Government API Milestones and Great Examples
- ADLNET API Program - The API-based education program based out of DOD serves a model for all agencies with their work in communicating with the public about their API development. Few programs can rival the depth and conviviality with which these API producers blog about the design, technology, implementation, and use cases of their APIs.
- BroadbandMap.gov - The team behind BroadbandMap.gov adopted a true API-first model - beginning by building out a powerful suite of APIs and then building the website on top of their own APIs. This is the model for all projects to adopt.
- Census Bureau - The Census Bureau’s API program is notable for its solid incorporation of best practices. The team took the time to design a clean, comprehensive API that addressed real user needs, while still offering bulk data, a developer mailing list, ease of registration, and an app gallery. Furthermore, they continue to iterate and grow the available data calls based on analytics and real user feedback.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - CFPB’s top-class API documentation not only serves their developers well, but is also opensourced in such a way that other agencies have been able to quickly repurpose and put it to use.
- Department of Health and Human Services - The data hub of HHS includes one of the most solid examples of developer outreach in the Federal government. In addition to making the disparate APIs from across the department more easily findable, HealthData.gov maintains a well-rounded developer experience, with plenty of developer-targeted blogging and ideation.
- Department of Labor - The Department of Labor maintains a single, integrated API program department-wide. By offering a clean, consistent endpoint to developers, Labor is able to then also provide more robust set of developer resources - including SDKs, code samples, FAQ, api key generation, and feedback forums.
- DigitalGov Search API - One of the most successful shared services in government, the DigitalGov Search product can be easily added to any site with a quick code snippet or can be integrated on a more sophisticated fashions using its search API. In addition, they have built and opensourced powerful APIs around USAJOBS and product recall data for better integration into site search but also so that anyone else can benefit from them.
- Federal Register - In addition to offering a reliable API to a fundamental dataset, the Federal Register also makes a point to consume the Regulations.gov API in FederalRegister.gov, creating a mashup that provides a better user experience.
- Federal Register Write API - The Federalregister.gov site’s new comment web form, uses the new Regulations.gov write API. The form is enabled once the user clicks the green “ Submit a Formal Comment” button. The new web form via the API allows the public to submit comments directly into FDMS.gov, for agency review and posting on Regulations.gov. It can be seen in action here.
- Food and Drug Administration - The open.fda.gov program is a model API project for government on numerous fronts:
- Interactive and useful documentation - Each OpenFDA API includes a powerful resource with its interactive documentation. Developers appreciate being able to quickly and easily begin understanding how the API works and how it reacts to new queries. FDA went even further by including interesting and relevant charts and mashups that are tied to intro versions of the interactive documentation to better help illustrate how the API works and powerful uses for the data.
- Great open source documentation - The entire open.fda.gov site, including the powerful interactive documentation, is an open source project, hosted live in GitHub. This means that anyone with feedback on the developer experience can not only suggest improvements, they can offer edits directly. Furthermore, anyone else can fork the website, repurposing and re-using the code within minutes. We’re seeing more and more examples of documentation as an open source project, a trend that is good for everyone.
- Front-facing feedback mechanisms - OpenFDA is focused on developer engagement and responsiveness, providing solid venues for this where the developers are used to working: GitHub, StackExchange, Twitter. Most importantly, they are using each service in a familiar and responsive fashion (note the tags used to associate openFDA material), allowing everyone to more easily and productively benefit from each other.
- Strong development process - OpenFDA built in time to provide a private beta and incorporate API usability testing before going live. This allowed them to catch and fix things that would have hampered their rollout and taken longer and caused more trouble to fix after developers were already using the API. A strong and intentional pre-release program.
- Continued growth - The program continues to iterate, improving its documentation and adding new endpoints.
- Solid terms of service - The team at FDA put a lot of solid work into building a much more usable, developer-friendly terms of service. This good work is helping their strong growth with developers.
- Well-rounded develper experience - The developer hub has pretty much all of the major components that developers want and need. This thoroughness makes a difference in developer adoption.
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory - NREL’s API program did not just content itself with building out a number of well-designed APIs, they went the further mile to open source the underlying stack and, in coordination with GSA, offer the components as a powerful shared service.