The API Product Catalog

By Published On: January 31, 2023Categories: Blog, Tutorials

What are APIs to a company? Are they mere interfaces between applications, or are they something more?

Since Digital Transformation became a key endeavor in nearly all enterprises, APIs emerged as the principal mechanism of connection, transaction, negotiation, and ultimately transfer of information both within and between modern businesses. In other words, they are the means via which value is exchanged. As such, their potential to transcend the definition of mere integration services should not be overlooked.

The latent potential of APIs

Yes, APIs provide access to data and computation, yet those are not the only metric of their success. The true power of APIs sprouts from their reusability. They are interfaces, after all, so while an API may have been developed for a specific use case, more use-cases can and (if developed appropriately) should sprout throughout their lifecycle.

APIs must not only be continuously improved, but they ought to be reused and combined to deliver completely new functionalities. Therefore, they are not merely a communication tool between enterprise applications, a one-off development to be released and forgotten. They have a latent value that goes beyond their original use case.

Advantages of an Accessible API Ecosystem

This makes APIs actual enterprise assets, which is why it’s important that their visibility, their development, their distribution be not only of interest to IT professionals, but to nearly all company stakeholders, especially executives.

Having an accessible overview of a company’s APIs is not only a chance to better regulate a likely complex ecosystem, lowering redundancy, and possibly cutting costs, but, most importantly, it may generate the insights that could allow a business to evolve into an actual platform in its own right.

It is not just a matter of KPIs and analytics, though there’s that too; the real enabler here is having a clear, high-level understanding of the interconnectedness of a company’s APIs, what they do, who uses them and why, and, more interestingly, who might be using them, and isn’t.

Having this sort of insight available in real-time, easily consumable for developers and tech-laymen alike, may very well be the key to success in the API-Economy.

But how do we make an API ecosystem accessible and easy to understand? How can one showcase the value of each API without discouraging non-technical users? We already said APIs are enterprise assets, then why not treat APIs as actual products?

Digital Products Require a Digital Catalog

As we suggested before, one measure of the success of an API is its adoption. APIs should be easy to find, easy to understand, easy to consume, not only by outside customers, but, perhaps even more critically, by both internal and partner developers.

That’s the advantage of handling APIs as digital products: it forces us to think in terms of their appeal, maintenance, and ease-of-discovery, something all too often overlooked. Digital products, after all, require a digital catalog, so we thought of an actual API Catalog, as easy to navigate as any app-store on any smart device.

Digital Catalog of APIs - Search

This is not a developer portal. As the name suggests, a developer portal is a developer’s tool, a place for developers to understand the technicalities of an API; the library of instruction manuals of one’s products, not the appropriate place where to showcase the products themselves.

Instead, an API Catalog is not just for developers, not just for any one who may wish to use that API, but also for those who may want to understand an API’s place in the ecosystem among hundreds of other APIs and Applications.

You don’t consult an API Catalog just to use an API you already know, but to find the APIs you don’t know, to read high-level information of an API and access feedback from its users, and to gain the aforementioned insights that could inspire you to provide completely new functionalities through your applications.

The API Catalog on ApiShare

So, what are the features of our API Catalog?

A powerful search functionality is at the core of ApiShare’s API Catalog. As suggested before, a proper catalog should allow a user to find APIs without necessarily knowing their names. In fact, the real purpose of a search functionality is to allow users to find APIs they don’t even know exist. This is why, as you type in the searchbar, you’ll receive a list of APIs that respond to your query not only by their name, but also by their description, use-cases, and even their endpoints.

Digital Catalog of APIs - Search Results

Of course, you’ll always be able to search by specific filters, like tags, developers, categories, and perhaps even more importantly, by the Applications that are producing or consuming APIs. To read more about the relationship between Producer and Consumer Applications and APIs check out our blog post here.

API Details

Having found an API, ApiShare displays all its high-level information intuitively, as if it were a product on a digital marketplace. At a glance, you’ll be able to see it’s publishing status, last update date, description, and use-cases. Further down, the details get more technical, providing information about the API’s lifespan and versioning, as well as data that may interest developers, like the downloadable open-api-definition, and more.

Optionally, users may leave reviews of the API, so prospect developers will have a better idea of what to expect from it.

Digital Catalog of APIs - API Detail

Using an API

Having decided to use an API, without requiring access to a developer portal, and especially without needing to, God forbid, send some email to the API owner or developer (whose contacts are nonetheless available on the API details page), the user will be able to request a Subscription to that API for their Application directly through ApiShare. If ApiShare is set up to integrate with your API-Gateway, the whole subscription procedure will be controlled and automated fully via ApiShare.

Once a Subscription request is approved, the user’s Consumer Application will be displayed among all other Applications that are currently subscribed to that API, thus giving a measure of both the popularity and usefulness of that API to those browsing the Catalog.

Digital Catalog of APIs - Consumers

More than a Simple Product Catalog

Imagine being able to browse all your company’s APIs this easily and quickly. What insights might emerge by being able to visualize one’s API ecosystem and all of its Consumer Applications, being able to go through each API’s History and Deployment environments?

Keep up with our blog to learn more about ApiShare’s features, like its API Governance and API Lifecycle capabilities, or how it handles organizational units and user roles within its operating model. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to find out how all these features can help your company fully realize its API Program.

About the Author: Giorgio Sismanidis

Software engineer and IT consultant at User Group.

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