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.

Impressions from Mashup Camp 4


Mashup Camp is an unconference about Mashups and everything related to Mashups. This was my second Mashup Camp, last Mashup Camp was in Boston in January and it was a brilliant event. I learned a lot, met a lot of great people and it opened my eyes in many ways. Last week Mashup Camp 4 was in Mountain View, California and again I meet great people and had some interesting discussions (check out some photos here) But something was off, maybe too few people, maybe not the right people, I am not sure. Maybe it was just my high expectations, maybe it was that I couldn’t attend more than the last day (Camp is 2 days, with a prequal 2 days of Mashup University) or maybe the competition of other events meant that not enough people attended. According to David Berlind (one of the organisers) they will go back to having the Camp early in the year, which I think is a good idea.

Some highlights stole the show in many ways. Joost and others are trying to create the next generation television experience, but I think they missed something extremely important, and that is all the content already available on the internet. You might have heard of a small site called YouTube, and there are also a few other video sites out there (and by a few I mean 1000s and 1000s). is a great site that allows you to watch all these videos without having to go around to all the different video sites and without having to load each individual video yourself. The videos are shown back to back creating a channel with continous content. Either use some of the premade channels or make your own by searching for whatever you are interested in from whatever site you are interested in. Definitly the coolest site I saw at the Camp, a brilliant use of all the videos available on the internet. They have built a great video site without having to host videos or have to worry about all the bandwidth the videos are eating up. Check it out, I am a total junkie already.

Some other highlights were

  • KarmaGeek – a try of leveraging all our Geek knowledge for the benefit of Non Profits. Still very early days (started at the last Mashup Camp), but it has real potential.
  • Google Mashup Editor – a cool mashup building tool aimed at developers. It requires some coding, but the results I saw where impressive and the coolest thing is the easy integration of other Google services such as Maps.
  • Apatar – a very interesting open source project building a way to create workflows between different applications and databases.

Early early days
It is really clear after this Camp that these are the really early days of Mashups. Even at Mashup Camp there are many people that are trying to figure out what this Mashup thing is all about. There are some attempts to do Mashup tools and frameworks of different kinds. BEA Pages and IBM QEDWiki are a couple from the big boys aimed at Enterprises, Google Mashup Editor, Teqlo and Bungee Labs are a couple aimed at the consumer market. I am happy to say that Kapow Technologies is in the forefront of the Mashup wave, a good place to work right now. We are spending a lot of time thinking about Mashups and where things are heading and so far we seem to be on the right track (f you haven’t checked out yet then please do so now). I am looking forward to following Mashups as they develop and as it starts to be accepted (and maybe even a requirement) inside big companies. It is clear that Mashups are growing up and are becoming more than just an excuse to use Google Maps (more about that in a later post).

Hope to see you in Dublin
Next Mashup Camp will be in Dublin in September. I hope I can go to that one, it will be really interesting to see what people will come to an European Camp (it will also mean a shorter flight and no jetlag for me, which would be nice for a change). A Camp fuled by Guniess should be fun!