to say no to the $1 billion that Yahoo is rumoured to have offered, saying no to $1 billion is always a bad move in my humble opinion).