Same goes for protocols (Facebook Login vs OpenID), format (DOC vs ODT) and data sources (Gracenote vs MusicBrainz). If you cannot replace a service that is behind an API with your own implementation, you must be ready to fold your business the day your provider changes the service terms.
Full disclosure: my side-project (which I have woefully neglected of late: http://moviepresto.com) uses the Netflix API to determine if a movie is available on Netflix Instant or as a disc rental and then links accordingly. The title, description, basic info, and background image come from themoviedb.org. Personally, I'd prefer for my "what do I want to watch tonight?" decision start with the set of everything that's been released and then follow to "where is that available?", instead of starting with "what is available to watch on platform X?". My cynical side tells me that Netflix doesn't just want to be the center of the online streaming universe; they want to BE the universe.
Even more sadly, I think Netflix won't even realize what they are missing out on: potential user interface improvements that they could incorporate into their own products, ideas for integration they never would've thought of, potential great hires, etc.
I think if I was aware of that site when I started moviepresto, I wouldn't have built it. But, then again, I wouldn't have learned the things I learned in the process.
"Even more sadly, I think Netflix won't even realize what they are missing out on"
They probably know better than you and most of us what they are missing since this is their API and it's been out for a couple of years...
This might be my new favorite example of corporate doublespeak.
This might be a twitter client like third party problem, where externally the content is displayed better and drives too many away from it directly.
Also Netflix will eventually sell or shut down its dvd business. What will remain is a relatively small library of titles available on streaming...
Just today I was talking with someone about integrating Netflix data in to their app, and I almost registered for an API key, but waited until I got home. Then I stopped off, got home late, did some work, and now this. :/
I guess if this is how they run it, then they might revoke access to then-current API-key holders in the future with little warning anyway...
TL:DR 3rd party usage of the APIs used to be big, but then became pretty much a statistical irrelevance compared to usage by Netflix's own software / tv apps / etc.
So it would seem the business case to keep developing a 3rd party friendly API is not really there anymore.
Also, for the curious, their player is all HTML5 driven. They basically compile a browser for each device and build the UI with HTML5.
it's more about keeping their data for themselves, sharing is caring and they just don't :)
It is always a trade off when you are relying on API: on one side you can focus solely on the project core values knowing that the underlying data will be provided, on the other side if you build everything including what an API provides you are ending building up a different business.
There are gaps in the APIs and though they can be dealt with, it was not always easy or straightforward.
Most of the main API team left the company ages ago. It's been dying on the vine for months. At least it's official now.
Never build a business freeloading off another business. The social and consumer API providers are realizing that their APIs don't drive value to their core business objectives (selling subscriptions or ads). APIs are a means to an end. The end has to benefit both sides. Don't blame the means for faulty ends.
One is a service, the "aS" in PaaS, SaaS, and many others, where what you are getting is programmatic access to the thing people want to sell you anyways. A service might be very valuable, but it's probably replaceable. If someone is geolocating IPs for you, hosting images for you, handling blog comments for you, this is all stuff someone else could do for you if your first-choice API turns into yet another /dev/null.
The other kind of API is access to specific content and/or networks. This is a whole different ball of wax, and I would be wary of doing anything significant with an API that is only valuable because of the value of the data that is coming over it. You have to ask yourself very carefully why they are giving you access. Most likely it is because they think you will drive growth to them. Once that motivation is gone because they have reached scale, they will stop treating you as valuable, and start to see all the value you generate as value that is not being sent their way: they will start rent-seeking.
Basically, ask yourself: if some API that you use were to close up shop, would your company no longer have an existential purpose? If you want to give people directions to a brick-and-mortar store, and Google Maps closed itself off tomorrow, would your company cease to exist? Hopefully the answer is no, you would just have to spend some resources and switch to someone else or build it yourself.