Despite what some people may think, the number of private APIs is actually much higher than the number of public APIs. Private APIs are mostly used within the companies that originally made them. Some of the private APIs are used from the web and mobile apps. The public APIs are open for anyone to implement them inside of their application.
Sometimes, some of the private APIs could become the public ones. But before the developer should make that happen, he needs to make sure that APIs are ready to be exposed to the outside developers. Furthermore, we will talk about the crucial things that the developer must do before making the private API public.
Step #1: Security Review
Since most people work on tight deadlines, designers often need to speed things up in order to complete an API on time. And when the developers are rushing, they cut off the security and design reviews altogether. After APIs are made public, the crucial thing is to go back to its designs in order to see what changes need to be made.
Some companies that skipped this part of the process have been hit tremendously. Tinder, for example, learned this lecture the hard way. The application failed to review the data returned in their API payload. In order to successfully transform a private API into a public one, the developer needs to review the whole design of an API.
Step #2: API Documentation
Just like for public APIs, the documentation for the private APIs is as equally as important. When APIs are private, some details that are about them can be mentioned in the conversation between the developers. But in any other case, the documentation needs to be thorough.
You can come up with your own documentation, or if you don’t have too much experience with it, simply use an API documentation template. If you decide to do it on your own, here are some questions that the documentation needs to answer:
- What are the features and capabilities that your API is offering to the consumers?
- How do your authorization and authentication processes actually work?
- What endpoints are offered and what are the response and request details?
Step #3: Usage Examples
People outside of the company probably won’t know the full capabilities of your API. For that reason, you should include some examples to educate the rest of the developers’ community. After the company releases an API public, the potential customers should have the examples of the API in use, in order to know how to implement it properly. The examples should be the demonstration of how to perform simple tasks with the program, but you should take things a step further.
It is highly recommendable to include some of the more complex examples in your documentation. What’s more, the developer could do this by building some demo apps. By having those examples, outside developers will have a deeper understanding on how to use the API. One more thing the documentation should have, are code samples and demonstration apps.
Step #4: Endpoint Protection and Rate Limiting
Before making your API public, your team should install a gateway or management layer. This will protect your endpoints from any outside attacks. By doing this, the developer will make sure that the rate limits are fully compatible with the incoming requests. That way, the endpoints will be protected from any malicious attacks that may come their way.
Preventing cyber-attacks, before making your API public, is crucial. However, security should be at the very top of your priority list in any case. No matter if you are making your API public or maintaining a private API, you should install an API gateway in the cloud or on the premise. Surely, mistakes are always going to happen, but keeping them at a minimum is something you should try to do.
Step #5: Defining Key Performance Indicators and Usage Reports
After releasing the API to the general public, your team needs to make sure that an API is meeting technical and business goals. Management layers and API gateways will offer the analytics support, which will enable you to track API usage. You can use those metrics as the KPIs. Those could be used by the stakeholders in order to see how their product is performing in the market
When outside developers start using an API, you should select some of the metrics that will allow you to track the growth of your user base. After that, you’ll be able to track a number of other KIPs, with some of other metrics. With all of that, you’ll be able to see whether you successfully managed to transition your API from private to public. And in the end, that’s what matters the most…
We went through some of the most crucial things you need to do before you make your private API public. Of course, this should be done carefully. You should check all of the elements of your API before making it public. Among those elements are performance, developer experience, security, and protection. By developing a clear-cut plan for transforming your private API, you’ll be able to reduce all of the risks associated with the practice to a minimum.
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