Cars.com: Using APIs to Distribute and Convey Data in an Efficient & Consumable Manner
With more than 11 million visitors every month, Cars.com is a leading destination for anyone looking for the right car at the right price. The company launched in June 1998 and is now the second-largest automotive classified site in the world.
Challenges and opportunities
As new channels become critical to long-term success across every industry, no platform is complete without a robust API.
It wasn’t always that way. When Cars.com first emerged in the late 1990s, every customer interacted with the company through the website. In recent years, however, the rise of mobile has created an opportunity for smarter, more engaging experiences across a range of platforms and form factors. In practical terms, that requires a foundational toolkit for updating data in real time—and empowering technology communities to drive innovation.
“With the current explosion in social, mobile, and cloud computing, we’re looking for efficient, consumable ways to distribute and convey data,” says Surendra Pamidi, enterprise architect for mobile products at Cars.com. “A solid API strategy is the key to taking full advantage of those dramatic transformations.”
Some companies are content to simply create an API. For Cars.com, however, the goal is to support an entire API ecosystem as a way of exposing core business functions in real time. Following a pattern familiar to technology communities around the world, the company is taking its API strategy beyond the website and integrating it into the full range of customer experiences, from mobile apps to third-party applications.
RESTful technology is the key to making that happen. The Cars.com team only uses SOAP-based APIs for interfaces requiring stateful operations, or for applications with rigid specifications around security. For everything else, RESTful APIs is the technology of choice, resulting in interfaces that are lightweight, simple, and fast.
With these technologies in place, Cars.com can now offer a range of cloud-based services for development partners through the Apigee API platform, including a number of out-of-the-box 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,” Pamidi says. “Apigee’s expertise has been invaluable in helping us identify and establish best practices, and we continue to work collaboratively with them on a daily basis.”
Some of the technology standards and guidelines employed by Cars.com include: standard SOA principles and technologies, robust security, effective design, comprehensive documentation, scalable infrastructure, comprehensive analytics, and monitoring.
The API ecosystem at Cars.com empowers technology communities to deliver rich and engaging experiences for end users. That, in turn, drives innovation far beyond the scope of the company’s current online platform—all while accelerating time to market.
“We anticipate that our API-based business model will explode in the coming months,” says Pamidi. “With the work we’ve done to establish the right ecosystem, we have a solid framework in place to take full advantage of the opportunities coming our way.”