If you are a frequent reader of my blogs it will not surprise you that I am a big fan of APIs. In this blog, I will take a look at the three most strange and remarkable APIs that caught my eye over the last year or so, showing you that everything can actually become an API. Some of them can even become or be a business model helping you to generate money with the services you offer or the data you own.
How can you make something into an API?
Before going to get into a list of remarkable APIs, let’s talk a little bit about what an API is actually how you can make something into an API. Do not be afraid, this is not going to be a very techy blog. But when we talk about APIs or application programming interfaces in this day and age, we mean a service that is available over the Internet using HTTP and HTTPS transport’s and that allows you to read, write, update and delete information. So, what do I mean by this?
Basically, that I can send a message to a URL pretty much like the URL of website and depending on the way that I sent it (and in some cases an optional payload) it can retrieve information from that website. Let’s take the example of a museum.
When a museum offers their information online that might be an API that is implemented and that will allow apps, programs or systems to retrieve information that is stored in the backend of that website. In this case it will be very common for me to be able to retrieve information for instance about a painting a painter or something else but not to change any information. If you create an API for a service it basically means that you are opening it up to the outside world and depending on your service allow people to simply retrieve or perhaps even to enrich the data that you are storing.
Everything can have an API. Adding the capability to be available online in essence is not that difficult. Making it secure, perhaps highly available depending on the use case will involve little bit more work.
So, what are my favorite strange and remarkable APIs? I’ve chosen three. The first one is a love calculator that will calculate based on your name and the name of your partner how good of a match it is. When you sent out the two names the response is a percentage how good the match is as well as the result like ‘Congratulations! Good choice’. There is as far as I know no science behind it but we have seen APIs like this with the SMS service in front of it being offered as fun service to young adults on their mobile phone. Offered at a low price, say one Euro, it is one of those fun APIs they love to use.
The second example is the API that is offered by the Dutch Rijksmuseum. This API can be used to retrieve information on the more than 200,000 digitized paintings, drawings and sketches in possession of the museum. With this API you can get information about the objects like the people depicted, the painter and the time it is painted. You can also see a link to a high-resolution version of the object with (and that is very remarkable) the freedom to use the images, even commercially. If you think the famous painting by Rembrandt ‘The Night Watch’ would benefit from all of the people wearing digital watches, go ahead, the museum encourages you to use your imagination.
The last API that I would like to mention is the API that Clarifai offers. You can submit an image to the clarify service and the API will respond with the things that it sees in the image. A scenic mountain picture will be tagged with words like mountain, outdoors, scenic, tranquility and the like. All of this is done without any human interference. It uses deep learning and model-based training will automatically detect with a degree of certainty what is actually visible. Great if you have a large collection of images because without these tanks it will be hard to find what you’re looking for. You can use API for free by the way as long as you stay under 5000 invocations per month otherwise you need to sign up for a plan. So here also you can see that it’s not just adding an API capability to a service in some cases it can actually be also a business model.
How are you going to Monetize your APIs?
Perhaps you are sitting on some data that you now think well I could monetize this. How do you go about doing that? The answer is simple select the right API management solution that will allow you to manage, secure, monitor and monetize your APIs. If you’re curious how to select such a solution, read our selection guide on API management. You can download it for free.