"The fintech world is growing so quickly. I think consumer fintech was revolutionized a few years ago, which changed the game, and now others are catching up. We're seeing a similar revolution starting in the commercial business realm. Financial software tools versus consumer personal financial tools are expanding a lot as well," – Eric Yu, Co-Founder of Rutter API.
This week on the API Intersection podcast, we spoke with Eric Yu, a co-founder of Rutter API, a universal API aggregator for various types of business software tasked with standardizing all APIs into a unified format. They focus on two primary buckets: Ecommerce ecosystems apps, and fintech customers. Rutter lets customers connect their accounting, commerce, payment, and subscription platforms in a single flow.
"We had seen what was happening in the space with new universal APIs like payroll ones and ones for banking, and we felt that we could just try to do one for eCommerce platforms, and that's kind of where we started in creating Rutter, and it's blossomed from there," shares Eric.
A universal API aggregator is a great solution to scale quickly, and we covered the benefits of utilizing one in our previous podcast episode. Increased security options, ease of integration, and the ability to scale quickly are just a few of the benefits of utilizing an aggregator. However, on the side of the aggregator, there are still quite a few challenges that aggregators face in today's API industry. Eric shared some of those challenges with us below.
Lack of API Standardization
One of the biggest challenges we've encountered is dealing with some APIs out there that aren't tech-forward or standardized in the right way. For example, Shopify is a tech-forward company with a great API, and those are pretty straightforward to do. But, others can be a nightmare to work with," shares Eric. "Take Amazon's API, for example; that one definitely takes minutes to finish instead of a few seconds to finish, and it's because we don't have a standardization of APIs across the board, which can be a huge problem when trying to integrate."
With a modern design-first approach, you can avoid running into different kinds of rate limits, having to build a system that can handle additional error permissions, fetch data and limit errors, and which can produce a variety of maintenance issues. In addition to dealing with standardization issues and consolidating your APIs, another challenge mentioned was how to present the flow of errors in a consistent fashion.
"Without standardization, it can take a lot to even basically maintain that system, so keep that in mind," shares Eric.
Standardization and creating consistent APIs across the board continue to be an issue not just for API aggregator companies but also a priority for any creating an API program this year. Tools such as style guides and good governance programs can help ensure API consistency across the board so that your API is ready to be integrated when it gets to an API aggregator.
Bonus: Improved Consistency With Solid Documentation
Another way to ensure consistent API creation is through compelling documentation. Eric highlights that detailed documentation is all super important when it gets to the integration stage. The worst thing for their team is looking at poor docs and then realizing that an API doesn't actually operate like how it's written in the documentation, so you have to figure out how to piece it together. Proper documentation is vital for any stakeholder utilizing your API–whether that's the aggregator tool, your developer community, or your end consumers.
Consolidating & Iterating to Get the Gold Standard
"It's a lot of iteration, starting with the most simple new API and building from there. Based on iteration and feedback, you figure out what the ideal output looks like, so it's a continuous learning process for us to find that gold standard," shares Eric.
For example, in Eric's opinion, the eCommerce API gold standard would be Shopify as an excellent template to model after for other eCommerce APIs. Their API only includes a few fields, it's simple to integrate, and the design is well thought out to provide direct access to some of these underlying APIs to which Eric's team connects it.
"Fintech and banking can be difficult to standardize to the point of other industries since it's always been more fragmented, and unless some overseeing body steps in, there won't be much unification in the e-commerce and accounting world," shares Eric. "There's no government wanting to come in and help out there. So, for now, it's on us. The developers, the community, and the aggregator tools–we're trying to work to make people's lives easier."
Outdated Architectures & API Protocols
"APIs that we struggle to work with the most are the ones that still really haven't adopted more modern standards like REST. If you're a new developer familiar with JSON and creating new APIs, trying to integrate something with an external SOAP API or XML work is difficult. I think keeping up with the standards of the API industry and where it's moving is something we'd love to see the community get better at," shares Eric.
Those of us at Stoplight are big fans of REST (representational state transfer) as a very popular web API architecture. That protocol is often easier to integrate into forward-thinking tools like Rutter. However, various architectures and protocol types are available for API creation. Eric hopes that, as an industry, we'll see more consolidation and move towards more modern standards such as REST to make scalability and integrations as easy as possible.
In the end
"Being able to scale is important. Someone will look at an aggregator and realize they can build 10 different APIs quickly, but for us, the goal is to look even further than that from a scaling perspective. Let's look at when you hit one hundred, two hundred, even five hundred APIs, and that's the kind of value we deliver," shares Eric.
Despite the challenges that API aggregator tools are facing, one thing is for sure we'll continue to see more and more tools in this realm popping up over the next few years as the proliferation of APIs continues to spread. I think we can all agree that greater API standardization and consistency across the board would improve the community immensely! For more insights from industry leaders, check out the API Intersection podcast.