The Guardian's n0tice experiment and why media businesses should build APIs

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App Store, Application programming interface, City University, iOS, iPhone, London, Patrick Smith, The Guardian, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog, United Kingdom, Facebook, Google, Digital Media, Mobile, Newspapers

The Guardian has led the way in API-based development since 2009 and now its spinoff hyperlocal social network n0tice has launched its own set of API tools to entice users and brands to build things using its content and functionality. But what is an API and why should you build one?

Fast and lean development

It's best to think of an API (application programming interface) not as a code but as a tool that powers things. The Guardian's iPhone app, iPad app and most recently its Facebook app are all built using the Open Platform API, launched by the Guardian back in 2009 - to distinterest and bafflement from the industry.

The Guardian's director of digital strategy Matt McAlister tells me: "I think the most obvious uses of it is what we can do internally and making it easier for our teams to operate and innovate and make new things, products and services.

"We have been a part of every major launch coming out of Silicon Valley in past few years - the Guardian has been a partner. And we wouldn't have been able to do it without the API.

"Can you imagine the amount of people we would have had to have to do this if you built everything from scratch?"

Does he have any advice for publishers looking to APIfy their business? Sort of: "It might be annoying to say this but, you just have to build it and it will become obvious."

A few Twitterers, inclucing some Guardianistas, helpfully answered my question of "Why API" yesterday:

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