If the future is the API, Mulesoft may have the Yellow Pages

The growth of cloud computing has led to a rise in the importance of APIs for passing information between different applications, but viewing, using and publishing APIs is still quite complicated - something Mulesoft is hoping to change.

There are thousands of active application programming interfaces in the modern IT ecosystem, and many of them - such as those of Facebook, Twitter, various Microsoft ones - form fundamental parts of the internet's information transit layer.

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But accessing these APIs and working out their capabilities can be difficult - an issue that application integration company Mulesoft is hoping to tackle with the launch of the APIHub on Tuesday.

"Discovering, learning, testing and using APIs is still a challenging concern for developers," says Ross Mason, the founder and chief technology officer of the San Francisco-based company.

APIHub will provide a centralised view of APIs, according to Mason. "Comparing and rating APIs is very difficult to do right now, it's very opaque."

The service aims to be to APIs as the Yellow Pages is to phone numbers - with a few added capabilities.

For consumers and developers, it provides a catalogue of APIs along with an interactive development environment for running basic queries. For API providers, it offers a publishing platform and various tools to automatically generate create API documentation.

APIHub aims to have information on 80 percent of modern APIs, Mason says, by using Mulesoft's AnyPoint technology, which sits at the heart of its software tools to help automatically link disparate applications together and has helped the company gather information on thousands of APIs. 

"Discovering, learning, testing and using APIs is still a challenging concern for developers" — Ross Mason, Mulesoft

The service will be available in two flavours - a free website for use by the public, the open-source community and more open companies, and a private version that could be used by a company's internal developers for giving information on proprietary internal APIs - a good use case would be a financial institution.

As for the competition, a company named Mashape produces a similar service via its "cloud API hub" website

However Mulesoft's website will be free for both developers and API producers, whereas Mashape puts emphasis on providers using the site to monetise their API by adding billing options, such as charging a certain monthly fee for 10,000 monthly queries.

"The business model is very different," Mason says. "In terms of their platform there is a technical difference [and] if you look at their repository, it's a lot of long-tail small apple APIs."

Mulesoft hopes APIHub will, if it becomes popular, expose developers and companies to Mulesoft's technology and increase the likelihood it can sell application integration software to them.