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API Development: How Important Are Terms of Service to Development?

API Development: How Important Are Terms of Service to Development?



With APIs, ecommerce has become a new focus of the Silicon tech elite. But any venture requires a terms of service, which can hurt or help the relationship. If the terms appear too flimsy or the reputation of the site is not good, the terms might not lend credibility to the platform.

Think carefully before deploying changes to the terms, and as a developer, carefully review terms before your idea is yanked out from under your feet.

Launching an API Platform

When a new platform is launched, it is within the company’s best interest to launch an API in conjunction. Twitter was able to become “viral” in essence because of the tools used to port it to other websites. A number of plugins giving users the choice of how they want to present their streams or share buttons gave people easy access to a service they were already using.

api platform


But launching an API requires its own form of QA, including a look at how marketable the API actually is. Will people use it, will it serve a function? The success of oAuth means that users expect to have data imported when they use a new service, rather than punch in the data themselves. When was the last time anyone really filled out a sign up form?

“Don’t Be Evil”

This motto comes from Google, a Silicon Valley success story that has its fingers in everything from web browsing to alternative energy and artificial intelligence. We don’t hear much about that motto anymore, but Google does seem to practice it (on the surface). The company is almost infamous for lobbying congress for rules on net neutrality. Then CEO Eric Schmidt even appeared before Congress to testify that Google was keeping user data secure.

Your terms must include a clause that spells out security concerns with user data, and the accepted usage of data.

Creating a “Core” Channel

The key to any development channel is the feedback it receives and how it improves on that feedback. For platform developers, that means honing in on your core audience.

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When a platform is first released, developers need the developer feedback. It’s common to see an initial wide open API that eventually becomes restricted. If you launch a new program as a beta, by invite only, it gives you the chance to include a paragraph in the terms addressing developer feedback and laying out a place to talk about the application.

Security Concerns

The other burden that API developers share is security. Because APIs routinely pass user data from one site to another, platforms must be careful to share only necessary data between applications. Facebook has solved some of this problem with permissions, but some overly aggressive permissions mixed with green users can still spell disaster. Any platform attempting API development should have a robust plan for business antivirus protection that deters threats, as well as protocol for users with access to development tools.

The terms of service should protect user information, and it’s there to shield the platform from legal attacks. As a developer, you need to secure your website against hacking and be sure that you follow the rules of the platform as presented. For example, Google does not allow users to alter the logos used in its API in any way. This is to protect users from impersonators, and to shield its brand.

Advice for Developers

Developers should not be married to one platform. Everyone has a preference for ease of use, but don’t let that preference dictate the direction of your site. Keep tabs on the platform blog if you intend on using the system for long; they often drop updates to the blog when changes are made to the terms of service.

Kevin is an account director at Online Rep Management and has been working within internet marketing and public relations for over 8 years. Kevin got his start working online in SEO, link building, and some affiliate marketing. Kevin is most passionate about helping good brands become online entities. Read more on Google+ follow Kevin on Twitter!

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