Wrangling with API

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   13 Jul 2012

Developers getting the boot for API infractions isn’t anything new. Such things happen quite regularly and if the developer doesn’t have a high profile, those incidents hardly get a peep from the tech community. In the past few weeks, Craigslist and Dropbox kicked out PadMapper and Boxopus respectively for violating their terms and conditions.

Craigslist gives out licences to mobile apps to use their data, but they don’t allow other websites to use it. There is no reason for them to allow some other website to put together something cool for a change (you should check out Craigslist to understand what I mean!), gain traction and steal their users away. So, that decision is justified.

Boxopus is a service that enables people to download torrents directly to their Dropbox account. After approving the alpha build, Dropbox folks banned the web app post launch, stating that the app encourages users to violate copyright. Then why approve it in the first place? It’ll take you less than thirty seconds to point the uTorrent client to use the Dropbox folder to save downloaded files or drag and drop copyrighted files into the Public folder of the app and share with others.

It’s all about perception. Dropbox wants to go with the “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” policy and clearly doesn’t want people to shout from rooftops about taking advantage of the gray area. That’s totally understandable, but, in the process they ended up wasting hours of productive work and money of the developers of the app.

Around the same time, Twitter posted a cryptic post asking developers not to “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” Sure, it’s their firehose and they built it out of hard labor. But, the real question is, why weren’t they as brazen, outspoken and daring when Friendfeed and Plurk were in play?

I’m not saying all API vendors will end up treating developers shabbily at one point or another. But, there is always that possibility. The knife is always hanging over the head when living under someone else’s shadow.

Suggesting people to lay off from leveraging APIs to build stuff would be foolish and that’s not what I’m putting forth. It’s just that it isn’t wise to bet your career and livelihood on something that you have no control over. For making a quick buck or to come up with a steady revenue on the side while you are working on a cool idea of your own, API based apps are Godsend. They make cool additions to your portfolio too. If your app doesn’t fall under any one of these categories, it’s time to rethink your game plan.

All said and done, developers should treat their API based apps as an oasis in the dreary entrepreneurial desert. A stay at the oasis is nice and dandy, but one cannot live there forever. That would defeat the whole purpose of the journey!

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One comment

  1. The more I am reading the more I am loving TenMiles blog. Thanks for sharing all good thoughts.

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