Symbl’s Head of Product Anthony Claudia explains the meteoric popularity of APIs, and why they help developers and product managers do more faster.

At the beating heart of your favorite applications, you’ll find APIs powering complex actions. Whether they’re sending in-app messages, processing payments, or, like Symbl, formulating insights from voice conversations, APIs allow developers to implement cornerstone app features rapidly, with minimal overhead.

APIs are drastically changing the landscape of app creation. Whereas old-school app developers felt compelled to build every feature from scratch — a clunky, time-consuming process — modern developers can take a modular approach to app building by integrating features powered by pre-built APIs.

“API consumption over the last years has gone bananas,” says Anthony Claudia, Symbl’s head of product. Here’s why APIs are a top resource in every savvy developer’s toolkit.

1. APIs are Cost Effective

Most businesses that explore creating custom features from the ground up quickly realize that a from-scratch build is cost prohibitive. Not only must engineers — likely your company’s most valuable resource — spend months perfecting complex app functionality, but also the costs of fixing bugs, releasing updates, and maintaining code add up. 

Some estimate the higher-end total investment to build versus buy a custom feature such as in-app messaging or AI-enhanced transcription may balloon to almost $1 million in just 18 months, depending on engineer salaries, infrastructure costs, and unplanned setbacks. With a third-party API solution, tech companies can save money, better manage budgets, and achieve stable features without excess funds.

2. APIs Prioritize Customizability & Flexibility

Whether it’s your favorite ride-sharing app, food delivery platform, or communication technology, many of the world’s most popular apps are built using third-party API solutions. But the end-user probably doesn’t know this. While turnkey software programs often display their company’s logo, name, and proprietary UI, APIs are less visible. “You can use APIs and they are still your brand, your company,” says Claudia. “If an API offers everything a SaaS product offers you, but your brand stays intact? That’s super compelling. You can build whatever you want and maintain your brand and positioning.”

Additionally, APIs are typically flexible — and they enable developers to tinker with both front-end components and back-end requirements to bring the exact product they envision for their customers to life.

3. APIs Enable Rapid Implementation

Adding complex features to your product can take months, if not years, to achieve. Plug-and-play APIs — which often consist of just a few lines of code — allow developers and product managers to move quickly, minimize tech debt, and build a scalable product that can easily expand to support more users.

With APIs, developers can integrate functionality that would normally have taken months to build in a matter of hours instead.

4. APIs Enjoy an Expanding Customer Base

Increased market focus on APIs has wrought a new customer. “Historically, APIs have been the domain of the developer. It’s a technical product, so you have a technical customer. This is completely shifting,” says Claudia. “The customer has evolved from just a developer to business people and everyone in between.” Product leads and company executives alike understand that leveraging APIs bypasses the headache of time-consuming, expensive, and unstable tech builds.

End-users of products built with APIs, whether they realize it or not, also help to drive API popularity. As more apps aim to remain market competitive, APIs allow product teams to provide the rich experience modern consumers expect in an increasingly digital world.

About Stream

Stream is the best-in-class, enterprise-grade chat and activity feed provider that serves over a billion end users. Stream’s feature-rich products include robust client-side SDKs for iOS, Android, React, React Native, Flutter, and support for the most commonly used server-side languages; scalable and secure APIs; and a beautiful UI kit. Stream is the fastest, most scalable solution on the market today, enabling application product teams to increase user engagement and retention and decrease time to market. Stream is headquartered in Boulder, Colo. with an office in Amsterdam. Learn more about what Stream Chat can do for your business by signing up for a free, 28-day Chat Trial.

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Sekhar Vallath
Data Scientist(AI in NLP)