Mashery, a provider of API services, recently conducted a survey of attendees of its Business of APIs conferences in London, New York and San Francisco.The survey found that 64% of respondents cite "fostering third-party innovation" through APIs as a high priority for 2011. This was the most popular goal for API providers. The second most popular goal was "getting on as many devices as possible," which 41% of respondents cited as a high priority.

Mashery also announced new analytics capabilities this month, which will help API providers measure the business value of APIs as developers use those APIs to spread web services to multiple devices. Disclosure: Mashery is a sponsor of the main ReadWriteWeb site.

Delyn Simons, director of platform strategies at Mashery, said she expected "getting on as many devices as possible" to be the most popular goal. She was surprised that third-party innovation also came out ahead of working with second-party partners to create API solutions.

We cover many APIs that are open to third-party developers, so it's no surprise for us that it's a high priority for API providers. The survey found that 71% of respondents already cite third-party developers as key consumers of their APIs. This demonstrates the extent to which companies are relying on APIs to build brands and businesses.

MailChimp co-founder Ben Chestnut wrote on the MailChimp blog:

I *can* definitely say that one of the best investments we ever made as a company was in our API. It's probably the best marketing we've ever done. I've joked about this before, but it's true -- if you're an early-stage technology company, and you're thinking about hiring sales people, or some marketing rock star, don't do it. Just work on your API.

Many other companies are seeing APIs a marketing tool. That's where the analytics tools come in. As of now there's what Mashery staffers are calling a "reporting black hole" when web applications leave the browser and start operating on mobile devices or through third-party clients. Mashery hopes to provide API providers with information such as which third-party developers are using the APIs the most, how users are interacting with applications and more.

The analytics tools are already available for select Mashery customers, and will be generally available in the first quarter of 2011.