Innovator Spotlight: Cars.com - Using APIs to Distribute and Convey Data in an Efficient, Consumable Manner
"With the current explosion in social, mobile and cloud computing, we are seeking ways to distribute and convey data in an efficient and consumable manner. We realized that a solid API strategy is the key to successfully taking advantage of this rapid transformation."
Visited by more than 11 million car shoppers each month, Cars.com is the leading destination for online car shoppers, offering credible and easy-to-understand information from consumers and experts to help buyers formulate opinions on what to buy, where to buy and how much to pay for a car. Cars.com offers comprehensive pricing information, dealer reviews, side-by-side comparison tools, photo galleries, videos, unbiased editorial content and a large selection of new- and used-car inventory.
Surendra Pamidi, enterprise architect for Cars.com Mobile, described how Cars.com is relying on APIs to support multi-channel access, empower the developer community to deliver rich and engaging automotive-related experiences to their users, and provide new opportunities for business-to-business partnering and integration.
How are you using APIs today?
At Cars.com, we are implementing an API strategy as a way of exposing the core business functionality and data real time - enabling faster application integration, increased speed-to-market time, partner collaboration and connecting to more than one device.
Since our launch in January this year, we did not just put out an API; we created a way to support an entire API ecosystem, following a pattern that millions of technology communities are already familiar with. We believe that it is now possible to get traction far faster than ever before.
What need were you addressing with APIs at Cars.com?
APIs have clearly become the standard mechanism for interacting with software platforms on the Internet, and businesses are now offering them as another way for their partners and customers to interact with the brand. Cars.com is leveraging this technology to drive traffic and expand our footprint, innovate with feature development, provide multi-channel access, expand branding, explore new business models, and drive content acquisition and integration that extends beyond the scope of our current online platform.
How has your API or API strategy evolved over time?
With the current explosion in social, mobile and cloud computing, we are seeking ways to distribute and convey data in an efficient and consumable manner. We realized that a solid API strategy is the key to successfully taking advantage of this rapid transformation. It’s an exciting time to go through this transformation.
Our APIs and mobile go hand in hand. In the past, we had an online presence in the form of a website; today, we are taking it beyond the website and becoming integrated into customer experiences wherever they are: website, mobile Web and apps, or any third party or partner app regardless of what platform.
As part of the API strategy, we have embraced RESTful technology as the preferred method of interfacing since it is lightweight, simple, doesn’t require heavy integration and often speeds things up. We are limiting SOAP-based APIs to interfaces requiring stateful operations -- where state needs to be continued -- or for applications expecting a guaranteed level of security or reliability or requiring formal contracts with rigid specifications for the interaction. This approach fits really well with the business model we have.
How do you work with Apigee?
We are using the Apigee API platform to quickly expose the APIs and onboard the partners securely and efficiently. We have adopted a SaaS-based model, wherein the Apigee Gateway, Analytics and Developer Services are all hosted in the cloud. We are leveraging the Apigee's out-of-the-box platform capabilities such as policies, key management, security, caching and analytics.
Since we've partnered with Apigee, we've received a lot of support for getting our APIs up and running. Apigee’s expertise was invaluable in helping us identify and establish API best practices and we are working very collaboratively with them on a daily basis.
What is your vision for your API program moving forward?
No platform is complete without a robust API. The API ecosystem is thriving, allowing businesses and developers to create smarter experiences. Our vision is to provide a myriad of APIs that can be used as a foundational toolkit for making real-time updates on our data, empower the technology communities to drive innovation and feature development in the automotive space, and support the ever growing need of mobile and social media initiatives. We are anticipating our API-based business model to explode in the coming months, and this will provide a lot of opportunities for us in terms of new partnerships and integration. We have a solid product roadmap backed by all our stakeholders that will help us deliver the IT and business goals.
Do you have any advice for those just starting their "API journey?"
Depending on the business model, APIs could be an extensive undertaking that includes framing the business goals and determining the required APIs and the supporting data; hence, it’s really important to get the fundamentals right and keep the consistency going. Some of the technology standards and guidelines that we are employing include: standard SOA principles and technologies, robust security (SSL minimum), effective design (having a clear approach and standard on interfacing), comprehensive documentation (repository of services and good governance), highly performing and scalable infrastructure, comprehensive analytics and monitoring.