API Problems Confessional – Episode 1

We don’t.
A quick smoketest just before pushing live.
Uh… good question.

These are the most common responses when I asked people what their company does for API testing and monitoring. The reality is the market hasn’t reached the maturity of the HTML world, where websites like Keynote can offer fairly decent spot checking. This is a problem that we are aiming to fix, but sometimes it is nice to remind ourselves of how significant the problem really is. From this comes API Confessional. We’ll occasionally be posting anonymous horror stories about APIs, failures, and general badness. Here’s the first…

We’re a large stock photography house that is new to the API game, but we built one to better service some of our customers. Well, a few months back one of our biggest customers (a print on demand service, think pictures of cats on mousepads) called us in the morning to announce they had a large dip in revenue the day before. “None of your images were used in purchases yesterday, which isn’t really possible.” We went back and checked. Our API hadn’t reported being down, so we were confused. After a few hours of checking we found the culprit. An overnight release had resulted in a slight malformation of the response, which their platform didn’t handle well. It took us a while to get back into good graces with that customer. A customer having to tell us they lost money yesterday because of an API issue isn’t great for customer satisfaction.