The Importance Of Having An API For Arab Startups

| May 30, 2008 | comment 15 Comments

APIOver the past few years, one of the really important trends and directions we’ve been seeing with online services is the move towards opening their platforms, mainly through APIs (Application programming interfaces), so that people can build a set of tools around them, pull or push information through them easily, and so as to make it easier for other platforms to talk to their platform as well.

When it comes to the tools developed around these platforms, we find tools that use the base functionalities provided by the platform, just making them easier to use by providing different interfaces and clients for the application; and other tools that extend the application further by providing complimentary functionalities that make it even more interesting for more users.

In both of these cases, having people developing these kinds of tools, and users adopting them, can only be good for the service, mainly because it helps build a community of users around the service, spreads it even further into the mainstream, and because it also provides clearer ideas for growth through the different uses the application is being used for.

On the other hand, having the possibility for other platforms to talk to their platform provides users of both platforms with an added-value, which can only be good, building user loyalty and growing both services’ user bases.

In the Arab online startup scene, we can’t really find that many examples of services opening up their platforms through APIs, even though I think it’s even more important and crucial in the Arab internet context.

Arab startups don’t have as much access to funding as their US or international counterparts, meaning that they have less flexibility and ability to grow their service into a central point that can be everything for everyone, so it’d be more interesting if they could just concentrate on one area, that they could fully develop and do very well, and then open it up so that other specialized services can plug in and communicate with it, in a way that we end up with a group of online applications that compliment each other and work together successfully.

Just taking the example of Yamli that recently opened up their linguistic service through an API, we can see that the online services that have integrated the functionality in their systems have easily provided an added-value for their users without having to invest a lot of time into developing a solution of their own, leaving them the time to concentrate on their main business, while Yamli see a growth in their user base and can continue to develop their solution even more.

In the end it’s a win-win situation for both the providing service and the consuming one.

  • http://www.twffaha.com Ashraf Mansoor

    Yes Arabic startups should have an API. The API allows the startup to go mainstream and forge a community around it as you mentioned. But, care should be taken that when a startup decides to launch an API the timing should be right, that is the architecture of the system is ready to accommodate the requests sent by other applications through the API.

    In the case of Twitter launching the API turned the other way around as its the main reason why Twitter keeps on going down. Bottom line if your architecture is ready API is good, if not then No.

  • http://www.twffaha.com Ashraf Mansoor

    Yes Arabic startups should have an API. The API allows the startup to go mainstream and forge a community around it as you mentioned. But, care should be taken that when a startup decides to launch an API the timing should be right, that is the architecture of the system is ready to accommodate the requests sent by other applications through the API.

    In the case of Twitter launching the API turned the other way around as its the main reason why Twitter keeps on going down. Bottom line if your architecture is ready API is good, if not then No.

  • http://www.startuparabia.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    @Ashraf: Yes, of course, there are technical considerations behind it, and the implemented architecture should be able to support the opening of the platform via an API.

    And that also kind of confirms my idea that if every service could just concentrate on building what they’re best at, developing their platform to do its job the best way possible, and optimizing their technical architecture to support their activities fully, then it could be easier for them to open it up later on.

  • http://www.subzeroblue.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    @Ashraf: Yes, of course, there are technical considerations behind it, and the implemented architecture should be able to support the opening of the platform via an API.

    And that also kind of confirms my idea that if every service could just concentrate on building what they’re best at, developing their platform to do its job the best way possible, and optimizing their technical architecture to support their activities fully, then it could be easier for them to open it up later on.

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  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Not all services need an API, however, some services are crying for API’s all the time
    I have previously created a few API’s which were received with mixed emotions
    I guess the Arab online scene suffers from a lot of distrust most of the time.

    Yamli on the other hand are doing a great job. The idea is brilliant and simple. The applications are really unlimited and the results are amazing. It’s a win-win-win situation.

    Which leads me to the subject of my next point. Check your mail for additional details.

  • http://blog.sweetestmemories.com Qwaider

    Not all services need an API, however, some services are crying for API’s all the time
    I have previously created a few API’s which were received with mixed emotions
    I guess the Arab online scene suffers from a lot of distrust most of the time.

