We have seen an exponential growth in publicly available Web APIs as registered on ProgrammableWeb, with currently 11,404 APIs. The emergence and popularity of Web APIs gave rise to the notion of the API Economy, which describes the occurring economic effects and dependencies along the whole API value chain of API producers, developers, and end users.
These economic effects are fuelled by the fact that APIs enable the platform business model. Sangeet Paul Choudary referred to a transition from “pipes to platforms” in his Wired.com article “Why Business Models Fail: Pipes vs. Platforms.”
APIs are exactly the enabling concept for this transition. The idea is that a vendor decides to create a virtual or physical platform, which enables third parties to leverage the vendor’s assets provided via that platform. Platforms exploit network effects. More participants exponentially add more value. This fosters collaboration and makes the co-creation of value a lot easier and more effective.
Value is often captured via multi-sided business models. A very successful example of a platform business models is Microsoft Windows, which allowed partners to create software on top of that operating system platform. The partners benefitted from the widespread adoption of that platform and could leverage a very attractive distribution channel. Microsoft benefitted from the value that the partners added on top of their operating system.
In the article “Three Elements of a Successful Platform Strategy” Mark Bonchek and Sangeet Paul Choudary describe that three factors determine the success of a platform business model:
- Connection: how easily others can plug into the platform to share and transact
- Gravity: how well the platform attracts participants, both producers and consumers
- Flow: how well the platform fosters the exchange and co-creation of value
I would argue that APIs contribute to all three factors: in particular, RESTful Web APIs make it a lot easier to allow third parties to connect to a platform. Due to the ease of integration, a platform will be more attractive to participants. Ease of integration is of course only one aspect; the platform also needs to provide an attractive service in the first place. The Flow factor is supported by API management solutions that provide services such as monitoring, analysis, security, or billing.
Great examples of modern platforms can be found in the field of e-commerce. The e-commerce category is one of the five largest on ProgrammableWeb also with a growth rate among the top-5. Magento is a great example of such an e-commerce platform that can be adopted by merchants to establish and manage their own online channel. Without a doubt integrating support for different languages automatically increases the reach to potential customers.
This is true for any channel not just e-commerce. Distimo found out that mobile apps increased their download volume by 128% in the week after introducing native language support; revenue increased by 26%. The figure below gives some information about the popularity of languages other than English in various countries.
(c) Distimo, 2012
Language support means translations, but human translation has traditionally been a costly and laborious process. Machine translation is an alternative, but it can be difficult to automatically integrate in a development or build process. Translation APIs can help to make this language support a lot easier through simple integration into a platform, such as Magento or mobile apps.
But really, the use cases for supporting various languages are not at all restricted to e-commerce or mobile apps, but are valid wherever a business wants to increase its customer reach.
Read about Lingo24’s APIs on the 3scale blog.