Are you competing with your developer community?

my api developer community

I just watched this video of Matthew Thomson, VP of Platform at Klout, describing what I consider a cautionary tale for API providers.

He describes 4 main points for a successful API strategy: (1) Adapting APIs to business needs, (2) More developers are not always better, (3) Segment developers with pricing and (4) Evolve your API. Those sound fine and are generically sound policies. But at the 4-minute mark of this video, he lays out a core conflict that every API provider should carefully examine.

Klout has determined that the business model that is working best for them so far is in being the direct broker between brands and their agencies who want to reach Klout “influencers” as determined by Klout Score, True Reach, Amplification Probability and Network Influence. Well, if that’s where the money is (and who would know better than Klout?) then the developers in their community will want to build businesses to play in that space, too, placing them in direct competition with the mother ship.

So, if I understand what he is saying correctly, they are essentially making it more expensive for developers to use the API as compensation for the erosion of their core business. It’s a legitimately sloppy model for an early stage company — to keep their options open while they determine which branch of the business is more sustainable and poised for growth. Yet the inherent conflict between the two models (direct B2B and open API) is problematic on a strategic level.

Take a look at their terms of service. This sentence is so broad that I would not really want to build a business on such an API: “You shall not… use the API in a way that harms the interests of Klout, the Website, any of its affiliates, the API or its program, or other users of the Website.”

So… how is running a Klout Score campaign in competition with the Klout sales team not harming the interests of Klout?

Are you competing with your developer community? And if so, are you doing so fairly and transparently?