Best Buy is one of the many of the recent responses I am seeing from public API providers, as they work to strike a healthy balance within their API community. In an attempt to incentivize the behavior they desire within the Best Buy API community, the platform will not be issuing API keys to any email address that comes from the popular free email platforms (@google.com, @yahoo.com, etc.). While I hate seeing any public API access be tightened up, I can't help but sympathize with their move, and I have to support any API providers who works to set a healthy balance within their communities.
While I am not sure limiting access based upon email account may not be the solution they are looking, they hit all the right notes for me:
- Develop Human Relationships >> If we want to have a better relationship with you, our active users, we need to make better connections between your alpha-numeric key and the services we provide to you
- Respect for What You Build >> If we disable a key because the email address is old, we may break an app. We don’t like breaking things.
- Business With Companies >> Over the next couple of months we will transition to a new system that will associate API keys with a company and not an individual.
- Empowering Education usage >> We are developing a program that we intend to have up and running before the start of the next school year that will accommodate educational use.
- Allow for Play and Exploration >> Similarly, we have ideas for how to accommodate events, hackathons and developer sandboxes to allow folks to test the waters without needing to go through a formal key sign up process.
I will always encourage companies, organizations, institutions, government agencies, and individuals to be as public as possible. More importantly i will always encourage them to do it in the safest, most meaningful way possible, and when they are just working to cultivate and get to know their community -- I can only lend my support. Looking beyond the tech, APIs are all hammering out how you discover, and maintain digital relationships and partnerships, via your website, web and mobile applications, as well as your API platform.
Not every company will be able to do their API the way Best Buy can. It's just not in the DNA of every company. The ones that will be most successful with it will be the ones that do the hard work of getting to know their community, establish sensible ground rules, but in my opinion the most critical part of it all is that you be as communicative and transparent about it as you possibly can. The Best Buy API does this well, by sharing their thoughts behind their difficult decision to lock down on API keys issued to users with free email accounts.