Today, there are more than one million Facebook developers. Many of these developers in this community are relatively new to Web services and APIs. They represent a new generation of what Gartner calls "citizen developers," a group that by 2014 will create 25% of all business applications.
Apigee is a platform for managing APIs. The service is built on the premise that developers need the tools to develop APIs but they also increasingly need more ways to understand the services they are integrating.
In that vein, Apigeee has just launched a new service that provides developers with guidance for how to navigate the new Graph API from Facebook.
It includes the features that Apigee launched a few months ago at the Chirp conference for the Twitter API. The free service includes providing analytics, monitoring, debugging and testing tools for the Facebook API. Developers may monitor usage levels, review usage patterns, see the geo-location and look at performance metrics like response time.
We like how a developer may browse through the Facebook API to see the scope of different responses that may be generated. Sam Ramji of Apigee says it provides the developer with ways to learn by doing. He compares it to riding a bike. You can read how to ride a bike. You learn by actually riding it.
But most interesting for us is the addition of an "awesome bar" and a "share" button, two features that are taken right out of the hand book for consumer-based social technologies.
The awesome bar is borrowed from Firefox which first offered the ability to auto-complete a web address in the browser. The Apigee service provides the same capability for developers when they are looking for a particular aspect of the Facebok API.
The sharing feature allows developers to share what they are seeing by taking a snapshot of API request/response pairs and distributing it with a URL.
It's these kinds of services we are seeing from Mashery and other platform providers. Platforms really are a big part of the cloud these days. Developers feed these ecosystems with the apps they create. To better compete, platform providers will need to offer ways that citizen developers can navigate APIs so they can work in the environment provided.