World wide web

A social network that maps APIs will help developers find what they are looking for.

The world wide web is a highly complex social network of links between webpages which is changing all the time. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) facilitate access to the world wide web and the use of all this information. Developers of new APIs don't have to start from scratch any more. They can make a composed API by incorporating elements from other APIs that already exist, for example embedding a map API to show location of a business or event.

Information Technology Lecturer Ola Adeleye has developed a model that helps to locate APIs with certain features. It provides a solution for API discovery and recommendation, which is needed because there are a lot of very good APIs out there which have small numbers of users so are not well known and hard to find. 

For example, someone wanting to build a restaurant app, might want to incorporate a menu, online ordering form and online payment method. A developer can use the network to search for features that they want their online ordering form to have. The tool recommends APIs that best meet the searcher's requirements. You can zoom in on one of these to see its features, then follow the lines of connection to find other similar APIs to compare them. 

Ola achieved this by building a network of API data, and adding a way of exploring the structure of that data, based on the similarity and popularity of the APIs. Ordering form APIs, for example, will have high similarity so will be close together in the network. More popular APIs have bigger nodes in the network. This tool will enable developers to make a more informed choice about which APIs to use, by making small unknown apps more discoverable and by enabling comparison between similar APIs.

Ola is now in the process of working out how to make this publicly available as a prototype for API developers to test. The network tool has potential to be used in the future not just for APIs but also for other kinds of products and services that people might be searching for online.  

August 2023