Join top executives in San Francisco on July 11-12, to hear how leaders are integrating and optimizing AI investments for success. Learn More

Remember the “Which will be going forward: the API economy or the application economy?” argument from a few years ago? Applications are what we use to run businesses and ecommerce, but APIs are the connectors that enable them. All things being equal, which takes precedence?

Truth is that they have a symbiotic relationship: Application programming interfaces (API) play an integral role in 2022 software development. For example, they bring customer service to ecommerce apps, provide maps for ride-hailing apps, collect login authentication for banking apps and add privacy to any app that wants to protect customer data. As a result, we’re experiencing the so-called API economy, which is helping legacy businesses transition from monolithic on-premises software to the cloud and microservices-based applications.

With this background in mind, Postman, one of the world’s busiest API-building and acquisition platforms, is fast becoming a key hub in this brave new digital development world. The San Francisco, California-based company today announced that it has used its freemium-model approach to reach a milestone of 20 million developers and builders who have adopted its platform.

Postman claims that its API hub is the world’s largest, with customized workspaces built on it and created by Microsoft, Stripe, Meta, Notion, Intel and Oracle, among others.

Most businesses aren’t API-first

However, there are still a majority of companies – mostly in the mid-range and smaller categories, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses – that aren’t yet using an API-first approach to development. This is largely due to having smaller development teams more focused on getting the internal and external applications working correctly and predictively. APIs and next-gen cloud-based services are generally on the roadmaps for them.

Nonetheless, there is a global surge in API-first development, Postman CEO and cofounder Abhinav Asthana told VentureBeat. “Postman defines API-first as a model in which applications are conceptualized and built by composing internal or external services delivered through APIs. Whether these APIs are public, private, or partner, all are proving indispensable to conducting business today,” Asthana said.

In the company’s 2021 State of the API Report, released last fall and encompassing more than 28,000 developers globally, 67% of survey respondents ranked themselves a five or higher in terms of embracing an API-first philosophy — a five-point increase from 2020. Furthermore, the “API-first leaders” who ranked themselves highest produced APIs more quickly, deployed more frequently, had fewer failures, and recovered more swiftly when failures occurred.

Inside the API market

Postman’s research revealed that only 8% of respondents give themselves a 9 or 10 (out of a scale of 10) for embracing API-first, and only 20% of respondents give themselves a 7 or 8 for embracing API-first.

“While there is certainly traction and more folks are embracing API-first each year, we have not yet reached a majority of developers or organizations,” Asthana said.

Here are more exclusive factoids from the report:

  • Larger organizations are significantly more likely to embrace an API-first development model. 35% of respondents at organizations with 500+ developers rank themselves as a 7 or higher for embracing API-first, compared to an overall average of only 28% of respondents.
  • Companies that consider themselves API-first actually have fewer private APIs. Those who rank themselves as a 7 or higher for embracing API-first average state that 55% of their APIs are private, versus an average of 61% of APIs that are private for those who rank themselves 6 or lower. This indicates that API-first companies build less functionality in-house, and rely on more public and partner APIs to achieve necessary functionality — freeing up development time to focus on mission-critical and competitive differentiating functionality.

“It’s not just developers building APIs,” Asthana said. “We see product managers, security engineers and customer support teams working with APIs on our platform. A broad community is bringing the API-first world to life, and the 20-million user milestone reflects this.”

Nearly every industry has played a role in propelling Postman to more than 20 million global users, with 98% of the Fortune 500 relying on the platform, the company said. 

“Consumers now expect connected digital experiences across mobile, desktop, digital devices, and more, making every business effectively a software business,” Asthana said. “Postman views APIs as the fundamental building block of all models. We don’t see that as just integration components. We don’t see them as connective tissue; we see them as the primary (solution) building block.

“And as you see with the growth of Stripe, Twilio, AWS and many others, we see this now happening within the enterprise and in the public sphere and in the partner sphere that API’s are available as a family of building tools.”

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.