Web API growing pains: Loosely coupled yet strongly tied

Tiago Espinha*, Andy Zaidman, Hans Gerhard Gross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
258 Downloads (Pure)


Web APIs provide a systematic and extensible approach for application-to-application interaction. Developers using web APIs are forced to accompany the API providers in their software evolution tasks. In order to understand the distress caused by this imposition on web API client developers we perform a semi-structured interview with six such developers. We also investigate how major web API providers organize their API evolution, and we explore how this affects source code changes of their clients. Our exploratory qualitative study of the Twitter, Google Maps, Facebook and Netflix web APIs analyzes the state of web API evolution practices and provides insight into the impact of service evolution on client software. In order to complement the picture and also understand how web API providers deal with evolution, we investigate the server-side and client-side evolution of two open-source web APIs, namely VirtualBox and XBMC. Our study is complemented with a set of observations regarding best practices for web API evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-43
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Web API
  • Software evolution
  • Breaking changes


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