How API portals have surpassed the attraction of API marketplaces

6 min read

If you already tried to share or monetize APIs, you may have wonder what to choose between an API portal and an API marketplace. API portals - or developer portals - provide an easy way to manage, brand and expose your API. You can decide the API products you want to create, based on the use-cases of your users. We compared API portals and marketplaces to help you make your mind.

There’s an unexpected lesson APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) can learn from blue jeans. 

The lesson comes from the gold rush. Of course, huge wealth was generated by discovering and extracting gold. There was another source of wealth generated at the same time. This came from the companies supplying the tools related to gold extraction. One of these ‘tools’ was the clothing miners wore. Levi Strauss was founded in 1863 to provide clothing to miners working in California. 

That initial success was not enough to sustain this clothing company. To make it through the economic and societal shifts, Levi jeans distinguished and adapted their brand. By the 1950s they shifted their focus to the movie stars of Hollywood and became a global name still successful over 150 years from when they started. 

What’s the lesson for APIs? APIs can be seen as a tool of the digital age. They are certainly in a boom phase with seemingly insatiable demand. The listing site ProgrammableWeb has grown from 54 APIs in 2005 to over 24,000 APIs in 2021. With the predicted rise of AI and IoT, there’s no sign of API growth slowing down. 

However, like blue jeans back between 1860 and 1950s, API identities are becoming more sophisticated. There is an opportunity to create value and longevity by distinguishing an API product so it is recognizable outside of the mass market. 

The lesson is that brand identity matters and API portals (not marketplaces) are the answer.

Let’s explore the difference between API portals and marketplaces. Then we’ll break down why at Blobr we believe an API portal can offer you the best value, visibility, and flexibility to distinguish your API for long-lasting success. 

What’s the difference between an API Portal and an API marketplace? 

With the explosive growth of APIs there is a risk of creating an unmanageable complex web. It was and still is important to create structures to organize APIs. They need to be discoverable so you can find what you’re looking for, and well managed so you can make sure it’s delivering on its promise. 

In the past 20 years, 2 primary organization structures have emerged. The API marketplace and the API portal. 

API marketplaces 

API marketplaces were created as a simple way to sell your API wares. In the early days of APIs, marketplaces made it easy for customers to understand new problems APIs could solve. They brought together different API providers and created a single view with the ability to search and browse. 

API Portals 

As the API economy has evolved so have API portals. Portals used to be for developers. Now they are a hub for developers and stakeholders. They go beyond sharing APIs, they also provide support through documentation, analytics, and security features. 

API portals are central to the ecosystem where new partners can be engaged and new revenue channels created. 

Why Blobr chose to develop an API Portal 

There are many well-established and reputable API marketplaces that continue to cater to a mass-market environment. Where they fall short is in providing a tailored approach for APIs. 

Blobr saw the need to create an elevated experience for API products. Our portal provides the flexibility to match nuanced API business models and brands. Here are the top 5 reasons why Blobr chose to create an API portal. 

1. Visibility 

While marketplaces may promise high traffic and therefore visibility, in reality, this only benefits the top-ranking APIs. It works the same way as Amazon or Google. How often do you scroll to page 4 of the search results on either of these platforms?  

In an API marketplace, you don’t know how your product is displayed. What you do know is that big names will show first. Beyond that, the internal ranking remains an esoteric science for the provider.

2. Cost 

With the risk of low visibility, you need to list your API on several marketplaces. This multiplies your costs and makes it harder to create a profitable product. On top of that are the hidden costs and flat fees applied to every transaction, for example, Rapid API takes 20%. 

On the other hand, a portal becomes like your personal shop for your API with transparent and simple pricing. Blobr’s pricing scales with the success of your product so there are no upfront expenses as you build your APIs customers.  

3. Competition

Two key points here.

Economics 101 will teach you that the beauty of a marketplace is transparency. A buyer can see all available options and their prices. While that sounds good in theory, in practice a marketplace can become an overwhelming experience with a tendency to push down products price and value. It becomes difficult to distinguish which product is right for your customer and cost can overtake value as a competitive advantage. More than that, having your API surrounded by less valuable products can create long-term damage to your reputation by association.

Another critical part regards the delegation of the Sales Channel. Any company serious about sharing and monetizing APIs does not want to delegate their Sales channel to a third party. With Rapid API (the biggest API marketplace available out there), an API Provider does not have much info regarding the users and their API consumption. 

4. Branding

The opposite approach to a low-cost low-value product is building a brand that is recognized for the quality it delivers. The Blobr API portal allows you to customize how your API product is branded. This way it becomes clearly recognizable. 

An API marketplace uses a generic color pallet and interfaces for all products which blend all API products together. This can endanger your brand image. 

Just like the original lesson from Levi Strauss, a powerful brand is a reason a product stands out and is not lost in the market.

5. Precision

The beauty of an API is its ability to be used by multiple different partners. The challenge with this is that no partner is the same and their needs can greatly fluctuate. To accommodate this your product may offer a variety of endpoints. 

Where a marketplace offers a generic product with little option for granularity, the Blobr portal gives you the flexibility to personalize API access to suit your business model. From access limitations to monetization schemas and finally API docs, build the API Products that best fit your end users. 

How API portals have surpassed marketplaces 

Blobr’s portal provides far more than you can get from a marketplace. You have all of the original benefits of a portal. Developers can upload their API in minutes, manage their APIs, and collaborate with partners. On top of that, you have the ability to monetize your API with ease. You don’t have to worry about integrating a marketplace with your portal, you have everything you need in one place. 

Best of all you can start with Blobr’s API portal for free. Upload your API to experience the simplicity and power of our portal for yourself. 

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