More than 90% of developers use APIs regularly, according to
Slashdata, with most (69%) using third-party APIs. At the same time, many businesses are recognizing the
value of building API ecosystems. For instance, Expedia generates over 90% of its revenue from
APIs, enabling third-party websites to book flights, cars, and hotels through its platform.
With a growing number of APIs to choose from, discoverability is critical for the success of
data-driven businesses. The best APIs are visible, searchable, and accessible to developers.
Ultimately, successful adoption often comes down to a great developer experience.
This article will examine why API discoverability matters and how to maximize your API's
adoption and success.
What is API Discoverability?
API discoverability refers to the ability of developers and other users to find and access the
APIs they need for their projects. For example, internal developers might work on a different
application or microservice and need your data. Or external developers could work on
applications that could become potential customers for your data or services.
The core components of API discoverability include:
- Visibility – Many developers discover third-party APIs in marketplaces,
catalogs or portals, and integrators (e.g., Zapier). Including your APIs in these places can
maximize visibility and increase the chances of discovery.
- Documentation – Intuitive and easy-to-understand documentation enables
internal and external developers to search and understand your API. As a result, they can
more readily discover it, if it contains functionality or data they require.
- Definitions – OpenAPI and other machine-readable API definitions can help
developers quickly generate SDKs and test cases to see if an API meets their requirements.
These capabilities can help accelerate adoption and avoid missed opportunities.
API Discoverability for Consumers
API consumers often plan or build applications requiring external data. For example, an
internal marketing platform may need shopping cart data to track conversions. Or an external
travel app may want to integrate with an online travel agency (OTA) to enable users to book
flights, cars, and hotels without leaving their platform.
In addition, external APIs might integrate capabilities and services. For example, a shipping
API might provide consumer-facing information (e.g., a tracking code) and also handle
fulfillment and other backend processes.
API Discoverability for Providers
API providers typically have existing data they want to provide to external consumers. For
instance, your previously mentioned shopping cart may need to provide internal data for
marketing, business intelligence, and other areas. Or the OTA may leverage an API to sell
travel-related services rather than relying exclusively on its own site.
How to Improve API Discoverability
API discoverability is crucial because it allows developers and other users to find and access
the APIs they need for projects. Without discoverability and visibility, APIs often languish
without widespread adoption, leading to wasted time, frustration, and even lost business
Efficient API discoverability enables innovation and collaboration among developers, making it
easy to incorporate third-party APIs and build more compelling user experiences. At the same
time, businesses can unlock the value of their data and create new revenue opportunities for
their stakeholders and value for their customers.
Building a Solid Foundation
Standardization and documentation are essential starting points for building discoverable APIs.
standards, API providers can build robust and standardized endpoints that consumers can quickly
analyze with auto-generated documentation or try out with auto-generated mocks, stubs, and
At the same time,
Swagger can help
build interactive and intuitive documentation, making it easier for developers to understand its
features and how it works. Swagger also keeps the documentation up-to-date, eliminating the
frustration of outdated documentation. As a result, developers can quickly understand and use
also makes it easy for API consumers to instantly see how an API behaves in the real world. By
sending requests and analyzing the response, it's easy to discover the capabilities and
limitations of endpoints and identify APIs that fit your development requirements to integrate
faster than ever.
Scale with a Developer Portal
Developer portals provide a convenient and scalable way to manage API consumers. Rather than
requiring each potential customer to request a key, these portals automatically provision API
keys and enable developers to track their usage, define their plans, and accomplish other tasks,
like accessing custom documentation or support.
Fortunately, the OpenAPI specification can help jumpstart building a developer portal. For
example, you can efficiently inventory APIs and endpoints, as well as auto-generate SDKs and
documentation. And for internal teams, you can enable anyone to quickly find APIs, access
documentation, and even re-use API definitions between projects within a single tool.
Invest in Marketing Your API
The mantra "build it and they will come" doesn't always work. In reality, "overnight success"
comes after significant behind-the-scenes efforts. Similarly, building a successful API requires
a solid foundation and a well-thought-out marketing campaign. These campaigns help raise
awareness and start the conversation among developers.
Some market efforts to consider include:
- Libraries & Sample Apps – It's easier to integrate an API with a
well-maintained client-side SDK. And if there's a sample app that relates to the app you're
building, it's even easier to build. So, it's worth considering providing libraries and SDKs
for your API – an easy task using tools like SwaggerHub.
- API Marketplaces – Many developers look for APIs in marketplaces, where
they can filter options by various criteria. Including your API in these marketplaces can
maximize the odds of developers coming across your API. When adding your API, be sure to use
the rights tags and keywords to maximize visibility.
- Community Engagement – Sponsoring hackathons and other community
engagement activities can help raise awareness of your API and cultivate a positive image
within the development community.
- Search Engine Optimization – Search engine optimization involves writing
sales and documentation copy that ranks highly in search engines for relevant keywords. For
example, an OTA’s API should rank highly for keywords like "flight booking API."
The Bottom Line
API discoverability enables developers to innovate faster by giving them easy access to a wide
range of APIs. Using these APIs, developers can save time and focus on building higher-level
solutions to challenging problems. They can also add new capabilities that may not be feasible
with in-house resources.
If you're a developer looking for a way to explore APIs quickly,
makes the process seamless. And if you're an API provider,
provides the tools and resources you need to build and scale APIs that exceed developer