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Facebook's "Biggest Strategic Mistake" Confirms Importance of Mobile APIs

Sep 13, 2012

A couple of days ago at TechCrunch Disrupt, Mark Zuckerburg admitted that the "biggest strategic mistake was betting on HTML5 too much". Facebook is taking a multi-platform approach to mobile apps, supporting both HTML5 as well as native app platforms (Android, iOS, etc). Why the shift? Native mobile apps are simply more engaging. After releasing their latest iOS app, consumption of stories increased two fold. That's not to say that mobile web is going away any time soon for Facebook - mobile web traffic accounted for more traffic than all their native apps combined.

This "multi-platform" approach underscores the importance of Mobile APIs in today's economy.

Mobile APIs is the proven way to provide not only a consistent experience between native and HTML5 apps, but also a proven way to promote code reuse across the various apps. Creating mobile APIs that drive engagement is not an easy technical feat. What does it take?

The APIs must be mobile optimized - meaning that they must be fast, and also able to serve up the content that mobile apps need, which is often different from what a website needs. Technology for transformation (XML-to-JSON etc.), caching, XSLT all help drastically decrease the latency of mobile APIs.

A business often needs to be able to mix-and-match data from more than one existing API - to expose and mash up existing APIs to create mobile APIs and return mobile specific content. Integration with OAuth is a good solution to ensure that you securely expose your data and APIs.

Business that do not have existing APIs can consider using BaaS (Backend as a Service) solutions to help jumpstart mobile API development. BaaS solutions offer out-of-the-box APIs such as user management, data storage, and messaging as a foundation for building highly interactive and engaging native and HTML5 apps.

How do you know if you've succeeded building an awesome mobile API? You need analytics to help you understand, evolve and optimize your APIs. Simple visualization and reporting drill-down by mobile app and API can help you determine what you need to do to drive engagement for your app.

To learn more, I highly recommend Mark Zuckerburg's talk, and Sam Ramji's webcast on API Best Practices for Mobile Performance.

And if you want to dig in and create awesome mobile APIs and apps right now, sign-up for Apigee. It's free to start and scales to meet the needs of any business! The API Platform enables you to transform existing services into APIs or build and expose well-crafted APIs from scratch, drive developer adoption, get analytics from your API and apps ecosystem, and more. App Services help you get started creating engaging mobile apps with an out-of-the-box set of mobile optimized APIs.

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