    Yamli on the other hand are doing a great job. The idea is brilliant and simple. The applications are really unlimited and the results are amazing. It’s a win-win-win situation.

    Which leads me to the subject of my next point. Check your mail for additional details.

  • http://www.za3tar.net/ za3tar

    Not all online startups need an API. The mere nature of many of the new Arabian online sites does not require APIs. What will companies like Maktoob, Jeeran, Ikbis, and Dwwen benefit in providing an API ?

    YAMLI had to provide an API because that is the core of their business. Without their API they are nothing except a front for Google search, i.e. they are not providing any benefit.

    So, i believe that startups that provide a service that is integratable with other services should provide an API .. otherwise, it is unnecessary.

  • http://www.za3tar.net/ za3tar

    Not all online startups need an API. The mere nature of many of the new Arabian online sites does not require APIs. What will companies like Maktoob, Jeeran, Ikbis, and Dwwen benefit in providing an API ?

    YAMLI had to provide an API because that is the core of their business. Without their API they are nothing except a front for Google search, i.e. they are not providing any benefit.

    So, i believe that startups that provide a service that is integratable with other services should provide an API .. otherwise, it is unnecessary.

  • http://www.startuparabia.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    I agree with both Qwaider and Za3tar that not all online startups need an API; and when I talk about APIs here, I don’t really mean that every single service out there should launch one, but where it makes sense, it is a great plus.

    Now to the examples you gave za3tar:
    - Ikbis could certainly benefit from having an API, it would help people build tools with which to post their photos and videos directly to it; services that provide digital photo printing could offer the possibility to pull photos from ikbis for users to print directly; and a bunch of other stuff as well. Just think of the YouTube API and what people have been doing with it as an example.

    - When it comes to Maktoob and Jeeran, they’re not really one-service startups, they have many services and products, some of which could use an API and some that don’t need one. For example, Maktoob’s Kalimat Araby program will make good use of an API by letting agencies easily handle their sponsored link purchases; their As7ab service could also benefit from jumping on the whole social networking API bandwagon, opening their system to talk with other services like facebook, orkut, bebo and all.
    - Dwwen might not really need an API in its current form, and that’s just fine, it’s not really a must.

  • http://www.subzeroblue.com Mohamed Marwen Meddah

    I agree with both Qwaider and Za3tar that not all online startups need an API; and when I talk about APIs here, I don’t really mean that every single service out there should launch one, but where it makes sense, it is a great plus.

    Now to the examples you gave za3tar:
    - Ikbis could certainly benefit from having an API, it would help people build tools with which to post their photos and videos directly to it; services that provide digital photo printing could offer the possibility to pull photos from ikbis for users to print directly; and a bunch of other stuff as well. Just think of the YouTube API and what people have been doing with it as an example.

    - When it comes to Maktoob and Jeeran, they’re not really one-service startups, they have many services and products, some of which could use an API and some that don’t need one. For example, Maktoob’s Kalimat Araby program will make good use of an API by letting agencies easily handle their sponsored link purchases; their As7ab service could also benefit from jumping on the whole social networking API bandwagon, opening their system to talk with other services like facebook, orkut, bebo and all.
    - Dwwen might not really need an API in its current form, and that’s just fine, it’s not really a must.

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  • Jordan Wahbeh

    APIs are a key success factor, if used correctly.
    I agree, not all need an API – but as most services are about “Information management and Transfer” there are few model to consider.

    Free API as a basic offering, and charge for usage for advance information. Service offering can vary and there are many model to use. I think of it as a license to use my API

    API as part of the product offering – which most successful companies use – and similar to YAMLI, build the basic function and allow the client to leverage it as needed.
    The key factor, from my experience is to avoid becoming an API provider.

  • Jordan Wahbeh

    APIs are a key success factor, if used correctly.
    I agree, not all need an API – but as most services are about “Information management and Transfer” there are few model to consider.

    Free API as a basic offering, and charge for usage for advance information. Service offering can vary and there are many model to use. I think of it as a license to use my API

    API as part of the product offering – which most successful companies use – and similar to YAMLI, build the basic function and allow the client to leverage it as needed.
    The key factor, from my experience is to avoid becoming an API provider.

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