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Innovator Spotlight: Cheezburger.com - APIs to Tap into the Passion and Creativity of Content Creators

Martha Jager
Jan 23, 2013


"We want to take advantage of the passion and creativity of content creators, and we know it's up to us to make APIs for that."

Rick Simpkinson
Technical Product Manager
Cheezburger, Inc.

Cheezburger is the largest social humor destination on the Internet: it's all your funny in one place. Their visitors create and remix memes, share their favorite funny pictures and use Cheezburger's platform to make their own humor sites. Cheezburger is serious about making the world a happier place and counts a passionate fan base of 24 million people.

We spoke to Rick Simpkinson, technical product manager at Cheezburger, Inc. Rick talked about the evolution of their API program from XML to JSON and their commitment to standards such as OAuth2.

How are you using APIs today?

We're using APIs for both internal and third-party development to bring more creative and humorous content into Cheezburger.  Internally, APIs have proven to be an extremely efficient way for us to pull content out of our systems for use in our mobile apps,  allowing us to develop a richer mobile experience for our customers.

Bringing content into our system – that's another aspect of our API program.  We want to help our fans any way we can to create and contribute to Cheezburger, and APIs are making this happen.  Before we had an API, it was hard -- the only way our customers could share content was through third-party platforms like Facebook.  We now have a publishing API that lets our humor partners put a Cheezburger button in their application that commits content directly to Cheezburger.

What feedback have you gotten on the Cheezburger API?

The feedback we've gotten is that it's really easy for developers to adopt the API, in large part because we try to be standards-based.  For example, authentication is really important, and we use OAuth2 for our security model. Anybody who has worked with Facebook knows how to work with OAuth2.  Developers can come to our website, get a key, self-serve, no moderation – add a button in their app, do a little work for authentication and they are done! We firmly believe you can be up and using the API in five minutes. 

What need were you addressing with the Cheezburger API?

Our biggest need was to make it easier for other people to create and deliver content to Cheezburger. We want to take advantage of the passion and creativity of content creators, and we know it's up to us to make APIs for that. We are really pleased with our progress in this area.

How do you expect your API to evolve over time?

Our original API was primarily for third-party use and our own limited investment in mobile. But as technology and Cheezburger have evolved, we realized that we needed to invest more heavily in mobile, and that included making a JSON version of the API that was rebuilt from the ground up. Utilizing OAuth2 was a driving component to the new API and our decision to partner with Apigee.

We've also learned that providing our customers with great experiences in viewing our content is top priority, and as a result we’ve used our API to better manage content.

How do you work with Apigee?

We looked for a fully hosted API provider because we wanted to focus on our core competency, humor, and not API management.  There's no way we could do everything Apigee does, and do it well.  We recognized this. 

Apigee's support for OAuth2 played a big role in our decision to go with them. Specifically, we needed to have a Cheezburger.com user account be the same account you use to sign up for an API key. This kind of OAuth2 integration, along with a very capable developer website, were two of our requirements that were tough for other API management solutions to satisfy, but we've been very happy with Apigee.

What's your vision for your API program?

Our vision is to extend the ways people can interact with Cheezburger. We are building apps for Windows 8, iOS, and Android and the API is making all that possible.  As Cheezburger continues to innovate as a social humor platform, we’ll be pushing that innovation out through these apps and serving our customers the best funny content, wherever they are.

There are also tons of great builder apps out there, and we’d love for each of them to integrate with Cheezburger and provide their customers with a way to submit their funny content directly to us.  We’ll be reaching out more to these app developers.

Do you have any advice for those just starting?

First, focus on standards because a lot of companies think they need to do something their own way, but they're not thinking of third parties using their systems. It's all about discoverability and lowering the learning curve. The more you use standards, the easier this is.

Second, invest in test automation. You'll always be making changes, and the ability to push a button that makes sure everything is working right is invaluable.

Third, analytics.  Focus on how you want to be able to view the use of your application. A lot of people don't think of this at the outset and end up missing out on really important data about how their API is actually being used.

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