Why We Love Our Open APIs

by Ira Brooker on 4/21/2015

Open APIs are something of a misnomer, inasmuch as they’re not quite as open as the name might imply. Yes, an open API is available to developers to use more or less as they see fit, but not just anybody can hop on and tinker. Most APIs, Best Buy’s included, require at least a registration and approval process. We want to keep our information open and usable, but we do want to have some idea of who’s using it.

Still, there’s a world of difference between our approach and a closed API (or Enterprise API, to invoke the more upbeat euphemism). Enterprise APIs are just what they sound like — open only to developers within or approved by the enterprise. It’s a sensible approach for a lot of companies. There are plenty of businesses with a vested interest in limiting third-party access to their information, and many others whose corporate philosophies simply don’t align with the malleable nature of open APIs. Several high-profile companies, including Netflix and Twitter, have fairly recently closed their APIs after initially making them at least partially open. Sometimes a business just wants to keep things as in-house as possible.

But that’s not how we’ve chosen to go about it at Best Buy. We’re dedicated to keeping our API open and encouraging users to build something even cooler off of our already pretty cool platform. Here are a few of the specific reasons we’ve opted for the open API route.

Innovation: This has to be the primary motivation behind just about any open API. Simply put, allowing developers to dig around and build apps, analyze information and streamline processes opens the door for all manner of cool breakthroughs.

Inspiration: As much as we like to think of ourselves as masters of our own domain, we’re sometimes too close-up to see the full potential of the tools on our workbench. Opening our APIs to outside developers lets us see them through a different lens and hone our processes accordingly.

Accessibility: It isn’t just outside developers who make use of Best Buy APIs. We have a network of third-party partners, affiliates and subsidiary brands who apply our APIs to their daily business. Having access to information from our Products, Stores and other APIs is vital to their operations, and this is by far the easiest and most efficient means by which they can attain it.

Outreach: We’ve written extensively about our belief in hackathons as both evangelism for our APIs and a recruiting tool for our team of techies. The more openness we have, the more attractive we are to all the folks we want to attract.

All things considered, we think we’ve made the right choice for us by maintaining our family of open APIs. It’s what makes the most sense for us, and just as importantly, it makes things easier for you. Whether or not Best Buy customers use our APIs or even have the first idea what API stands for, they all feel the benefits of our openness. That’s the kind of relationship we think is well worth cultivating.

How to Talk to Non-Techies About APIs

by Ira Brooker on 4/07/2015

I joined Best Buy API team last winter with only the most cursory knowledge of what an API is or does. After five months of trying to explain to my friends and family what exactly it is we do at my job, I’ve learned that I wasn’t alone. It seems practically nobody who doesn’t regularly work with APIs has much idea what they are or what they do.

Query by Product Attributes

by Julie Muraski on 03/26/2015

Best Buy has 200+ attributes and most are querable. We detail the Products API attributes in our Products API documentation. The attributes are sorted into *like* attributes. As an example, all attributes that describe a product are in our Detail section; or anything related to pricing is in our Pricing and Sales Ranking section.

We spend a lot of time developing and perfecting our APIs, and we’re pretty confident that we’ve created an exemplary product. But believing in your own work is one thing, seeing it in action is quite another. Our trip to the LAUNCH Hackathon a few weeks ago provided us a fantastic opportunity to witness exactly that. More than a dozen teams of hackers put our APIs to the test with some fascinating and innovative results.

We saw so many hacker teams doing so much incredible work during our adventures at this year’s LAUNCH Hackathon in San Francisco that we’re still reeling from the possibilities. Devs from around the country convened to make creative use of APIs from Best Buy and other retailers. You can see all of the innovation on display here, but we also wanted to spotlight five of our favorites.

Facets

by Julie Muraski on 03/16/2015

Facets query is another of the coolest, well, facets of the Best Buy API. Querying by facets allows users to aggregate product information by any attribute - color, size, manufacturer and so on. Users can also limit the number of results returned, in case you're looking for only the top five or ten items within a facet.

A View from the LAUNCH Hackathon

by Ira Brooker on 03/12/2015

Representatives from the Best Buy API team have just wrapped up a week in sunny San Francisco (and those of us back in ice-bound Minnesota weren’t the least bit envious) for the annual LAUNCH Hackathon.

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