Alcatel-Lucent acquires Web mashup API directory

It wants to encourage developers to build Web apps that access new telecommunications network APIs too

Alcatel-Lucent has acquired ProgrammableWeb, which hosts an on-line directory of over 2,000 open web APIs (application programming interfaces) that developers can use to build 'mashups' of Web services.

Alcatel-Lucent, like so many others in the post-App Store world, has realized the importance of applications and developers, and hopes to become the middle-man between service providers and developers. Alcatel-Lucent will expand ProgrammableWeb's directory, adding information from its own Open API Service, a directory of APIs for telecommunications network functions, according to Laura Merling, vice president, global developer platform at Alcatel-Lucent.

Open API Service aims to aggregate APIs from multiple operators for functions such as location-based services, SMS (Short Message Service) or advertising, and let developers write one version of an application instead having to work with every operator separately, Merling said. The addition of ProgrammableWeb's APIs will help raise Alcatel-Lucent's profile among developers and help it push Web-based applications, she said.

"Today, when people think about applications they think about applications based on the device, versus based on the network, and we want to change that midset. Part of that is about creating an ecosystem," said Merling.

On Tuesday, ProgrammableWeb's directory contained 2,042 APIs. The most popular ones were the interfaces for Google Maps, Flickr and YouTube, according to the site, where developers can also view 4,900 mashups combining a number of different APIs into a single Web site or application.

Alcatel-Lucent will use ProgrammableWeb's technology for monitoring the availability and latency of APIs, Merling said. The company also plans to extend ProgrammableWeb's site, integrating the Open API Service Dashboard with which developers can analyze users' reactions to their applications.

Some API providers require developers to obtain a key before they can access a particular API. Complex mash-ups may require many such keys, so Alcatel-Lucent is also thinking about how to simplify the way developers access the keys they need. By creating a "key locker," all the keys used by one application could be stored in one place, Merling said.

Alcatel-Lucent did not disclose the terms of the acquisition, but said ProgrammableWeb will continue to operate as a separate entity.

The success of Alcatel-Lucent's middle-man strategy rests on its ability sign up as many operators as possible, and have them make their APIs available to developers. Sprint is so far the only operator that has signed up to make its APIs available via Open API Service, but more are on the way, Merling said. For example, two other large U.S. operators that are trialing the service, she said.

Developers have thought of operators as hard to reach entities, according to Merling. Traditionally, that has been the case, but it is starting to change, she said.

"In the last six months, I have seen a lot of change in the carrier space. ... There is still a lot to be done, but [the operators] are getting there," she said.

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